Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fat Kid in Dodgeball

As a new housewife, I find myself watching more TV than I have in a very long time. Of course, this is aided by the fact that we now have cable, which I haven't had since I moved out of my parents' home in 2005. Of all the channels, I find myself watching the Food Network the most. I prefer the shows that showcase specific recipes, because I always end up being inspired to make something new, like the pesto-stuffed chicken I made for our 2nd anniversary. I also started watching the final episodes of Top Chef Masters, and enjoyed it more than I had thought.

Until recently, the only cooking competition show I had ever watched was Hell's Kitchen. We followed season 5, but only because an old summer camp buddy was a contestant. If it hadn't been for him, I don't know that I would have watched the whole season. The entertainment value of Gordon Ramsey swearing and insulting the contestants wore off fairly quickly. Since that was my only experience with cooking competitions, I'm not sure why I started watching Top Chef Masters, but I enjoyed it. I even enjoyed it enough to watch the season premier of Top Chef D.C. yesterday.

The show reminded me of a problem I'd had with the first episode of Hell's Kitchen: someone gets voted off in the first episode. Why not have an episode of small challenges, where the chefs win immunity for the next episode? It makes no sense to vote off a person before the viewers have a chance to feel any kind of loyalty or even curiosity about who that person is. We get introduced, and then poof! They mysteriously vanish, never to be seen or heard from again.

I feel really bad for those contestants. Obviously, they knew it was a risk when they signed on the dotted line, but being the first out can't feel good. In some ways, it seems worse than not making the cut to be one of the original 16. At least the people who didn't make the cut weren't humiliated on TV when they were sent home. The first one cut doesn't even get any bragging rights. How would that conversation play out?

Loser: I was once on Top Chef.
Normal Person: Wow, I'm impressed! How far did you get?
Loser: I came in 16th.
Normal Person: Aren't there only 16 contestants?
Loser: Shut up.

I know someone has to be the first to lose, but somehow I doubt that's very comforting.

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