Sponsored by:
Green Bay Press-Gazette

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring in the New Year with "Law and Order"

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no New Year's Weekend is complete without a "Law and Order" marathon on television.

TNT will be showing a string of episodes of the classic criminal procedural on Sunday morning, so sit back, relax and watch Jerry Orbach solve crimes one wisecrack at a time. The "Best Week Ever" blog has a great post about the "3 Universal Truths of Law and Order" that should not be missed by any fan, including how to predict who will be responsible for the crime (hint: any pseudo recognizable guest star is the obvious guilty party and if they've arrested someone with 40 minutes still to go in the episode, it's always the wrong person).

Here are a few more universal truths about the long-running show, which is addictive in its predictability and yet always intriguing. This includes episodes I've previously seen.

1. If someone confesses to the crime, they're usually doing it to protect the real killer -- often the child or spouse of the person confessing.

2. Rich, powerful people are always crooks. This is especially true if they're the head of any corporation.

3. The person who is most helpful to the cops -- often the bartender/bystander/landlord/waitress -- always knows more than they're telling you. You'll probably talk to them again.

4. If there's a crook the cops have trouble arresting, it usually means that person is an undercover cop/federal marshall/FBI agent.

5. Jack McCoy will never turn down a chance to make a case about the Constitution. Never.

See you in 2010, everyone!

--Malavika Jagannathan,


Commercial Interruption: Baby mama drama

Sometimes there’s just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email, of course — we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Kelly McBride and Malavika Jagannathan are admittedly hooked on MTV’s “Teen Mom,” the sequel series to “16 and Pregnant.” The reality series shows the good — but mostly the bad — of teen parenting. But can it lead today’s amorous teens to think twice?

OK, I admit it. From the time a chance trip around the dial found me watching MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I saw every episode, including the reunion show. Judge if you must and then let’s move on.

What I expected with "16 and Pregnant" was a glamorized account of teen pregnancy and motherhood, the sort of story that shows a fight or two with the baby daddy but ultimately ends up depicting the picture-perfect teenage family. And while there was a bit of that in some of the hour-long stories, I was surprised at the healthy dose of reality the show often was able to deliver (no pun intended). Moving onto “16’s” sequel series, “Teen Mom,” the day-to-day realities of young motherhood — or in one case, the absence thereof following adoption — are delivered in a starker, even more direct fashion.

The show follows the stories of four teens whose lives were interrupted by unintended pregnancy. Maci is working to raise her young son while dealing with emotionally absent boyfriend Ryan and trying to come to terms with being left behind when her friends leave for college.

Amber is raising her daughter while trying to get her GED and constantly fighting with fiancée Gary.

Farrah’s baby daddy never even enters the picture, and she tries unsuccessfully to date as guy after guy realizes they’re not ready to step into the father role. In the show’s most wrenching storyline, Catelynn and Tyler made the impossible choice to give their daughter up for adoption, and now must endure constant ridicule from parents who disagreed with their decision.

Another day in paradise, it isn’t.

I’ve found myself really rooting for these couples (well, the moms, anyway), especially Catelynn and Tyler, who are infinitely wiser and more mature than their stupid, scuzzy parents. The teens and their stories seem real, much more so than much of MTV’s reality fare (or reality TV in general). Malavika, what is it about this show that makes it so addictive? And perhaps more importantly, do you think it will actually resonate with teens and make them think twice about their actions?

Malavika: I'm hardly a reality TV aficionado, but MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and its successor "Teen Mom" have become staples in my weekly viewing. MTV is all about voyeuristic television, but "Teen Mom" is illuminating without being intrusive. As much as I liked the movie "Juno," it's not exactly an accurate picture of teenage pregnancy. With teen pregnancy rates increasing in many states, it's a timely and fairly realistic portrait of teenage momhood.

Although I suspect in some ways there are teens itching to get pregnant in order to land their own MTV show -- probably the same teens who would have done so because it was trendy -- the show does not whitewash the realities of being a teenage parent. All of them, except for Farrah, have matured in their perspective of motherhood and the unexpected changes it's made to their lives.

Farrah, who in the last few episodes has attempted to enter the dating scene, is probably the least mature of the four moms featured on the show. Partially, she's lucky enough to have a family that doesn't mind watching her baby while she gallivants around town, but so far, all her dating attempts have failed. Instead of learning from the experience, she continues to head down the same path, while ignoring the advice from her overbearing mother and sister about focusing on her child and not herself.

Arguably the most heartwrenching storyline has been the one of Catelynn and Tyler -- who I misjudged initially in "16 and Pregnant" -- but who show an intense amount of maturity for their age. Not only do they choose to give their baby up for adoption against their parents' wishes, but they continue to deal with their unsupportive parents months after they make their decision.

Tyler is practically estranged from his father, Butch, over the adoption, but they both are confident that the difficult decision was for the best.

Saying an MTV show will slow down the teenage birth rate is sort of like saying "Just Say No" was a successful anti-drug campaign, but, who knows, maybe a couple of minds will at least be swayed by watching this program. And that's probably a success in and of itself. Other than Tyler, though, there are few mature guys depicted on the show -- both Gary and Ryan are pretty much children, while Farrah's list of potential boyfriends is pretty lame. Is that sending a good message about teenage dads?

Kelly: A good message? Maybe not. But it’s perhaps a realistic one. To be fair, I don’t know any teenage baby daddies, but perhaps seeing these guys behave as they do will make teen girls think twice about the ol’ happily-ever-after scenario. I’m sure there are some good teen dads out there, but probably just as many — if not more — who act like some of the yahoos on the show. I agree that “Teen Mom” can’t change the teen birthrate, but I think you’re right in that it could make a girl (or guy) or two think twice. And even if it doesn’t, it’s still a pretty decent show.

-- Kelly McBride, and Malavika Jagannathan,

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Best TV Show of the Decade" voting ends tomorrow

The Press-Gazette’s “Best TV Show of the Decade” contest completes its online voting tomorrow. Overall, we've received more than 1,000 votes both print and online, so there’s plenty of tallying yet to do before we reveal a winner next month.

Here's how the Top 10 plays out based on overall ballot votes:

1. “American Idol”
2. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”
3. “House”
4. “The Office” (UK and US)
5. “Survivor”
6. “The Sopranos”
7. “The Amazing Race”
8. “24”
9. “Lost”
10. “How I Met Your Mother”

Though “Idol” earned the most votes from the online ballot, we’ll be giving weighted points to shows selected by readers as their ultimate favorite (which we asked in a separate question). So "Idol" may have won the popular vote, but don't assume it's the grand winner just yet!

Here’s a sample of voters’ favorites with reasons why:

“The West Wing”: “It made the process of the federal government accessible to everyone.”

“The Sopranos”: “It took the best of all the old great mobster movies and rolled it into a weekly series.”

