Project Runway and Top Chef – Evil Queens and Muppets

I’m not sure either of them really deserve a standalone post.

Top Chef was actually a pretty fun week. It’s a good challenge, and, as ever brings out the best in them. These are the best kind of challenge – it’s a specific task, and not a hugely easy one, but other than that it just lets them cook. No teams, no weird ingredients, no staying up all night. That sort of challenge has its place, but should be the exception rather than the rule. So, as it was in the All Stars season when the challenge was ‘make a dish inspired by your ancestry’ and all the meals were so good that they refused to send anybody home, again the judges kept going on about how it was one of the best meals they’ve had in the competion. Learn from this, show – give them parameters and let them cook. You’ll get to eat better food and we’ll still get good TV.

I think that Bev pretty much sealed her fate with the quickfire. The show is open that the producers sometimes have a hand in eliminations and I’m fairly sure that they would have found the ‘She would have had immunity, but she didn’t! Oh, Cruel Fate!’ shebang too hard to resist. I mean, this is the second time Sarah has made bad (or, rather, not excellent) risotto, pretty much a Top Chef sin of the highest order, up there with using pre-cooked ingredients. Unless it’s a pre-cooked ingredients challenge, of course. But still. Imperfect risotto makes Colicchio almost as angry as Elia calling him about for shilling Diet Coke. ‘Whatever! I don’t even REMEMBER what Elia said. I’m TOTALLY OVER that bitch. I’m sure she’ll do brilliantly in her career that’s MUCH LESS SUCCESSFUL THAN MINE.’ So I find it hard to believe that Sarah wouldn’t have gone home for it without the drama of Bev’s lost immunity.

Tom trying to be funny was gross and lame. Charlize Theron isn’t going to sleep with you dude. And I know it’s not a popular opinion in the Top Chef-verse, but Eric Ripert creeps me out. He’s not sexy. His lips look like slugs. Grayson’s black chicken looked incredible on the plate, as did Chris’s poison apple. I wasn’t so impressed by Paul’s handprint. It was a cute idea, but Chris’s presentation was an enormous amount of work, Grayson’s was daring, and Paul’s was just … a handprint splatted on. But I’d totally eat it and, ultimately, what do I know?

As for Project Runway, first off, congratulations to all concerned for maintaining absolute stoney-faced discipline and seriousness with the concept of designing for Miss Piggy. Some of them seemed genuinely delighted with the prospect (although not all; Mila’s look of undisguised repulsion when it was announced was wonderful.) Especially excellent was Gordana, for being concerned about Miss Piggy’s comfort. The comfort. Of a puppet. It’s still a less absurd proposition than when the Top Chef contestants had to make cookies for Elmo, Telly and Cookie Monster (the pieces of cloth can’t eat; ‘Ripley, she doesn’t have bad dreams because she’s just a piece of plastic’), but as this episode didn’t feature Elmo sassing Padma Lakshmi, I’m afraid Top Chef still wins.

If Michael Costello continues to make not-hideous clothing then I won’t mind his inevitable dragging all the way to the final, despite him being massively objectionable. I mean, seriously. ‘I wasn’t worrying about who doesn’t like me’. You’re a grown man. You have a child. Who SAYS that? Mondo also seems to be heading down the road to insufferable..ness. I liked him in his first season when he was all weeping because he had so much talent and sometimes it just comes out as tears, but this new whiney Mondo who’s making ugly clothes, I am not on board with. Give Kara the gloves or don’t, but don’t give them and then piss and moan about it. If you can’t do something with good grace, don’t do it at all. This entire series exists for him to win, so it’s a shame they seem determined to make me hate him. April’s growing on me still. She’ll be gone in three weeks.

As for clothes, Gordana’s was pretty. Mila’s was Mila and I love her for her steadfast refusal to do anything except Mila clothes at all times. Kenley’s was great and should have won. Michael’s was good. Mondo’s was hideous. Jerell’s was ugly. Rami’s was repellent and I thought it was going to get him sent home. It looked like Carmen Miranda advertising kitchen paper. Anthony and April were fine. I didn’t really like Kara’s, except for the pink piping, which was a really nice touch. Austin’s was just straight-up ugly.

Closing thought: This is Project Runway, not Project Feathered Shoulders.

I have a love-hate relationship with Sex and the City

I mostly hate it. It’s a gay man’s idea of what women are. You’ve got the frigid WASP, the slut, the ball-busting career woman and the, well, the myriad of awful that is Carrie Bradshaw. She’s not really a stereotype, other than ‘lol, women like shoes’, but she’s also the most obscenely self-obsessed harpy. Worse than that, (well, not worse, but just as bad) it’s a very specific kind of gay man’s idea of what a gay man is. But it’s also the sort of gay man that the dreadful women the show portrays thinks are the only ones that exist.

I was once genuinely told by this woman that she loved gay men because they’re so stylish (while I was unshaven and wearing an ill-fitting fisherman’s jumper), have the best parties (while I was playing darts in the pub) and that I should take more cocaine, because gay men love cocaine. Now, please understand that that’s not me trying to be all ‘I’m so masculine and straight-acting’, because that crap is ridiculous, and I’m also sitting here nearing midnight writing a thousand words about my emotional response to Sex and the City. A lumberjack I ain’t. But the idea that I’m some super-primped wealthy Alpha Gay is equally absurd. But basically, the show’s idea about gender roles and how people should act are not pretty, and don’t bear even a little scrutiny. It comes at you from different directions and is basically offensive in all sorts of ways at once.

