Tag Archives: Pee-Wee Herman

“Top Chef” Jumps the Shark

As it grows long in the tooth, “Top Chef” apparently feels a need to develop more “creative” ways to challenge its chef/contestants.  The Curmudgeon specifically puts “creative” in quotation marks because more and more, “creative” has come to mean “stupid” for a program broadcast by a cable network that is increasingly cornering the market on stupid.

But this year, it appears Bravo and “Top Chef” have gone too far even for them.

A few weeks ago, chef/contestants had to ride around on children’s bicycles, beg for food, and ask people if they could cook in their kitchens – all for the privilege of being judged by Pee-Wee Herman, that noted expert on all things culinary.

Then, last week, with the last step toward the grand prize of $125,000 at stake, the four remaining contestants had to cook in three separate mini-competitions:  first, they cooked in a moving, swaying, unheated gondola hundreds of feet above the ground; next, they chopped frozen ingredients out of massive blocks of ice and then cooked them; and finally, they had to ski and then shoot guns at targets to select the food they then cooked.  None were serious tests of cooking skills.

“Top Chef” has always had a penchant for stupid cooking stunts, but until recently, that stupidity was limited to the less serious competitions – the “quickfires” – in which the losers are gently criticized but not kicked out of the competition because of their failures.  The stakes are minimal, so there was no harm to the stupidity except to illustrate the cupidity of the contestants:  that there was no limit to their willingness to debase themselves in their quest for money and fame.

But things took a turn for the worse last season when chef/contestants were forced to swim in a lagoon of some sort to catch the food they were to cook.  The Curmudgeon – overly optimistic, in hindsight – wrote that off as a one-time aberration.

The Curmudgeon was wrong (and people who know The Curmudgeon know how seldom he admits this).  With last week’s antics, “Top Chef” has finally jumped the shark.  It’s shown enormous disrespect for its chef/contestants and it’s shown enormous disrespect for its audience.

The Curmudgeon understands why host/model Padma Lakshmi stands by while this all goes on; she has no talent yet an appetite for stardom, so she has no choice.  Ditto Gail Simmons, who seemed to have a secure place in the food world but appears to have been bitten by the fame bug as well.  But how does one explain the tacit approval of Tom Colicchio?  Colicchio is renowned as a great chef, although The Curmudgeon has yet to encounter anyone who has eaten his food or even seen him cook (other than a three-minute demonstration on “Top Chef”), so one has to wonder why he goes along with all of this (although, as an executive producer of “Top Chef,” his mute acquiescence may be more a matter of complicity than of compliance).  He has debased himself and tarnished the high regard in which many people seem hold him, despite the apparent lack of any reason for doing so, by participating in this foolishness.  Colicchio may be highly respected in some circles, but The Curmudgeon no longer sees any reason not to lump him into a peer group with the real housewives, the Jersey shore gang, the women who chase hogs, and Dog, the bounty hunter.

There’s only one thing to do when a program has jumped the shark as seriously as “Top Chef” has:  stop watching.

And that’s exactly what The Curmudgeon intends to do.

 

(Special thanks to loyal Four-Eyed Curmudgeon reader “Peaches Shimmerdeep,” who contributed some of the key ideas expressed in this post.)