TV’s Best Reality Show

Because we fancy this to be a pop culture blog, we write a lot here about American Idol. Maybe not in the traditional sense … like, for example, my hatred for David Archuleta. I mean, today we could talk about justice finally coming in the form of Ramiele’s exit. I’m not here for that, though.

Let’s think for a second about the good things that American Idol offers. It’s a show that demands, more than anything else, talent. It’s a show that demands creativity, as contestants must come up with new arrangements, or they’ll fall by the wayside. It’s a show where bad performances mean the end of the road. A demand for talent and instantaneous drama has made American Idol the reality show of the United States.

Those are the factors I love in a reality show, too. It’s probably why I spend far too much time a week listening to Paula Abdul’s attempt at sentence construction. However, if talent and results are what you’re looking for in a reality show, and “American Idol” is the only one you’re taking in, you’re missing my favorite show on television (given that the strike has “The Office”, “30 Rock”, “Mad Men”, “Big Love” on the sidelines):

Some people can’t understand watching cooking on TV, but I’ve become obsessed with it. I watch Emeril, I watch Ace of Cakes, I watch Hell’s Kitchen, I watched Kitchen Nightmares. But like my roomate Adam will tell you that Bravo does the best California reality show with “Real Housewives of Orange County”, I’ll tell you that they do the best cooking show with “Top Chef”.

Poker became a huge television hit years ago for, I think, a basic reason — it took something that we could all do (a game), and showed us people that could do it best. This is why cooking makes good TV — heck, we could cook those spring rolls. But these people, they do something different, something better than your average house wife — they create dishes. They have talent and creativity that surpasses Carly Smithson, I promise you that.

Last night, for example, “Top Chef” had one of my favorite challenges yet — the cooks were responsible for making a meal that was conceived from their favorite movies. One group used the creativity of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and made oompa loompas, one made duck and called “Christmas Story” a favorite movie. The losers, in true cliche form, made Vietnamese food in honor of “Good Morning Vietnam”.

I thought during the show, what the hell could I do in that situation. I thought of Sideways, a movie based on wine, but couldn’t conceive a dish. My roomate helped me realize the “Good Morning Vietnam” group got it all wrong — the group was comprised of a Vietnamese chef and a Mexican chef — why not use “Crash” as your movie and combine skills? What, I thought, dish could be made from “Juno” outside of tic-tacs and Sunny D?

But these people only had 90 minutes, and they needed to get it done. And on our screen, we see the conceptualization, we see the process, we see the end result and we see the judgment. It’s even more holistic than “American Idol”.

Next Wednesday, “Top Chef” will continue to be television’s best reality show. My suggestion is, even if Idol is shoving “Idol Gives Back” down your throat, that you turn it over to Bravo and give it a shot.


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