Tag Archives: Top Chef

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: The Outcasts

25 Dec

The Men and Woman of The League

It’s time once again for my annual ranking of the shows I watch, my third edition. I’ve changed the eligibility slightly from years past. Because the TV season is no longer the fall to spring trajectory that it used to be, I arbitrarily rank things on a calendar basis, and that leads to strange situations where I’m occasionally ranking the end of one season and the beginning of the next season in the same ranking. It’s strange, and not ideal, but I have to pick some point in the year to do the rankings, so I’ll roll with the punches and mention within the article if there was a significant change in quality one way or the other between the end and beginning of seasons covered in the same year. In previous years I declined to rank new shows that hadn’t finished their season in the calendar year of the rankings, but I’ve eliminated that policy because it means I didn’t get to rank Ben and Kate, which had seemingly not finished its season by 2012, but was swiftly cancelled before airing any episodes in 2013. There’s just about no episode cut off as well; I’m counting Top of the Lake, a miniseries, here, because with seven, it already has more episodes than a couple of the ongoing series on the list.

I have a longer list than ever before, and I’ve talked about more of these shows in depth elsewhere than ever before so this will consist largely of a snapshot of where the show is now, with relevant links to previous discussions as they come up. We start, as last year, with the shows that made last year’s list but didn’t make this year’s for one reason of another.

The Outcasts

There are far fewer shows that are off the list than last year, and they’re largely less interesting than last year so I’m going to address them more quickly. Bear with me.

Louie, Sherlock

Both of these shows simply skipped last year but are coming back this year and I’ll be watching eagerly. Due to changing TV schedules there will probably be more of these types of shows just skipping years moving forward than in years past, though it’s still relatively uncommon.


I stopped watching sometime through the second season. I don’t feel particularly strongly about this decision. Revenge wasn’t super well-positioned for multiple seasons and I wrote in last year’s entry here most of my thoughts about the show, which remain the same. I harbor no ill feelings and in another world I could have watched Revenge a little while longer. I both miss Emily VanCamp and go long stretches forgetting that the show is still on.

The League

I’ll probably catch up on this show at some point even though I haven’t watched this current season, largely because I can move through a season on a Saturday. It’s live action mid-period Family Guy, as I wrote in last year’s entry here, where there are funny jokes even as the overall show isn’t really above par. I feel pretty much the same way I did last year. I like the people; I wish it was a little bit better, but I’m trying to enjoy it for what it is.


I feel pretty much the same way I did last year except that I had many more shows to watch this year and didn’t really get around to watching by default a show I don’t like quite enough to begin with. Star Jane Levy is great and I’m sure I would enjoy this show well enough if I watched it, but I don’t, which probably says more about how I feel than my words.

Top Chef

I have considered marathoning this most recent season set in New Orleans and have avoided reading the results in case I do. However, the fact that I haven’t watched yet shows how it’s fallen on my personal list, which is not a huge surprise considering its place last year. It’s a show best watched in quick succession because when you start getting into it, it can be addictive but I got tired of some of the gimmicks and the seasons can be very uneven.

That’s it. Next up, shows I actually watched.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2012 Edition: 33-31

1 Feb

So, finally, we’re ready to get into the rankings for real.  Check out my intro for the details on qualifying for the list. Shows 33, 32, and 31 follow.

33.  Suburgatory

The dangers of suburgatory

If I was to create a television version of WAR (Wins Above Replacement, an all-encompassing measure of a baseball player’s worth that counts how many wins he is worth in a season above a fictitious replacement player), Suburgatory would be a great stand it for the replacement player.  It was right at the border of whether I’ve seen enough episodes to put it on this list, and frankly this was the only show that was a difficult call in terms of making the list at all – generally, I either had seen almost every episode of a show, or just one or two.  I decided eventually to keep it on as a marker, if nothing else, of the exact current limit of my viewing.  I pretty much never go out of my way to watch Suburgatory but if I’m cruising the on-demand section of my TV and find nothing else new, there’s a fair chance I’ll throw one on.  It could easily be replaced by something better, but there it sits.  It’s not particularly laugh out loud funny, and it’s over the top cartoonish drawing of a posh suburb can be a little bit unsubtle and on the nose, but I really like the two leads, Jane Levy and Jeremy Sisto, who are by far the two most normal people in the town, and the best characters, as they both struggle to fit in.  Maybe there’s something to be learned that in this show, the super quirky characters who are pretty much designed purely for humor are significantly less interesting, and funny, than the two major more well developed characters.  Suburgatory could still get better, but will probably stay the same, which is okay.  This is where it belongs.

32.   The Office

Strange poster

This season of The Office may actually be worse than Suburgatory, but I do watch The Office every week, so that alone will keep it ahead.  I’ve complained loudly and often about The Office’s recent struggles, and how they’ve gone from a hitter with a mere slump to a player on his way to retirement  and as we all know by now, retire The Office will, in just a few months, and thankfully so.  I still hope the last few episodes will be better because I don’t want a show of the caliber of The Office to go out on such a down note.  Many other shows I’d simply stop watching, but The Office has had such a strong run over several years, that I’ve given it far more benefit of the doubt than I would to many other shows.  This leeway The Office has pretty much showed it doesn’t deserve by just totally running out of new ideas, creating serial plots which viewers have no interest in, and reshuffling the characters in ways, after Steve Carrell’s exit, that just don’t make sense.  Even if they didn’t realize it before, they should have been able to figure it out by now, and shift things around, since it’s been two seasons of slightly lower than mediocrity, but they haven’t reacted as I’d hoped.  Dwight’s still funny; so there’s something nice about the show.  While the other characters change personalities, or grow, or are just boring, Dwight pleasantly remains the same.

