Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Good Wife Pilot Review

Julianna Margulies Alicia Florrick The Good Wife Pilot screencaps images pictures photos screengrabs capturesI was almost afraid to review The Good Wife, because I didn't want to jinx it. This new political/courtroom/family drama has ER alum Margulies at center stage, along with "Mr. Big" Chris Noth (Sex and the City, Law & Order), Sports Night and In Treatment vet Josh Charles, and wonderful comedy actors Christine Baranski and David Paymer.

The Good Wife pilot gives us a wonderful mix of intrigue, scandal, workplace and marriage struggles, the troubles of a working mother who also happens to be a humiliated public figure, and a compelling retrial of a murder case. If The Good Wife can manage to keep juggling all of these elements well, it could be a hit. The humor is smart and well-placed, and keeps it from being too stuffy like Margulies' previous failed law drama, or too overwrought like TNT's Raising the Bar.

I've written at length about the story and strengths of the pilot in my TVOvermind The Good Wife review. Please do check it out.

The Good Wife airs on CBS, Tuesday nights at 10/9c.
PHOTOS: Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, The Good Wife pilot and promo screencaps, c2009 CBS Television Studios.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heroes Premiere

Heroes Peter Petrelli Milo Ventimiglia Noah Bennet Jack Coleman Heroes Orientation Push Jump Fall screencaps pictures images photos HRG glasses screengrabs captures premiere videoTonight the Heroes premiere kicked off with a bang with "Orientation" and "Push, Jump, Fall." While there are still a few annoying plot developments to roll our eyes over, mostly the series premiere was enjoyable and tapped into a lot of what we loved about Heroes season one. I liked that Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) is still operating in his shades of gray, but he's starting to feel a pull towards the whiter side. The way his life has fallen apart has made him rethink his strategy, and his dealings with Peter, Tracy, and Danko in this episode play into that.

Heroes Peter Petrelli Milo Ventimiglia powers fight Ray Park circus freak knives fast speed attack ability screencaps images photos screencaptures captures screengrabs Orientation Push Jump Fall premiere video
I also love love love that Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) is back in our hearts as a hero, using his powers for good as an overachieving paramedic. He's still got his angsty side, neglecting his own needs in an effort to make up for all the things he's screwed up in the past as "hero". We also get to see him use his powers and grab a new one from a mysterious circus member with mad speed and slashing skills. Seeing Ray Park and Ventimiglia duke it out was one of the highlights of this Heroes episode. A confident Peter is a beautiful thing to behold.

With the events of last season's Heroes, I thought Sylar might be pushed into the background, perhaps to let actor Zachary Quinto focus on his movie career. Not so, Heroes fans. Sylar is back with a vengeance as Matt's mental mischief-maker, as well as making his presence known within the new "Nathan" and Mama Petrelli's visions.

Read up on every detail of the two hour premiere episode in my full Heroes "Orientation; Jump, Push, Fall" recap at Yahoo!

PHOTOS: Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrelli, Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet; Ventimiglia and Ray Park; Heroes "Orientation; Jump, Push, Fall" screencaps, c2009 NBC Universal Studios.

Castle Premiere

Nathan Fillion Richard Castle porn cop police women girls Deep in Death screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capturesSo, Castle starts with its usual cheesiness and has Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) posing for a magazine article with two porn cop girls. Whatever. The episode, "Deep in Death" also includes Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) stripping down outside a police van to don a sweater-as-dress so that she can pretend to be a loose woman with a bad Russian accent, going quickly undercover into a Russion mob poker game to rescue Castle. What-ever.

The good news is, Castle does seem to be a little tighter and more riveting than the episodes I caught last season. The murder mystery was a lot more suspenseful, and wasn't just a barely-thought-out backdrop for Castle and Beckett's banter. As per usual, Fillion is a joy to watch. He makes inappropriate jokes at crime scenes that Law & Order's Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) would be proud of, and turns on his cocky and reckless charm as he tries to bluff his way through a game of poker with tattooed mobsters.

Once again Castle gives us great rapport between Castle and his mom and lovely daughter. I find myself in the same place I was last year--Katic just doesn't cut it for me. Sure, some of the writing is cheesy, but a more skilled actress could make it work better. But when I'm constantly aware of Katic's ever-changing hair styles and inner-lid eyeliner, I'm thinking something must be lacking in the performance.