“Lost”: “You can watch the show and try to figure out all the angles or you can just sit back and wait for it to happen. Either way, you feel you’ve gotten your full hour’s worth.”

“Desperate Housewives”: “It takes me away from the reality of my life but allows some reality of real life to still unfold.”

“Fringe”: “Because it is the most intelligent and witty science-fiction show out there.’’Keep your reality shows, play-it-again comedies and been-there-done-that dramas. This show is something completely fresh.”

“Scrubs”: “It had every emotion in the show. I laughed, cried, got mad, and I smile every time JD has one of his fantasies!”

“Rescue Me”: “It dealt with how people lived and did their jobs after being impacted by 9/11.”

“24”: “One never knows what Jack will come up with next, and it is really a commentary on many things actually happening.”

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”: “Any time you can mock news but become more credible than the people reporting the real news is incredible.”

“Battlestar Galactica”: “Explored very nuanced moral and cultural issues without being preachy.’’

"SpongeBob SquarePants": "Who couldn't love someone who wants every day to be the best day EVER!"

“The Wire”: “No other show ever created has taught me so much about socio-economics while being incredibly entertaining.”

“Gilmore Girls”: “Always funny, entertaining and heartwarming.”

“Dexter”: “To create a show where you actually root for a serial killer takes the work of great writers and amazing actors.”

"The Office": "A very original show with dialogue that can make me laugh until I cry!"

“Deadwood”: “It was unlike any western ever on TV. Ian McShane was brilliant.”

"Family Guy":
"Because it incorporates so much pop culture from EVERY decade, and the humor is non stop. Why is it not on the list?"

“Entourage”: “It is the ultimate guy show. Rude, brash and absolutely hilarious, I think every guy can relate to a character on the show.”

“Six Feet Under”: “It was one of the first shows to use dark humor in an entertaining way.”

"American Idol": "I love being a part of the decision and seeing people make a success out of their life. Plus, I can listen to their music on the radio so the show doesn't end after the winner is announced."

"Sex and the City": "The first show to honestly show relationships and how they work."

“Mad Men”: “There isn't a more complex cast of characters profiled more patiently anywhere on television.”

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: ,

Time Warner could get out-Foxed again

Remember that dispute a little over a year ago with WLUK and Time Warner Cable -- you know, the one that sent Green Bay Packers fans scurrying to Wal-Mart for cheap antennas like they were Tickle Me Elmo dolls?

Then there was the heavily threatened Viacom blackout of 2009 that resulted in Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV almost getting yanked off TW boxes before the New Year started.

Well, Time Warner is at it again, this time with the Fox Network over broadcast fees. However, as a Press-Gazette story stated today, Northeastern Wisconsin customers won't miss out on Sunday's Packers season finale against the Arizona Cardinals or the Jan. 12 return of "American Idol."

Time Warner Cable reps said the ongoing dispute doesn't involve many popular Fox channels including Fox News, Fox Sports Wisconsin and regular Fox programming available through WLUK. Instead, the affected Fox channels include FX, Fuel, Speed, Fox Reality, Fox Soccer and Fox Sports Espanol -- and let's face it, other than "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" (which is done for the season), who the heck watches those stations?

Anyway, if a new deal isn't reached by midnight, Time Warner customers will lose those extras, but initial reports made it seem much, much worse.

The AP also reported earlier today that Fox refused to accept Time Warner Cable’s offer to carry its broadcast signal while the fee dispute continues. Chase Carey, chief operating officer of Fox owner News Corp., told staff in a memo that a signal interruption was likely when the current deal over fees expires at midnight, halting service to millions of viewers.

Fox argues it needs to be paid more for broadcast signals that are retransmitted to subscribers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

-- Channel Surfing

Labels: ,

'Dunham' is done: No second season for dummy and his puppets

Just when I thought Christmas was over, Comedy Central drops this big, bright package in my lap, as if to say "We've saved the best for last!"

The network, which never met a lowest common denominator it didn't pander to, announced yesterday it would not be renewing the putrid "Jeff Dunham Show" for a second season. This after the ventriloquist "comedian's" debut episode (only a scant few months ago) garnered the largest audience for a show's premiere in Comedy Central's history.

It would be easy to dismiss the network's quick 180 on the show as a simple admission that it is the most vile, unfunny, insulting half hour of television ever conceived. But c'mon -- this is the network that also gave us four seasons of "Crank Yankers."

Yes, it was universally panned by critics, and has landed on nearly every year-end "worst of" list. And yes, viewership did drop from the 5.6 million of its debut to an average 1.8 million of recent episodes, but that's still more than watch "The Daily Show." Comedy Central obviously had an incentive to keep this show on the air in spite of the fact that it's not funny, and the word "comedy" is in their name.

Just chalk this one up as one of the great mysteries of TV. Or do like me, and treasure for the Christmas miracle it is.

-- Adam Reinhard,


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Talking "Amazing Race" with Flight Time and Big Easy

With the Harlem Globetrotters arriving for a Resch Center show tomorrow, Channel Surfing was able to talk shop with Herb “Flight Time” Lang and Nathaniel “Big Easy” Lofton before the holidays. Both proved why they were fan favorites on the show by graciously answering questions about their time on CBS' "The Amazing Race" -- they finished fourth -- and how their role with the Globetrotters has changed post-reality television.

No offense, Green Bay. But when Herb “Flight Time” Lang and Nathaniel “Big Easy” Lofton arrive in town Wednesday with their Harlem Globetrotters teammates, they’ll probably be wishing they were still on the warm and sandy Dubai leg of “The Amazing Race.”

“Hey, I got there last year around the same time. Like a foot and a half of snow,” said Lang, the Globetrotters’ resident ball-handling wizard and reality TV junkie.

“So I know what’s going on. I think I’m ready for it.”

As their name suggests, the Globetrotters rack up plenty of frequent-flier miles crisscrossing from country to country for shows. But this time, Lang and Lofton arrive in the frigid Midwest with an even thicker travelogue thanks to their finish in the final four of Season 15 of the Emmy Award-winning reality competition.

The CBS show — which zips from Vietnam to United Arab Emirates to Estonia in a matter of days — features various challenges aimed at mentally and physically exhausting its competitors as they race around the world for a $1 million prize. As expected, the game’s twists and turns can put even the most athletically imposing team on its back — something the Globetrotters learned during a brutal roadblock in Prague, Czech Republic.

In that episode, a competitor from each team was required to unscramble a set of letters and spell “Franz” — a reference to novelist Franz Kafka — before receiving a clue. Unable to figure out the puzzle, Lofton chose to accept a four-hour non-completion penalty, leading to the Globetrotters’ elimination.

“You know, it wasn’t that painful to watch again. Well, maybe a little bit,” Lofton said, laughing.

Though it looked like a snap decision on TV, Lofton said he was stuck in a room for three hours, unable to crack the code without any breaks. Frustrating as it was, Lang never thought to chastise his teammate for blowing the mission.

