Channel Surfing with C.T.

Okay, sure, over the past few months I’m sure some of you have come to think of me as a reality-TV junkie with low-brow tastes and questionable intelligence. But dang it, not everything I watch features people screaming obscenities as they fight losing battles! For instance, I just finished watching a two-part, four-hour FRONTLINE special titled BUSH’S WAR in which… well, okay, there was talk of obscenities being shouted and we were obviously engaged in a losing battle, but surely it had to earn me at least a few bonus points among TV snobs, right? In all seriousness, if they rerun this special or you can get your hands on a copy, do. It was an absorbing, fascinating look into an administration that has at every point looked at their options and made the worst possible decision. It will intrigue, frustrate and at times inspire… if only debate as to which official’s lie was the worst.

I’m ashamed to admit I watched the premiere of HELL’S KITCHEN. I was practically goaded into doing so by a friend, and walked away realizing the difference between this nasty offering and my favorite food-centric show, TOP CHEF. While KITCHEN is designed for people who enjoy seeing others humiliated, CHEF is actually a competition geared toward foodies such as myself. How else to explain that when those toiling in HELL were asked to prepare a signature dish, we never even found out what half of them were, but were instead treated to shots of celebrity chef/asshat Gordon Ramsay alternately puking (literally, we are expected to believe) and hurtling insults. (This season, the contestants are vying for the “honor” of working for Ramsay. I’d have run for the hills as soon as that announcement was made.) This is as fake as reality TV gets. CHEF, on the other hand, focuses heavily on the food and offers up insightful commentary from the judges as to why certain dishes didn’t cut the mustard. For those who say all reality television is cut from the same cloth, I offer these shows as an example of what the genre can be… and what it all too often settles for.

Note to NBC: If you’re going to keep asking that people go to your website to watch full episodes of your shows, how about making sure that when they get there, you don’t give away the endings? I cruised on over to watch the finale of CELEBRITY APPRENTICE (don’t judge me!) and was greeted with a pic of Piers Morgan and the news that he’d been named the champion. It’s one thing to stumble across that information if I’m reading the newspaper or a blog in the days after the episode has aired, but for NBC to put that information on the page that one has to click on in order to watch the episode is moronic.

Kudos to Keith Olbermann on the fifth anniversary of his MSNBC series. (Hey, that’s another smart show I watch! I hope y’all are paying attention!) If anyone can make wall-to-wall election coverage watchable, it’s Obermann and his team of talking heads. Oh, and as a sidenote… if any of you happen to have pull with the Clinton clan, for the love of all that is holy, get her out of the race before she all but assures that the Republicans remain in the White House… and our troops remain in Iraq. (Sorry, I’m feeling extra political this evening.)

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  • Josh Emerson

    I didn’t hear about Bush’s War until after it aired. I’m going to have to check for repeat airings because I would love to watch that.

    I’m a huge fan of Keith Olbermann. I’ve been watching Countdown nightly. That’s been one benefit of the writers strike, not having to worry about conflicts at 8pm. My favorite analyst on his show and the network in general is Rachel Maddow. I love her. And I agree with you about Hillary. I’ve been so disgusted by her campaign. Now that she has such a small shot, she needs to get out and let Democrats focus on preventing the media from continuing their love affair with McCain.

    I have nothing to say about your non-political comments. lol

  • allie

    Sorry, I’ve got to disagree with you about Hell’s Kitchen. I love that show. It is hard work in a kitchen, and in all reality you do get pummelled by the head chef when you stuff up. The way Gordon treats the participants is essentially how any top chef would treat their staff until they have shown that they cut the mustard and can cook. Sure, at times, it is edited in a way to look a little over the top, but you expect that with reality TV. Apart from that the show is quite realistic. I dare you CT to go and work in a top kitchen and see what it is really like!

  • shanna

    I need to check out Bush’s War. If only to reconfirm everything I’ve ever thought about his adminstration.

    ITA about Hell’s Kitchen vs. Top Chef. Allie even if that is how a kitchen is, I guess the difference is, I don’t want to just see someone yelling at people and telling them their food is horrible. I also want a valid critique of the food. How is “it’s horrible” supposed to help someone improve?

  • CT


    I totally agree with you about Rachel. I enjoy the fantastic interplay she and Keith have with one another. Some of the other talking heads I kind of fast-forward to at times, but never Rachel.

  • CT


    I’m sorry, but I have spent time in the kitchen with chefs who run high-pressure restaurants and I have never, ever once seen them treat an underling with such disrespect. Even were that NOT the case, I still do not find it entertaining to watch someone scream obscenities at not only the contestants but, by extension, the audience.

    Furthermore, anyone needing proof that this show is less about the cooking than it is the entertainment value need look no further than the first elimination: Obviously, the guy who declared himself “The Black Gordon Ramsey” and then completely backed away from any responsibility, despite being team captain, should have gone home. But he’s more entertaining than the rather schlubish guy who would up going home instead.

  • Julien

    Gordon is over the top for the american public, just watch kitchen nightmare in the US or in the UK it’s a different show, he has lots of shows in the uk (well had, it’s been a while since ive seen him) The F Word, Boiling Point, … and he can be hard with the people (like he is in real life with his staff) but it’s not over the top (puking and stuff)

    Still each year i wonder if the chefs are really that bad, i know it’s a stressfull environnement and when top chef do restaurant wars the food usually sux but still if you cant cook a scallops or a frikking risotto (and you know you will have too) in a stressfull place why do you go there in the first place, anyway i still watch it’s not really good but i like gordon (and yeah it’s a big deal to work in one of is restaurant, he is one of the most succesfull chef of his generation)

    And top chef isnt perfect, it’s product placement everywhere, stupid challenge every week and i think the chef are just too experienced at this point, who can beat a chef like Richard or Hung last year, well i can be wrong, after all Ilan won in season 2 i dont know how, since everything he did was a ripoff and always the same thing and on top of that he was an arrogant prick