Katic is fine in quieter moments, and small doses. I wish Castle would change tack, and make the show all about Castle himself. We could see him on his travels as he tries to do research for his books, flirting with women, schmoozing unsavory types, and getting himself into trouble. He could occasionally cross paths with Beckett, who would bail him out of jams--or he could assist on random cases.

This would greatly improve Castle, I think, by focusing on its strengths--Fillion and the gals that make up Castle's family. It would also avoid all of the awkward wrangling they keep doing with the plot to make it feasible that a mystery author would be continually working on police cases.

I'll keep watching for Fillion, but I suspect Castle won't take on the "must-see" spot in my schedule. If something more intriguing comes along in that timeslot, I'll probably be watching that and will catch Castle in reruns--or maybe online. Right now it's an enjoyable piece of fluff, and if they keep the investigative aspect interesting and cut back on the cheesecake a little (and Katic's distracting eyeliner), I'll be happy to tune in every Monday.

Watch Castle on ABC Monday nights, at 10/9c.

PHOTO: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, with friends, Castle "Deep in Death" screencap, c2009 ABC Studios.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emmy Awards 2009 Random Thoughts

Justin Timberlake Emmy Awards 2009 61st smile screengrabs screencaps captures images photos pictures videoEmmy presenter Justin Timberlake,
as he's interviewed by E! correspondent Ryan Seacrest.

So, here we are, after the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. It was certainly not as awful as last year's awards ceremony, and it started to pick up about halfway through, but it's still just not all that exciting. A lot of things that were supposed to be funny just weren't, and that violent Family Guy clip was just disturbing.

I love Neil Patrick Harris, and he was relaxed and confident--but sometimes he was almost too relaxed. While he definitely had his wry moments, he often seemed to be a little bored himself, as if he was saying lines that he didn't find all that funny either.

I did enjoy the way they split the Emmy awards ceremony into genres, focusing on all the comedy awards at once, then all the drama. It helps us stay a little more focused when they're speeding through categories at lightening speed--when you see the same players in several categories in a row, you start to figure out who they are.

And what was with all the same players? I mean, the comedy writing category was 90% 30 Rock. No one else wrote a comedy last year? Not for Big Bang Theory? How I Met Your Mother? Two and a Half Men? Weeds? Entourage? Rules of Engagement has episodes with a fantastic line every 3 seconds--how can they not get recognized? The whole incestuous industry lovefest of 30 Rock needs to end. I respect Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and Jack McBrayer, but I just don't see how this show is considered consistently funnier than anything on the air.

Click here for Red Carpet video.

Also, apparently no one had a worthy guest star in drama except for Law & Order: SVU. Just instantly off the top of my head I know that Cold Case gets a lot of fabulous guest stars on their show. I realize additional rules can create a whole new set of inequities, but I think they should consider a limit on two nominations per category for the same show. Having 5 or 6 noms in one category for the same show just seems like laziness rather than a recognition of true merit.

Emmy Awards 61st primetime Justin Timberlake presenter grin Ryan Seacrest screencaps images pictures photos screengrabs captures video
Other thoughts on the show: I think Tina Fey did deserve her award for her Sarah Palin impression on SNL, and I loved that Justin Timberlake won for his stint on SNL. While many musicians land acting gigs just because fame opens doors, Timberlake is actually a good actor and ridiculously funny. He takes his multi-faceted career seriously, and I admire him for that.

I also love that he completely cracked up and had to pause in his presenter duties when he caught sight of Sarah Silverman's proudly displayed mustache during the comedy actress noms. I don't always get Silverman's brand of humor, but she does have her strokes of genius (the famous "I'm f**king Matt Damon" vid) and this Emmy moment was one of them. It wasn't just the mustache; it was the noble pose she held while the camera was on her. Too, too funny.

And back to Justin, I also loved that he presented wearing glasses. As did hottie Simon Baker of The Mentalist. And Dana Delany. And Michael J.Fox. And more. While some of the styles were a bit on the nerdy side (I was wondering if it was an extension of the comedy actresses wearing goofy glasses for their noms), I'm happy just to see rims on pretty people no matter the cause, representing for all those who don't have 20/20 vision on their own. Glasses rule, people, remember that.

Click here for Red Carpet video.

As for more funny Emmy stuff, I did like when Neil Patrick Harris introduced the nominees with obscure credits from their resume. His grandiose delivery of "Photographer #1 in Spin City" (Jimmy Fallon) and "Charles Elderberry in ABC Afterschool Special: Schoolboy Father" (Rob Lowe) may have made me spit a few times. It was funny and also showed you how famous actors pay their dues before (and after) hitting the big time.