“That’s just who we are,” Lang said. “I mean, how could I be mad at him? Of course, I wanted to make it to the next round, but we had two first-place finishes before that. Won two vacations. Some teams in the race didn’t win anything. So without him, we wouldn’t have made it that far anyway. There was no way I was going to put unnecessary pressure on him. No way.”

Added Lofton: “All we wanted to do was have fun. We weren’t going to get caught up in bickering and yelling at each other, that sort of thing. When you have the camera on you 24-7, you have no choice but to be yourself. And we’re naturally good friends, entertainers, so I hope people were able to see that come across.”

Appreciation for the Globetrotters’ rare display of reality show restraint has continued to follow them post-”Race.” Fans have written e-mails and comments on the Globetrotters’ Web site letting both know that their patience and understanding is being used as a teaching tool in schools and at home.

Even better, “Race” watchers who didn’t previously have any interest in basketball are now coming to arenas to share in the unique Globetrotters-fan bond, Lang said.

“I know a lot of people were disappointed when we lost, but we’ve received so many positive thoughts about how kids look up to us and we’re being used as role models for teamwork,” he said. “They say, ‘What would Flight Time and Big Easy do?’ Honestly, that’s even more rewarding than winning a million dollars.”

Saying that with a straight face might not sound plausible. Then again, as Globetrotters who earn a paycheck traveling the world, Lang and Lofton are just happy to still be playing basketball after stellar college careers.

Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Lofton was asked to try out for the Globetrotters after attending a charity show in his temporary home of Houston. The five-year vet — appropriately nicknamed “Big Easy” after his New Orleans hometown — played his college ball at Southeastern Louisiana.

Lang, a conference scoring champ at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., turned up on the Globetrotters’ radar after his win at the National Association of Basketball Coaches slam dunk contest during the 1998 Final Four.

The 11-year vet said it’s still hard to believe that he’s part of a Globetrotters lineage that includes legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.

“In 84 years, there have been right around 400 total Globetrotters. That’s not a whole lot of players over 84 years,” Lang said. “So to carry on that tradition and to be ambassadors of goodwill in the United States is something special. We’re the home team in any country we go to. No other team can say that.”

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Channel Surfing's Best of 2009

David Letterman issued a mea culpa. Kanye West bumrushed Taylor Swift. The Gosselins finally called it quits.

Beyond the TV headlines that help sell gossip rags, there was plenty of good ol’ fashioned writing and acting to absorb in 2009.

Being good couch potatoes, the Press-Gazette’s Channel Surfing bloggers didn’t stray far from the hypnotic glow of their TV sets. Here’s how they’ll remember the year.

Favorite drama

“Breaking Bad” – A strike-shortened first season set the table nicely. But Season 2 of “Breaking Bad” took Walt White’s delusion as a chemistry teacher-turned meth dealer to the next level by forcing him to confront the darkest consequences imaginable. Aaron Paul’s inspired turn as Jesse added much needed emotional layers to the show – a viewer investment capped by Walt coldly watching as his friend’s heroin-addled girlfriend choked to death before his eyes. – Thomas Rozwadowski

“Mad Men” – Season 3 of “Mad Men” started off slowly, but built to a crescendo that hopefully silenced even its harshest critics. Between Joan’s vase-throwing revenge on hubby Greg to the Don-Betty confrontation over his past life, “Mad Men” danced between the lines of flawlessness all season as it prepared for its dramatic conclusion. The intertwining of the season’s final episodes with the JFK assassination — and various business shenanigans at Sterling Cooper — left us happy and sad, crushed yet hopeful. Everything a good drama should do. -- Malavika Jagannathan

“Lost” – How can I explain how good "Lost" was in its fifth and penultimate season to anyone who's either stopped watching it or (gasp!) never even seen an episode? Well, I can't, and I won't try. Because "Lost" is a show that rewards the faithful by being the most engrossing, exciting, marvelous TV series currently on the air. With the new year comes the last season of this singularly remarkable show, and twelve months from now, you will see it again on this list. -- Adam Reinhard

Favorite comedy

"Flight of the Conchords" -- I can't help but feel reeeeeeeeeeeeejected like Murray Hewitt following the official announcement that "Flight of the Conchords" is indeed over. Though the Season 2 finale wasn't billed as a series ender, fans knew Bret and Jemaine's return to New Zealand likely meant their hapless New York City exploits were over. But I can't help it. I've still got hurt feelings ... I'VE GOT HURT FEELINGS ... ahem. Thankfully, Season 2 of the groundbreaking HBO comedy brought out some of the parody duo's best material and visuals -- "Fashion is Danger," "Carol Brown," and the aforementioned "Hurt Feelings" -- not to mention hilarious bits on epileptic dogs and Art Garfunkel. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to talk Mel down from the ledge. -- Thomas Rozwadowski

“Community” – Love Tina Fey and “30 Rock” as I do, it’s Joel McHale and the kooky cast of “Community” that've given me the most belly-aching laughs this year. McHale and his study group of fellow misfits at Greendale Community College -- including a revived Chevy Chase in his best comedic role to date -- are a ridiculous bunch. The freshman NBC show has a great balance of “Scrubs”-like feigned seriousness and wacky premises — and like “Scrubs,” our erstwhile hero (McHale) learns a good lesson each time about life. Secondary characters like Ken Jeong’s Senor Chang and John Oliver’s Professor Duncan are merely the cherry on top of this absurdly delightful sundae. -- Malavika Jagannathan

“Better Off Ted,” “Parks and Recreation” (tie) – The little shows that could. “Parks’’ started life as a poor “Office’’ clone in its first season, but hit the ground running last fall on a creative high. “Ted,’’ on the other hand, seemed like one of those brilliant shows that no one would watch, leading to quick cancellation. Luckily ABC saw fit to bring it back for a second go-round, and it’s only gotten funnier. -- Adam Reinhard

Favorite new show

“Modern Family” – ABC’s Emmy-nominated hit has something most smart comedies don’t strive for these days. Heart. Fresh, funny and not the least bit mean spirited, “Modern” doesn’t try to be anything but a great comedy that all ages and walks of life can enjoy. And seriously, how awesome is Manny? – Thomas Rozwadowski

-- Praised for its warmth as much as its humor, ABC's "Modern Family" appears to be getting all the buzz as TV's new Savior of the Sitcom. But for my money, NBC's "Community" has it beat on both counts. Sure, it plays the ironic detachment card often, thanks to its lead character (Joel McHale), a smarmy lawyer forced to attend community college after getting suspended. But the assorted losers and dropouts who comprise his study group resemble more of a true family unit than almost anything else on TV. -- Adam Reinhard