31.  Top Chef


Every season I’ve watched Top Chef, which is since the fourth, I’ve gotten into mini-bouts where I get kind of obsessed with the show, and heavily invested in who wins; like in sports, I take an emotional hit if my guy loses, and especially if my arch-enemy wins.  This peaked in Top Chef Season 8, All Stars, in which I rooted fiercely for Richard Blais to win, and was thrilled when he actually pulled it off.  That peak though was short lived, and as so often happens, my obsessiveness largely fell away quickly after, in the next season Top Chef 9, where a string of gimmicks helped to siphon my interest, along with a top group of contenders which only featured one person I actually wanted to win.  That contestant did win, thankfully, but it was more of a relief than euphoria, especially since the last couple episodes featured some out and out terrible challenges which were often based on elements other than the contestants’ ability to cook, such as chiseling ingredients out of ice and hitting targets with rifles to acquire ingredients; thus if you were bad at marksmanship, you’d have trouble cooking (I shit you not).  The season ended and left a bad taste in my mouth.  I started up this new season with less hope, and though I dutifully watched the first few episodes, I found myself often falling behind, only watching the previous episode once I was planning on talking to my friend who is also a viewer, to discuss the episode with him, rather than for my own edification.  Anyway, odds are about even as to whether I’ll finish the season, though I don’t think it’s been as disheartening a failure as The Office, which is why it’s higher, but not much.  You’ll notice a pattern, that this tier of shows on my list I all watch dutifully, but ambivalently, and Top Chef fits right in.

Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 24: Top Chef

8 Sep

I love Top Chef.  It’s the only weekly airing non-scripted show I watch (exceptions made here for Daily Show and Colbert Report) regularly (I’m a sucker for the occasional Pawn Stars and I love No Reservations but don’t watch it weekly) and that says a lot about how compelling it is.  It’s kind of like a sporting event, if sporting events were judged by people who usually are but don’t have to be experts (does Lorraine Bracco have that much expertise in food tastery?) and there was no way you could tell how the players did from home except for by what the judges said.  (Imagine a player hits a ball somewhere on baseball field that no one can see, and then umpire says it’s a double because he feels like that’s what it would be using his expertise and there’s no way can verify that but you just have to go with it).

Top Chef, though, like individual sports more than team sports, is all about a combination between personalities and winning.  Some of the best contestants are the most cocky, like Stefan in season 5, but he was able to back up his cockiness with wins.

Season 6 was indisputably my favorite season – it contained four chefs I pegged as the best from right from the beginning, I really really liked all four, and they all made it to the final, the season playing out exactly as it should.  There’s not much joy in Top Chef upsets generally, as it just means weaker contestants get lucky because of a fluky week.

There was something really gratifying when Richard Blais won Top Chef All Stars last season.  It was one of the moments that happen in sports all the time, when you can’t believe how strong you’re rooting for someone until the event actually happens and you’re excited and anxious and, for me, loud.  I would do weekly Top Chef Thursday morning quarter backing (can’t think of a proper equivalent for cooking quickly) with my friend and we would discuss both how we thought the results should have gone, as well as our continued praise for Richard.  It’s interesting to me because in Season 4, the first season of Top Chef I really watched as it was on and became engrossed in, I definitely didn’t feel the same way about Richard, and watching All Stars, I have absolutely no idea why.  Maybe it was because I have an unfair bias against the south; I must not have known he was originally from Long Island.  Either way it’s unforgivable in hindsight because Richard is by far the most similar to me of any contestant I can recall on Top Chef.  Most contestants are either really cocky, or really schmoozy, or really insecure, but Richard is none of these.  He expects to win every challenge, is severely disappointed if he doesn’t, but doesn’t maintain an attitude of arrogance around the other contestants, just a nervously chatty relatively honest analysis of how he feels.  He is harsh on himself when he disappoints, not always agreeing with the judges, but not always disagreeing with them either, which makes it seem more believable when he does disagree.  Immediately after he cooks, he thinks everything he makes is crap and he is petrifyingly nervous after every challenge until the results are given.  This guy is my hero.

Why It’s This High:  It combines the addictiveness and competitiveness of a sporting tournament with glorious food porn

Why It’s Not Higher:  I can’t have an unscripted show go higher – part of what I love about good TV is how intricately it’s crafted, and you can’t craft something like this, which means you get some flops – lack of script is for sports

Best episode of the most recent season:  “Restaurant Wars – One Night Only” – it feels weird to pick top episodes for a reality show, but did any Top Chef fan have any doubt that I’d pick restaurant wars, everyone’s favorite Top Chef challenge (it was either that or the finale), especially when Richard and Dale’s team put up one of the best restaurants ever seen in the show