There were also some good moments in video clips where directors and writers advised up and comers how to achieve success. Favorite advice included "Hire Glenn Close" and "Learn to tell people to go to hell in such a way that they really want to go there."

Sarah MacLachlan has a gorgeous voice as always and did a beautiful rendition of "I Will Remember You" for the In Memoriam segment. Sadly, this once again did not stop people from clapping for their favorite people. The only good news was they seemed to clap for everyone, rather than letting applause die away for the lesser known behind the scenes folks. We lost a lot of amazing people this year, and so many were too young. It was heartbreaking as each name and face appeared. I do think it was perfect that they showed Patrick Swayze in both North and South and his last role on The Beast.

While there was humor, and a few bright spots, and a few surprises, the Emmy Awards still weren't all that engaging as a whole. Part of it is the disconnect between industry insiders and the average viewing public. Like the Oscars, where most of the nominated films have very small box office numbers, the basic and pay cable nominees at the Emmys are a mystery to many viewers.

It's also pretty boring when the same people win year after year. With all the quality and variety of television available now, there's no excuse for the same shows to keep sweeping all of the awards every year. It starts to feel like high school all over again, where only the "cool kids" get to go up on stage again and again. And again.

You can see all the winners over at IMDB and check out some Best & Worst highlights over at E!Online.

PHOTOS: Justin Timberlake, Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Fallon, Carrie Preston and Michael Emerson, Emmy Awards Red Carpet, E!Online screencaps, c2009 E! Entertainment.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chelsea Lately Lands Jennifer Aniston -- screencaps and video

Jennifer Aniston Chelsea Lately September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs capturesTonight Chelsea Lately had A-List celebrity Jennifer Aniston. This is big, big news. As awesome as Chelsea Handler is, because it's E!, or because publicists are afraid of what she might say, Chelsea Lately guests tend to rate in the C or D-list range. I am so glad that Aniston took the plunge tonight, because she showed how much fun an interview with Chelsea can be, if you can keep up with her. Aniston has always had a flair for comedy, and tonight she was at her best--relaxed, sly, and enchantingly amusing.

Jennifer Aniston Chelsea Handler Chelsea Lately Friday September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs capturesAnd of course I love Chelsea Handler. I've written a lovefest article on her for AC, and there should be more Chelsea!love from me on this fall. Handler's late night talk show, Chelsea Lately, actually lures me away from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. That's right--she's that good. She's funny, she's smart and sexy, and every night with her roundtable of comedian guests she tears to shreds all the moronic happenings in celebritydom.

Because Handler's on E!, there's less pressure to appeal to mainstream demos and sponsors, so she can go for the jugular. Sometimes she appears to shock herself, and the roundtable often dissolves into hysteria, giggles, and even snorts. It can be pure chaos, but when it clicks right, that chaos is sublime.

Jennifer Aniston Chelsea Handler Chelsea Lately September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs capturesTonight the two blond beauties, Aniston and Handler, greeted each other on stage in matching sexy black dresses. They talked a little about Aniston's upcoming film Love Happens, Mormonism, paparazzi, and whether Jennifer Aniston would be willing to go out with Chelsea Lately's red-headed regular Brad Wollack. Aniston's response was...well, you can see for yourself:

I think doing Chelsea Lately was a smart move for Aniston. After all, Handler snags more of the young crowd than your big three network late night stars. She also brings in both female and male fans--and the same can be said of Aniston herself. It was a good match, and the two ladies had a fabulous rapport.

Jennifer Aniston Chelsea Handler Friday Chelsea Lately September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs capturesThere was even mutual "You're so sexy!" girl-bonding, and Aniston got in the perfect zingers about Handler's self-confessed vodka addiction. And Handler's not above laughing at herself--hard.

Jennifer Aniston Chelsea Handler Friday Chelsea Lately September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs laugh capturesJennifer Aniston Chelsea Handler Friday Chelsea Lately laugh September 18 2009 screencaps video images pictures photos screengrabs captures

So, if you missed it, be sure to check out the vid above. And tune in for Chelsea Lately weeknights at 11/10c. (She repeats later at night if you don't want to give up your Daily Show fix.)

