February 9th, 2011
I actually have no idea if I’ve blogged about Top Chef All Stars yet, but it’s been pretty great, no? The show has bounced back from its weakest season to return to being incredibly enjoyable, introducing interesting challenges and avoiding mediocrity at nearly every turn. Even moments that I thought would negatively impact the series (like Jennifer being sent home so early) proved to be mere bumps in the road, as other contestants emerged to play their part in bringing the season together. The food has been pretty uniformly impressive, and when it hasn’t been those people have faced the music in the bottom. Outside of the lengthy period where Jamie remained in the competition despite her failures of execution, the show has just been about great chefs cooking in great challenges, which is what the show is all about.
Generally, I’ve been content to just enjoy the season on its own merits, but I want to focus on tonight’s episode because I have a nicely balanced pair of points I want to make about it. The first is an intellectual question about spoiler culture and Jimmy Fallon’s presence in the episode; the other, meanwhile, is just outright giddiness at one of the contestants in particular.
March 1st, 2009
There are two stories in “Prime Minister,” and each of them is absolutely perfect for this surrealist world we’ve created. The show has leaned heavily this season on the humour to be found in New Zealand’s low level of cultural awareness, and less on the Conchords as an actual music duo: here, both of these elements are brought together with Bret and Jemaine spiraling into the world of cover bands while we get to meet Murray Hewitt’s own Murray Hewitt, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
They end up coming together better than one might expect, especially late in the episode where the “lookalike” culture moves from one storyline into another, and both end up going in directions that are awfully nutty but in a way that is always noticed by the characters, either because they were responsible for its execution or because they are sober enough to realize that Art Garfunkel showing up at your girlfriend’s door while you’re in an Art Garfunkel wig is about time to hightail it out of there.
Yet, the episode was nonetheless another sign that while the comic foundation of the show is perhaps better than other, the songs just aren’t there: here is an opportunity to potentially have the episode soundtracked by Simon & Garfunkel-esque hits, and yet instead we get a Korean karaoke song and a 90s rock song with a nice hook but nothing to really connect it to the episode’s identity. And while I’m all for the show projecting such comic confidence on one end of the spectrum, I’m still left wanting for an episode that brings the two parts together.