“The Vampire Diaries” -- "Diaries" isn’t exactly brainy fare, but it’s got that mix of romance, mystery, suspense and hot teens to make it a raging success. And, oddly enough, it’s the only new show I felt I couldn’t afford to miss each week. Maybe I am just a tween at heart, but “Vampire Diaries” definitely sank its fangs into me this fall. Best new show, maybe not, but definitely my favorite. -- Malavika Jagannathan

Favorite character

Joan Holloway, “Mad Men” – She’s the brilliant everywoman stuck under the misogynistic thumb of the male-dominated ‘60s. Yet while Peggy Olson typifies the rise to come for the modern working woman, Joan is the straw that truly stirs the drink (And on "Mad Men," they drink a lot). The only moment better than her triumphant return as office savior during the finale’s frenetic dash from Sterling Cooper? Why, cracking her detestable husband over the head with a vase, of course. – Thomas Rozwadowski

Alicia Florrick, “The Good Wife” – My two favorite characters in 2009 were both women, both wives, and both dealing with marital issues. But after much internal debate, the win goes to Alicia Florrick over my favorite desperate housewife, Betty Draper of “Mad Men.” The feisty Florrick, played to perfection by Julianna Margulies, is a heady combination of smarts and vulnerability on the new CBS drama that focuses on life after a sex scandal derails her politico hubby. True, it’s another one-case-per-episode lawyer show, but Florrick is captivating as she reflects but doesn’t copy the true-life experiences of wives like Dina McGreevey or Silda Spitzer. Plus, she’s got a great wardrobe and some killer calves to boot. -- Malavika Jagannathan

Abed Nadir, "Community" -- In a show stuffed with amazing character actors, Danny Pudi stands out as Abed, an amateur filmmaker with Asperger's syndrome. With probably the best deadpan since Keaton, Abed relates to every situation through a pop culture reference, for instance --"I thought you were like Bill Murray in any of his films, but you're more like Michael Douglas in any of his films." And hands down the funniest storyline of any show this season was when Abed not only dressed up like Batman for Halloween, but aped Christian Bale's strained voicework throughout the episode. Abed's the man. -- Adam Reinhard

Best “No F'n Way!’’ moment

The return of Zack Morris on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” – For a “Saved by the Bell” nostalgia buff, nothing beat Mark-Paul Gosselaar adopting his preppy persona while gripping a sneaker-size cell phone as Fallon geeked out with obscure trivia from the cheesy teen sitcom. B-ba-b-ba-b-ba-b, go Bayside! – Thomas Rozwadowski

Carrie Prejean’s outburst on “Larry King Live” – Sorry, but nothing tops ex-beauty queen Prejean accusing everyone’s favorite TV grandpa of being inappropriate when he asked a softball question about why she decided to settle with the Miss California pageant. When King stopped his line of questioning to take a call, Prejean took off her mike and threatened to walk off the stage. Ultimately, she stayed, and King continued to look flabbergasted. And so did we. -- Malavika Jagannathan

Most disappointing show

“Glee” – Jane Lynch’s antics kept me watching in the early-going, but after a while, the singing got a bit … how shall I put it … on my nerves. Popular as it might be, “Glee” could have been “Election” with a musical twist, but instead degraded into irritating and ludicrous territory one Journey song at a time. -- Malavika Jagannathan (sentiments echoed by Thomas Rozwadowski)

“Flash Forward” – No matter how hard they try, TV execs have yet to recreate the magic of “Lost.’’ “Flash Forward’’ seemed like it would be a valiant effort, even copying its sister show’s penchant for jumping around in time. But it lacks a firm rooting in basic humanity, leaning too far into all things mysterious and science-y, making for less-than-compelling viewing. -- Adam Reinhard

Favorite obsession

Seeing Brett Favre fail -- I'm not gonna lie. I watch Minnesota Vikings games about as obsessively as I do Packers games now. Yet while I've been forced to concede that my hometown team lost two games convincingly and Favre played lights out while sticking it to his old white-haired boss, I can't wait for the playoffs to start so I can see if the karma gods truly have my back. Now, that's not to say that I want Captain Audible to get injured or anything. But if Julius Peppers wants to jump on Favre and ride him into the turf like he's a rickety mechanical bull, that's just fine with me. Also, I'd like to see Brad Childress cry after Favre dresses him down on the sidelines -- preferably as the ol' gunslinger tries to defend a game-crippling interception in the fourth quarter of a divisional playoff game. Fingers crossed. -- Thomas Rozwadowski

"Top Chef" --“Top Chef” continues to rule my world. In 2009, we got a double-dose of Bravo’s cooking show with “Top Chef: Masters” airing over the summer, followed by the regular show’s best season of chefs so far. "Masters" was great because it pitted successful chefs against each other, for charity no less, and viewers got a peek into some of the greatest culinary minds in modern America (Rick Bayless, I love you). “Top Chef” continues to prove that real competition can win in the kitchen and in reality. -- Malavika Jagannathan

"The Guild" -- Our concept of what is and isn't television has gotten increasingly fuzzy, and it doesn't help when a web series like "The Guild" can be funnier and more original than half the shows on TV. But this wacky comedy about a group of strangers who are drawn together by the massive multi-player online video game for which they share an addiction is consistently inventive, well-acted, and hilarious. It recently wrapped its third season, and even a non-gamer like me is hungry for more. -- Adam Reinhard

Most tired storyline

Jay Leno's continued presence --
We get it, NBC. Jay Leno is on five nights a week and is stealing all the A-listers that no longer get funneled to Conan O'Brien's chair on the new "Tonight Show." ENOUGH WITH THE PROMOS! While national TV critics painstakingly attempt to dissect the Leno experiment in terms of ratings success and failure, I only care about what it means for the future of original programming, not to mention O'Brien's lost thunder as an NBC afterthought. Nice job, peacock. -- Thomas Rozwadowski

Cancer storyline on "Brothers and Sisters" -- I know it's cancer, so I shouldn’t be so cavalier about it, but it’s kind of, well, a downer. Every good primetime soap opera needs a medical drama to spice it up, but this one is especially boring because no one cares if Kitty Walker McCallister (Calista Flockhart) has cancer. She was far more interesting while attempting to start an affair in the park with a fellow dad than she is when trying to choose between chemotherapy treatments. Life is depressing as is, but television shouldn’t have to be. Cure her and be done with it! -- Malavika Jagannathan

The car crash
-- It's time to put the kibosh on TV car crashes. From "Mad Men" to "Brothers and Sisters" to freaking "Gossip Girl," plots that feature sudden auto wrecks got out of control this year. The worst part is, the crashes aren't even that serious, and no one is ever badly hurt. They only serve to advance the story. Note to TV producers: If you're going to use this trite cliche, at least do us the courtesy of bumping somebody off. -- Adam Reinhard

Hopes for 2010

“Lost” goes out with a bang – An even more important question than whether “Lost’s” series finale can possibly satisfy its fans: Will viewers be able to function in normal society after wasting every free moment theorizing about this glorious show for the past five years? – Thomas Rozwadowski

