Joshua David Stein is back briefly to talk about Bravo's Top Chef whose eighth episode aired last night. As has been much chewed over, Lifetime, a channel for femiladies recently bought Bravo's Project Runway, a show for gays and also anyone else who is fierce and worthwhile. Fears have been raised, as mentioned in an article by former Gawker Mama Rose Doree Shafrir, that the show's edginess will be transmuted into some life-affirming pastiche of pastel Hallmark aphorisms and dime-store candy. This is probably true. But, last we heard, Top Chef was still property of Bravo television which is why last night's episode didn't make any sense: it was cheap; it was cliché; it was precious; it was pap. Also, is Gail Simmons pregnant?
The episode—in which contestants were asked to create a meal for four people for ten dollars and were helped during the preparation by disadvantaged children—reeked of a Lifetime special. As was communicated throughout the show via the valorization of Antonia, a single mother contestant, the target demographic of this challenge was...single mothers, a demographic more likely to be sitting in front of a television tuned to Lifetime than to Bravo. And not just single mothers but low-income single mothers which even moreso places the focus on a Lifetime-esque demographic. That said, the kids were cute as buttons. (Not these buttons. These buttons.) How can you make fun of kids!? What kind of bumptious stinker would dare attempt to? In this way, however, the show has already showed itself more interested in inoculating itself against criticism rather than making good television.
Of course, the winner was Antonia, the single mother! Why? Because, in the words of Gail Simmons who may or may not be pregnant but has certainty gained some weight which I totally understand because during the course of the show I ate an entire large pepperoni pizza from Posto and a slice of strawberry pie I got upstate in this weird hippie bakery that was actually the kitchen of a couple named Bob and Valerie who had moved to Woodstock twenty years prior and set up a pie shop, "it was so natural for her." Well, fuck, of course it is natural to her. She's a single mother (though she does live in Beverly Hills.) But authenticity is no reason anyone should win anything. I would have liked to see Crazy Andrew win because he used to be fat and now is skinny but of course that might be read as fattist, not to mention sexist, by the sexy fatty Lifetime viewership. So there's Antonia—-who, make no mistake, I genuinely like—smiling and telling funny/dirty jokes to her kid. (Knock knock/Who's there/Smellmap/Smellmap who? Get it?/No/Smell my poo!/Oh. Ha!)
Two other moments of the show are also noteworthy. Firstly, that quick challenge really totaled my faith in Padma. Contestants using UNCLE BEN'S RICE had fifteen minutes to create an entree. The screen was immediately flooded with a panoply of UNCLE BEN'S PRODUCTS!!! Padma was excited. How that woman could be so excited by such a lame challenge or at least act that excited by such a lame challenge questions if, and when, she tells me that she loves me, how can I believe her? It just seems so shammy. What a put on! What a laugh! You love me you say?! A love that is so easily bestowed that it falls on a product placement so heinous is no love that I want, Padma.
The other moment of emotional amusement was when crybaby loser (and handsome
Kiwi) Mark accused Tom of not liking him. After sending him home Tom said, "I don't dislike you." It's not as if Tom is using litotes to communicate his intense affection for Mark. "I don't dislike you" is like when a girl tells you (or you a girl, or you a guy or a guy you) "I don't not love you" which, even more than "I really like you," means "I don't love you" which is all to say, this new life-affirming Top Chef? I don't dislike it at all!