I still watch it when it’s on, of course. I just tune out the bits that are most appalling and look at the surface. I don’t really like the ‘it’s a bit of fun’ defence, because it’s an excuse for laziness and poor standards, but I make an exception. Also, you know, getting pissed off at TV shows is fun. Currently, there’s repeats on one channel and the movie on another, and I’m flicking between the two for some weird time travelling cognitive dissonance. Although both the series and the movie are revolving around Carrie going ‘I CAN’T MARRY! WHY CAN’T I MARRY? WHY DIDN’T HE MARRY ME?’. So you know. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même show.

I’ve never seen the movie before. It’s APPALLING. The series at least had its moments. It was occasionally very funny. Mostly for the times when Samantha is an entirely different show from the rest of them, a show where she just stares at the camera and rolls her eyes and necks some vodka and effectively says ‘Can you believe these bitches?’ Or when she’s stoned and does a little dance in the street to her ring tone. Also any scene where Cynthia Nixon got to act, because she’s amazing. Her multiple personality disorder episode of Sexy Victims Unit is basically the best thing ever. ‘LEAVE HER ALONE!!’ The Sex and the City where her mother dies is pretty devastating. Lady can act, is what I’m saying. She has the advantage of acting the character that’s most written like an actual human being, of course.

But the movie? Has literally none of the charm of the series, with the added bonus of Jennifer Hudson as A Black Person who loves Another Black Person and spends New Year at a Black Person Party and buys a wedding dress with her Black People Family and explodes with joy when she gets a handbag. No matter how much Carrie apparently likes her, the only black person she interacts with is the help, and the only white person Jennifer Hudson interacts with is her boss. Oh, and the lady who sells her her wedding dress. I’m not trying to say let’s all live in a multiracial rainbow or that it’s terribly racist that a lot of people tend to have friends of their own race. But this just leaps off the screen with its crass obviousness. Also, Jennifer Hudson says things like ‘Yeah, I totally understand your pain about the man who you’ve loved for years and have this massively complex, twisty relationship with, dumping you at the altar. My boyfriend dumped me and I miss him soooo bad.’

The whole movie is basically an exercise in reshuffling all the pieces to make sure that they end up in the same place as they were to start with. You know, like an episode of the Simpsons (which has the excuse of being a cartoon and in many ways immune to change, and also resolutely joyfully episodic), or the end of a series of Doctor Who (which doesn’t have the excuse and needs to stop. with. the. story. arcs. But that’s a whole nother post.) Or the whole Samantha ‘She has feelings, so she EATS. Ain’t that just like a woman? Deanna Troi knows what I’m sayin’, right gurl? Bitches love chocolate’ aspect. And I’m pretty certain that it’s pronounced St Lou-iss and not St Lou-ee when you’re talking about the city. Try not to make a plot point about something you can’t even say, yeah?

I don’t think even my scientific curiosity and my insatiable appetite for really really bad entertainment can make me watch the second movie where they ride camels and liberate all the Muslims by throwing tampons and lipstick at them and saying ‘fuck’, or whatever it is that happens. Also isn’t that the one where the juddering groaning reanimated corpse of Liza Minnelli sings Beyonce like a drag queen of herself? That’s just depressing. Apart from anything, if you’re going to have Liza sing at your wedding, it should clearly be Ring Them Bells. (Which, incidentaly, Bebe Neuwirth sings on her newish album. Who knew she had one? Thanks Spotify. Also incidentally, Bebe Neuwirth as Velma on the Broadway cast recording of Chicago really emphasises that Catherine Zeta Jones is not … very good. And oh my god, you have to go and watch Catherine Zeta Jones doing Send in the Clowns at the Tony awards. It’s SO bad, you guys. It’s amazing. Send In The Lemsip And The Flyspray Because There’s a Fly In The Room And it’s Really Bugging Me; That’s The Only Excuse For My Head To Be Moving Like This And I’m Fairly Sure My Voice Isn’t Meant To Sound Like That.)

Part of me is questioning the wisdom of writing so much about Sex and the City. It’s still got to be better than whatever ‘So I got to thinking, is love like pasta? So many different varieties, you can find it everywhere, but have too much and you feel bloated and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, across town, Samantha was having her raviolo filled’ crap Carrie comes out with. And that’s problematic in itself. Jacob Clifton pointed this out in relation to another show; I don’t remember which, but it holds true here. The show is full of people telling Carrie that she’s an awesome writer, they love her work, she’s so witty and insightful and blah. But the episode writers also wrote Carrie’s writing. So Character A is writing something, written by Writer, and character B, voiced by Writer, comes along and says ‘GOSH. THAT REALLY IS SOME TOP DRAWER WRITING. BRAVA, FOXY. BRAVA.’ That’s a pretty hard knot to unravel. The cleanest solutions (never show her writing, or never talk about her writing) are kind of a blunt instrument, but playing it utterly straight, like the show does on countless occasions, leaves a rather funny taste. Of course writing is somewhat narcissistic. I’m writing this at least two-thirds in the hope that people are actually going to read it and like it. But a little subtltely goes a long way, and ‘You (AND BY YOU I MEAN ME) are a great writer!’ just ain’t subtle.

I will say that Miranda and Steve are basically the only couple in the whole of fiction that I’m invested in. Well, not the ONLY. Also Lily Bart and Lawrence Selden in The House of Mirth. (And, by the way, my other New York-set show I perhaps shouldn’t watch, Gossip Girl, featured in its first season the married-for-money and a bit of love socialite Lily, married to the brazillionaire, Bart. A show about rich people in Manhattan whose lives revolve entirely around socialising and where scandal and lack of invitations to places is genuinely devastating, slips in Lily Bart references. In a show aimed at teenagers. Actual layers! Jokes that are only funny if you get them! Never mind that, here’s an old woman giving a man a blowjob in a restaurant.) What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman who does everything she can to sabotage her own chances at happiness. Unless it’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I hate that bitch.