World Cup fever -- There’s really only one sporting event I care about next year — the 2010 World Cup. And ESPN’s newfound respect for the sport everyone else in the world cares about has me hopeful that we lonely soccer/futbol fans won’t just be watching retooled international feeds at 3 a.m. like in previous years. For next year’s event, the network actually plans to produce all of its World Cup content with a substantial ground crew in South Africa and offer nightly post-game shows. GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!! -- Malavika Jagannathan

Keep the comedy coming – Just look at the list: “The Office,’’ “How I Met Your Mother,’’ “Big Bang Theory,’’ “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,’’ “Better Off Ted’’ and promising newbies like “Cougar Town,’’ “The Middle,” “Community” and “Modern Family.’’ That’s 11 solid sitcoms looking forward. Hopefully, 2010 can keep the funny going. -- Adam Reinhard


Christmas -- a time of peace, love and television

Right about the time you get sick of your family or drunk on egg nog -- or, heck, both -- is probably the best time to park yourself in front of the boob tube and indulge in a little miracle we call television.

Here's a guide to some of the lovely holiday-themed programming you can use as an excuse to slip away from the fam for a few blessed solitary hours, or, if you actually like them, make it a family event.

Tonight, Dec. 24

A Christmas Story -- TBS will air its 24-hour marathon of this heartwarming tale about young Ralphie and his quest for his Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Watch it, or you'll shoot your eye out. Runs for 24 hours from 7 p.m. tonight on TBS.

It's a Wonderful Life -- Even the Scroogiest among us can adore this classic story of holiday spirit and redemption. Watch Jimmy Stewart at his everyday-hero best and let's all hope we have guardian angels like Clarence watching over us. 7 p.m. on NBC

White Christmas -- Though the movie starts off in Europe during World War II and follows Army buddies played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in their post-war life as musical producers, it culminates in the holiday season with these simple, but prolific words: "May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white." 7 p.m. on AMC with repeats until midnight.

Meet Me In St. Louis -- DVR this Judy Garland classic tonight and watch it tomorrow. Often overlooked in the holiday movie pantheon, the story of a turn-of-the-century family in St. Louis who has to leave their hometown is nostalgic without being schmaltzy. True, it's a musical, but listening to Garland sing the original version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is enough to grow your heart three sizes. Midnight on Turner Classic Movies.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation -- Hang out with the Griswolds. It'll make you feel better about your own family. Just don't let your cat watch the scene with the Christmas tree. Starts at 5:30 a.m. on AMC with repeats throughout the day.

Bad Santa -- Billy Bob Thornton's drunk, foul-mouthed Santa is not exactly the man you imagined in your childhood, but that's exactly why it's refreshing in a line-up of happy-go-lucky holiday fare. Plus, the movie starts off in a bar in Milwaukee. Spike TV will air the movie all day.

Elf -- Will Ferrell's turn as Buddy the elf, a human adopted by Santa Claus, should be ludicrous, but it was actually kind of sweet in this 2003 flick. With an awesome cast -- Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and Bob Newhart, to name a few -- this is one of those new holiday classics that displays a lot of heart. USA Network will show the movie uncut and commercial free at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Variety has a great list of all the other marathons on television tomorrow, in case you want something non-holiday related.

Happy Holidays, everyone, from your friends at Channel Surfing!

-- Malavika Jagannathan,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Channel Surfing also wishes it was Christmas today ...

Looking for a rockin' Christmas tune to wipe the floor with your mom's favorite Andy Williams or Perry Como standard?

Earlier this year, Julian Casablancas released an awesome version of 'Saturday Night Live" novelty number, "I Wish It Was Christmas Today." And while promoting his solo album on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" this week, the Strokes frontman cranked up the Christmas cheer alongside Fallon, Horatio Sanz and the Roots.

Now, this Channel Surfing blogger hasn't paid much attention to "SNL's" non-Sarah Palin related shenanigans over the past decade, but I do have a soft spot for Fallon and Co.'s Christmas ditty.

It's clever. It's catchy. It has Tracy Morgan in a Christmas sweater.

Either way, the song is now a full-fledged classic thanks to Casabalancas giving it the kind of snarl even a grumpy ol' atheist would appreciate this Christ-birthing season. And Fallon, for all the negativity he receives for not being as cool as Conan O'Brien, has done some very funny things in 2009 (which we'll be glad to remind you of when our Best of 2009 list is revealed tomorrow).

Enjoy both the new and original versions. Since it's not Christmas yet (sigh), we'll now get back to work.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obligatory update: "Best TV Show of the Decade" contest trends

Well, even a grumpy Simon Cowell would approve of Channel Surfing’s “Best TV Show of the Decade’’ contest results so far.

With more than 500 votes from print and online, here are the front-runners:

1. “American Idol’’
2. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’’
3. “House”
4. “The Office” (US and UK)
5. “24’’
6. “The Sopranos’’
7. “How I Met Your Mother’’
8. “Desperate Housewives’’
9. “Lost’’
10. “Survivor’’

Breaking down the data: Voter tendencies show an obvious preference for network TV -- not a huge surprise considering Green Bay has long been considered behind when it comes to being a technologically-savvy community. That would appear to extend to our desire (or perhaps willingness) to place an emphasis on cable TV. The one premium cable show that does appear, "The Sopranos," has been on DVD long enough for viewers to have played catch-up without purchasing HBO.

One of the biggest surprises -- at least to this Channel Surfer -- is the strong push by "How I Met Your Mother." A relative newbie by sitcom standards, the show continues to get a swell of votes, even making a push for the Top 5. Didn't realize it was that popular.

Also, in case you're curious, other shows hovering just below the Top 10 barrier -- "The Amazing Race," "Sex and the City," "Scrubs" and yes, "SpongeBob SquarePants." Shows that are performing better than expected (by my account) -- "Dexter," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Arrested Development." Disappointments thus far -- "The Wire," "Mad Men" and "30 Rock."

Not happy with reader picks? Remember to head to and give your favorite show a boost. You can vote once a day online until Dec. 31 for a shot at our random drawing for an $850 La-Z-Boy recliner and food certificates from Coaches Corner and Rosati’s Pizza.

Thanks to everyone for voting so far. And check back next week with an update on write-in votes, along with reader comments on shows we missed.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: ,

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Christmas commercials that never die

Who doesn't love a good holiday tradition? Everybody's got 'em: Roasting chestnuts by the fire, caroling door-to-door, baking cookies shaped like angels, trying to intercept drunken Uncle Steve before he relieves himself behind the lighted Christmas tree and shorts out the entire house...

Good times ... gooood times.

But probably no holiday tradition is more enjoyable (unless you ask Uncle Steve) than gathering around the TV to catch one of the 2.8 billion or so Christmas specials that air every year. The classics -- your "Charlie Brown Christmas," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "A Christmas Story," "Tiger Woods' Christmas Ho Ho Hos" (just making sure you're paying attention) -- deservedly run nonstop throughout the season ... every season.

It's not just movies and specials, though, that have earned such longevity. Even commercials -- which typically have the lifespan of a fruit fly, especially if the fruit fly is on sale -- can enjoy a long, healthy run when tied to the holidays, in some cases airing year after year without fail. Here are the top five, in no particular order:

The popularity of M&M's spokescandies Red and Yellow was at its candy-coated peak when this ad debuted in the late 90s. They were obviously so popular that even Santa Claus is overcome upon meeting them, and faints on the spot. Funny enough the first couple times you see it, but that doesn't explain its lasting appeal. Rather, those CGI niblets (voiced here by "Futurama"'s Billy West and "The Closer"'s J.K. Simmons) must cost a pretty penny to animate, especially back in the early days of computer animation, so why not just recycle this 15-second spot every year, and save the real money to R&D those nauseating peanut butter and jelly-flavored candies they came out with this summer? Keep up the good work, M&Ms!

This one I love, because you don't get that overt sense of being sold something. Rather these cute little Hershey Kisses are just so eager and nervous to put on a good performance of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and their conductor, Silver Kiss, is so darn professional the way he clears his throat to call them to attention, and the bell sounds they make (because Hershey Kisses make bell sounds when you shake them, I've tried it) is so clear and joyous, and that overexcited red Kiss does SUCH A GOOD JOB at the end, and he's SO ADORABLE when he wipes his brow with his tag, and ... dammit, I'm gonna go out and buy a big bag of them right now...

You're not going to make me cry, Folgers. I'm just telling you now. Don't even try it. You've gotten a lot of mileage out of this 1986 commercial, mostly because it reduces even the most hardened man into a quivering blob of gelatin. Clean-cut college kid Peter returns home early Christmas morning, where only his little sister, Cindy Lou Who, is awake. But instead of yelling "Yo, I'm home! Feed me!" to wake everyone else up like I would have done in his place, Peter brews a big ol' pot of Folgers coffee (from a tin can! It's the 80s!). The smell of that roasted goodness rouses the rest of his family, including, apparently, the mom from "Gremlins." Everyone comes down the stairs, sees that their prodigal son has returned, and... well... I'm not made of stone, you know!

Sidenote: Folger's recently remade this ad, to not nearly the same effect.

Not quite as recurrent as the first three, this McDonald's spot from the early 80s still pops up periodically. To be fair, it does look egregiously dated (what are those, hand-drawn animated forest creatures? What, Ronald's magic couldn't conjure up some CGI?) Yet its simple story of a little boy who can't skate until a multinational fast food conglomerate's mascot lifts him up and teaches him through the power of, I don't know, chicken McNuggets or something, is still pretty heartwarming after all these years. Bonus points for that climactic music that apes Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star" just enough to get away with it.

Finally we have this 1995 gem from Campbell's (have you noticed a trend with these commercials, by the way? I guess the holidays really are all about food after all) which isn't technically a Christmas commercial, per se. It does use "Let It Snow" as its background music, though, so I'm including it. It's a very clever, very cute ad about a snowman who gets too cold, so he clomps his way indoors, where an unseen woman just hands him a bowl of soup. As he eats, the snow melts away to reveal he was a little boy all along. What you don't see is what happens next, when the boy calls the Department of Children's Services on his mom for leaving him out in a blizzard for so long that he became a snowman in the first place. Justice is mmm-mmm good.

Do you have any other favorite recurring holiday commercials that aren't on this list? Drop us a line! And happy holidays!

-- Adam Reinhard,

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chuck a snowball at your favorite — make that least favorite — Fox star

If there's anything worse than getting dumped on by 14 inches of snow in 24 hours, it's following it up with a fierce cold snap that won't even let the white stuff be packy enough to make adequate snowballs. Or, it's getting all that snow and cold, and then being stuck inside all day having to watch crappy Fox shows like "Lie to Me" and "Til Death."

Luckily, Fox has sensed their audience's intense hatred of annoying characters like Cleveland from "The Cleveland Show" or Rachel from "Glee," or real-life TV personalities such as Simon Cowell or Cat Deeley, and they've created a game to let us inflict a little pain on them, however superficially. "Fox Snowball Fight!", available on the network's website, is a stupefyingly satisfying Flash game that pits you against a wide array of the network's stars.

No less than twelve (twelve!) characters from that perky piece of garbage "Glee" are ready and waiting for you to knock their nerd glasses off their nerd faces. The smug stars of "Fringe" won't look so clever when dancing around with loose snow down the back of their shirts. And two words: Kara DioGuardi. Who hasn't wanted to drive a few chunks of ice at her skull?

Sure, the game goes a little far with the inclusion of "Brothers" star Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, who is, after all, in a freaking wheelchair. It's not as much fun pretend-assaulting celebrities with snowballs when one of them is physically disabled. But it wouldn't be a Fox endeavor if something about it weren't inappropriate — in which case, kudos, Fox, for living up to your rep.

My other complaint? No inclusion of Fox News stars like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. But I'm sure if Beck were offered as an opponent, the Internet would collapse from everybody trying to wallop him at once. So maybe it's for the best.

Overall a crass, diverting way to waste a few minutes, "Fox Snowball Fight!" is also cleansing for the soul, much in the way I imagine vampire slaying would be. Now if you'll excuse me, Gordon Ramsey's lookin' a little too dry over there...

Adam Reinhard,

Labels: ,

'Modern Family,' 'Glee' shake up Golden Globes a bit

Television often takes a back seat to movie nominations during Golden Globes time. And this year's crop of shows aren't so diverse that they're going to create any bold headlines.

As per the custom, cable dramas continue to dominate, though much is being made of comedy's resurgence -- something we've noted on Channel Surfing thanks to ABC's "Modern Family," which nabbed a Best Series nomination. Fellow newbie, "Glee," (which we haven't been so hot on, though Jane Lynch should own her category) also made a nice dent with a similar nod.

Other than that, nothing terribly exciting. Or at least nothing that can compare with the awesomeness of our Best TV Show of the Decade contest (hint, vote, hint.)

Series, Drama: “Big Love,” HBO; “Dexter,” Showtime; “House,” Fox; “Mad Men,” AMC; “True Blood, HBO

Actor, Drama: Simon Baker, “The Mentalist”; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”; Hugh Laurie, “House”; Bill Paxton, “Big Love”

Actress, Drama: Glenn Close, “Damages”; January Jones, “Mad Men”; Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”; Anna Paquin, “True Blood”; Kyra Sedgwick, “The Closer”

Series, Musical or Comedy: “30 Rock,” NBC; “Entourage,” HBO; “Glee,” Fox; “Modern Family,” ABC; “The Office,” NBC

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Steve Carell, “The Office”; David Duchovny, “Californication”; Thomas Jane, “Hung”; Matthew Morrison, “Glee”

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Toni Collette, “United States of Tara”; Courteney Cox, “Cougar Town”; Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Lea Michele, “Glee”

Miniseries or Movie: “Georgia O’Keeffe,” Lifetime Television; “Grey Gardens,” HBO; “Into the Storm,” HBO; “Little Dorrit,” PBS; “Taking Chance,” HBO

Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Joan Allen, “Georgia O’Keeffe”; Drew Barrymore, “Grey Gardens”; Jessica Lange, “Grey Gardens”; Anna Paquin, “The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler”; Sigourney Weaver, “Prayers for Bobby”

Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Kevin Bacon, “Taking Chance”; Kenneth Branagh, “Wallander: One Step Behind”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “Endgame”; Brendan Gleeson, “Into the Storm”; Jeremy Irons, “Georgia O’Keeffe

Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jane Adams, “Hung”; Rose Byrne, “Damages”; Jane Lynch, “Glee”; Janet McTeer, “Into the Storm”; Chloe Sevigny, “Big Love"

Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Michael Emerson, “Lost”; Neil Patrick Harris, “How I Met Your Mother”; William Hurt, “Damages”; John Lithgow, “Dexter”; Jeremy Piven, “Entourage”

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Monday, December 14, 2009

Early returns: "Best TV Show of the Decade" contest

Channel Surfing's "Best TV Show of the Decade" contest has been in full swing since Saturday. And so far, we're seeing passionate responses from readers who are either pulling for their favorite or highly irritated that we didn't include their program of choice in our field of 40.

Honestly, we could have picked 100 shows and it's almost a certainty that we still would've missed a few big ones from the past 10 years. Know this much: our Channel Surfers agonized over a lengthy master list before deciding that 40 wasn't watering down the field too much for readers.

That said, we appreciate any feedback you're giving us, and later this week, I'll be including a sample of e-mails and online comments from voters thus far.

Above all, check back here for obligatory updates as the online vote continues (the print ones should be rolling in later this week). So far, here are the front-runners (I'm keeping vote totals secret) after three days. We'll be using this info to declare a grand winner from readers along with our own tally of critical favorites at the conclusion of the contest in early January.

1. "House"
2. "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"
3. "The Office" (US and UK)
4. "American Idol"
5. "30 Rock"
6. "The Sopranos"
7. "24"
8. "Desperate Housewives"
9. "How I Met Your Mother"
10. "Lost"

Not happy with reader picks so far? Let us know by leaving a comment, or better yet, go back online and give your favorite show a boost. Remember, you can vote once a day online until Dec. 31. Just placing a vote gives you a shot at our random drawing for an $850 La-Z-Boy recliner, plus food certificates from Coaches Corner and Rosati's Pizza.

Head to the main voting site at Green Bay Hub to see our photo gallery, vote and read the rules.

Stay tuned for more updates as the contest continues. And thanks to everyone for voting so far!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: ,

"Conchords" done? Yes. Affirmative.

It's official. "Flight of the Conchords" will no longer be rockin' the party on HBO.

And with that, Mel just drank a gallon of Drano.

From Bret and Jemaine's official Web site:

"We’ve noticed the less we say about the future of the show, the more people want to talk about it, so in an effort to reverse this trend we are today announcing that we won’t be returning for a 3rd season. We’re very proud of the two seasons we made and we like the way the show ended. We’d like to thank everyone who helped make the show and also everyone who watched it. While the characters Bret and Jemaine will no longer be around, the real Bret and Jemaine will continue to exist."

Goodbye, "Conchords," goodbye ...

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Vote in Channel Surfing's Best TV Show of the Decade contest

Wistful for a golden age of television?

Well, you’re looking at it.

In terms of writing, acting and overall production, the quality of the small screen has never been stronger. It’s why the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Channel Surfing bloggers are raising their remotes in honor of this past decade’s greatest TV achievements.

Forty shows made the cut in our “Best TV Show of the Decade” contest, the well-rounded ballot showcasing everything from pop culture juggernauts like “American Idol” and “The Sopranos” to critically revered darlings of the “Arrested Development” and “Mad Men” vein.

Our criteria was simple: As 2009 winds down, which shows from the past 10 years will forever be etched in the pop culture annals of the decade? Programs that started before 2000 (“Sex and the City” and “South Park,” among them) were eligible, but only considered if the bulk of its creative run fell into this past decade.

Sorry die-hards, but that means “The Simpsons” and “Friends” belong to the ’90s. (though sadly, “Joey” was thrust upon us this decade.)

Also, with so much to think about in terms of not only innovation and artistry, but the lasting cultural imprint of a show like “American Idol,” some deserving candidates were given early cancellation. So, “Battlestar Galactica” and “Family Guy” fans, feel free to stuff the ballot with write-in votes and openly voice your displeasure (just don't use that naughty "Deadwood" language.)

Ultimately, we need your help in narrowing the field for a readers’ list of favorites to run in conjunction with our Channel Surfing lists in early January. So vote for your favorite shows using the print ballot in Saturday's Green Bay Press-Gazette or head online to our entertainment site, Green Bay Hub, so that an ultimate winner can be determined.

There, you'll see our photo gallery with blogger write-ups on the worthiness of each show. You'll also find official rules (sorry, relatives of Channel Surfers are not eligible). Then come back here throughout the month for updates and other fun observations.

The grand prize winner in our random drawing will receive a TV-friendly recliner from La-Z-Boy ($850 value). We also have food gift certificates from Coaches Corner and Rosati’s Pizza in Green Bay as an added TV dinner-inspired bonus.

After all, there’s no good reason to leave the house during a cold Green Bay winter. Not when there’s this much great TV to watch.

-- The Channel Surfing crew

Labels: ,

"Top Chef" aftermath: It's a tie!

Technically, rookie contestant Evan Siegle dominated Channel Surfing's second annual "Top Chef" Power Rankings. But fitting for a show based in Las Vegas, it's a harsh reality to learn that you're only as good as your last hand.

So while Evan's pick of Bryan Voltaggio was certainly a bold one, Mary Rozwadowski called his bluff and chose mean brother Michael to bring home the bacon.

Since everyone else picked Kevin (that'll teach us to pick with our hearts!), it's an unprecedented result for our Power Rankings tally. Thanks to Michael's victory, the 20 points vaulted Mary into a first place tie with Evan.

Hot dog. We have two weiners!

Also, so what if the jerk store called and they're running out of Michael Voltaggio? Today, that Tony Hawk look-a-like at right (uncomfortably posing like he's a member of the Backstreet Boys) is still celebrating his Wednesday night "Top Chef" victory.

With a commitment to creativity that knocked off his mopey, emotionless sibling and a choke-tastic Kevin (who couldn't even deliver on his trademark pork dish), Michael eked out a win during a somewhat less than stellar finale.

While the episode was solid in terms of the actual challenge, the addition of Michael and Bryan's mother -- particularly at the end during the deliberate Kevin send-away -- was a crummy made-for-TV move that made me question Bravo's motives the entire time. Also, while Ash proved a decent sous chef for Kevin, getting saddled with a crappy prep cook like Preeti really messed with Big Red's game early on.

Would it have been better to go with the usual track and have the last three sliced contestants serve as sous chefs? Or would that have screwed over the person who landed Robin?

Tough break, either way.

Regardless of our rooting interests in a Kevin victory, Michael certainly came to play this season. Congrats on his victory, and congrats to Evan and Mary for a shared victory. A Gladware gift basket for both of them.

Until next season.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Top Chef" Finale: Jolly Kevin vs. the Voltaggios

Though the blizzard of the century continues to dump snow on my driveway and un-plowed street, it's also kinda nice to be at home posting this "Top Chef" blog as the season plays in marathon form on Bravo.

Hey, look, there's Fatty McLipRing and her heaving sun cleavage! Oh man, remember that wacky time Mattin couldn't make French food even though he's ... French? And who could forget the delicious he-she tandem of Preeti and Ashley (well, if you ate their food, you'd probably want to forget them.)

It's been a long, fun season, but as many of us expected from the very beginning, it was always going to be Kevin and the Voltaggios battling it out for the crown. Billed as the most competitive season in "Top Chef" history, it's evident that the cream of a top-heavy crop plans to finish what they started. No matter who wins, tonight should definitely make up for last season's "meh" finale with Hosea, Stefan and Carla.

With Jen bowing out last week, our Power Rankings continue to get feisty. Evan remains in the lead with 47 followed by Boyd, 33; Adam, 32; T-Roz, 32; Ms. Q, 31; Mary, 27; Kelly, 22, and MJ, 17.

In essence, Evan gets bragging rights for winning the regular season in convincing fashion. But these aren't your grandpa's Power Rankings, so as we did last year, it's time to up the ante for the big finale.

Here are the new rules for this one-game playoff:

50 points if you name all three contestants in correct order AND name a main ingredient/component that's used in the winning contestant's final dishes (you can be as generic as duck or as specific as jicama)

30 points if you name all three contestants in correct order

20 points if you only name the Top Chef

Now you know the rules. It's time to sharpen the knives and move all chips to center.

3. Kevin
2. Michael
1. Bryan

Ingredient: Foie gras

Why Bryan will win: First, all three chefs are amazing and maybe this isn't the right logic considering the way it's been played. But I think that Bryan is the most consistent chef with the best technique. Kevin is too simple and safe. Michael is just too cocky and risky. I think Bryan will win because of technique, taste and being the best all-around chef.

-- Evan Siegle

3. Mean Brother (aka: Michael Voltaggio)
2. Nice Brother (aka: Bryan Voltaggio)
1. Gingey the Beardo (aka: Kevin Gillespie)

Ingredient: Lamb

Why Kevin will win: Sure, I get it ... Bryan’s got a kid at home and he wants to make him proud ... and ensure all this time away from him wasn’t time wasted, blah, blah, blah. Kevin deserves to win. I’m sorry but the Ginge has been on fire -- no pun intended -- or perhaps intended. Firebeard is the best chef hands-down because he takes simple (or what Michael would call “off-day”) food and blows it up in your mouth. And yes, that IS what she said.

His style of cooking is a style that anyone could relate to – simple cooking can be crazy good with the right attention to detail and the right chef. Michael needs the glitz and glitter because his food probably isn’t much without the "wow" factor. Sure, he can use liquid nitrogen, cook an egg to eggsactly 63 degrees Fahrenheit and foie gras with one hand behind his back, but he’s not willing to admit Beardy’s Flavor Flav on simple food might knock him out of the park. C’mon Gingey-poo – you got this.

-- Sara Boyd

3. Bryan
2. Michael
1. Kevin

Ingredient: Cabbage

Why Kevin will win: I have no real reasons to predict Kevin's victory, other than he's the only one of the three I like. So I'll just quote one of my favorite movies, "Hot Fuzz": "He had one thing you haven't got." "What's that, sir?" "A GREAT, BIG, BUSHY BEARD!"

-- Adam Reinhard

3. Bryan
2. Michael
1. Kevin

Ingredient: Sweet potato

Why Kevin will win: Bravo couldn't have asked for a better result than last week's Elimination Challenge win by Bryan. It gives Captain Valium a nice shot of confidence heading into the finale against two overwhelming (at least in my opinion) favorites. But that'll have to be Bryan's consolation prize, because this has always been a two-horse race. As I've previously written, Kevin is this year's Stephanie -- confident, consistent and just darn good. He also probably has the most Elimination Challenge wins, which proves time and time again that he can knock an entire meal out of the park. Michael, on the other hand, is a bit of a one or two-dish wonder, Like Blaiser and Stefan before him, he'll probably have the best dish of the night. But because he just can't get that brain to stop working, he'll likely overextend himself and make some major errors in the name of creativity. Consistency always wins in the finale, and while Bryan shows impressive technique, he's not in Kevin's league. Plus, Michael has been a jerk to Big Red all season and karma ... well, it's a beast, to put it politely.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski

3. Bryan V.
2. Mikey V.
1. Kevin

Why Kevin will win: As much as I'd love to give the nod to one of the dueling Voltaggios (just for the drama), I think our favorite jolly lumberjack will pull out one more victory to end this high-stakes season. Kevin has been stellar throughout the competition, using his culinary know-how to wow the judges in challenge after challenge. Jerkface Mike has gotten up in Kevin's bidness about cooking too simply, but clearly it's worked for him time and again. Kevin knows his flavor profiles and doesn't feel he has to prove anything with over-the-top technique or weird molecular gastronomy. He cooks best when he stays true to himself, which I believe can carry him through the finale. Look for the winning recipe to contain halibut, mostly because it's the first thing I thought of (and because Google tells me it's considered sustainable, a big plus for our boy). Game on!

-- Kelly McBride

3. In this corner, we have Boring Brother Bryan
2. In this corner, we have Eeeeevil Brother Mike
1. And on Top, we have Lummmmmmberjack Kevin! (who will use some pork tenderloin)

Why Kevin will win: Let's be honest, I've got nothing to lose right now because I'm pretty much the Robin of these rankings, but I've always had a feeling that only Kevin could walk away with the title of Top Chef. No matter how much Bravo tried to make the sibling rivalry between Bryan and Mike the focal point of the competition, Kevin has always outperformed them. True, he may not be as wacky or out-of-the-box as either of the Voltaggio brothers in his dishes, but he knows how to cook and he knows when to experiment. Call it playing it safe, if you want. I call it pure talent. "Top Chef" isn't a prize for innovation -- it's a prize for good cooking and tasty food. With that in mind, I'm on Team Kevin. Let's go, BEARD!

-- Malavika Jagannathan

Labels: , ,