PHOTOS: Jennifer Aniston, Chelsea Handler, Chelsea Lately screencaps c2009 Borderline Amazing Productions, E! Entertainment Television.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Community -- Pilot

Joel McHale Jeff Winger Community pilot Soup screencaps images photos screengrabs captures pictures
Okay, I have to admit: I was wrong about Community. The previews did not look funny at all, and I honestly only tuned in because of The Soup's Joel McHale--okay, and maybe that promo where he and Chevy Chase are wearing the teeny tiny sombreros. I have a weakness for silly hats, I guess. But a show about a lawyer who has to go back to community college to get his degree, and uses that time to chat up a student by pretending to be a Spanish tutor? Erm. Not grabbing me.

Before tonight's pilot episode of Community, I read a couple reviews that said the promos didn't do it justice. They were right. The beginning of the episode had a few chuckles, which eventually gave way to true laughs as Community progressed. Once McHale gets rolling on one of his silly/sarcastic/insult-filled monologues, the show springs to life. And there's potential in the varied supporting cast, whose individual quirks lend themselves to different styles of comedy.

John Oliver Community Daily Show pilot screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capturesThe Daily Show alum John Oliver brings his own absurdist hilarity as Jeff's (McHale) former client and employee at the school. They have several clandestine meetings involving Jeff bribing him to get all the test answers to all his classes. At these meetings, Oliver seems to be acting out scenes of movies as a confidential informer character, using a ridiculous "altered" voice on the phone and talking on sports fields without making any suspicious eye contact.

Oliver's character is more cagey than he appears, and it's fun to watch he and McHale play off of each other. Supposedly he's not going to be a series regular, which is unfortunate. I'll look to Danny Pudi's Abed, then, a compulsive and insecure student who talks a mile a minute and manages to suck information out of even the most unwilling participants. He's been good for a few laughs so far, and comedy vet Yvette Nicole Brown should add some spark to the show as well.

I also liked that Community attempts to throw a little morality/ethics into the mix, so it's not just a bunch of moronic and detestable characters acting like, well, detestable morons for 22 minutes. I prefer my comedy to have some semblance of humanity, and a point to each story.

I'm keeping an open mind right now. Community is not the best comedy ever, but it's got more potential than I had expected. I'm glad McHale isn't giving up his late night job yet, but here's hoping that his stint as a student will provide some of the quick-witted comedy that primetime so desperately needs.

Watch Community on NBC, Thursday nights at 9:30/8:30c.

PHOTOS: Joel McHale, John Oliver, Community screencaps, c2009 Krasnoff Foster Prod., Sony Pictures, NBC.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Overbooked" and "Practically Family"

Say Yes to the Dress Bre Grant taupe silver wedding dress beauty pageant queen contestant images beading pictures photos screencaps captures Kleinfeld(*CLICK* pic for larger version)

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Overbooked"

Apparently beauty queen Bre had tried on over 3,000 dresses before coming to Kleinfeld's store, and I don't think they were exaggerating on that number. A former beauty queen, Bre wanted to abondon the more glitzy styles of the stage in favor of a more traditional gown. Problem was, she didn't like any of the traditional gowns. Bre was finally able to Say Yes to the Dress when her consultant found her a $17,000 sale dress that Kleinfeld sold to her for $5900. It was more of a silvery color, with intricate beading and plenty of glamour. Once Bre's friends convinced her that she looked like a beautiful bride and not just a beauty pageant contestant, she let herself love the dress and acknowledge that traditional just wasn't her style after all.

The second half of Say Yes to the Dress "Overbooked" involved Jennifer, a happy mild-mannered bride who unfortunately brought along her crazy-eyed and domineering twin sister and an entourage of naysayers who were more interested in playing dress-up themselves than in assisting the bride. Though Jennifer found dresses she loved, her entourage crushed her enthusiasm and she left without a dress. She promised to return to Kleinfeld for another appointment, and I'm hoping she'll bring someone supportive next time.

Say Yes to the Dress Susan Levine antique lace wedding gown screencaps images photos pictures KleinfeldSay Yes to the Dress "Overbooked" also returned to one of the brides that hurt my heart on a previous episode. After he daughter scoffed at her desire to wear an elegantly sexy dress, Susan settled on an antique lace dress that had a matronly feel to it. Returning to her fitting, Susan was unhappy with elements of the gown that Kleinfeld did fix for her. She had a happy wedding day, which is what matters the most, but I think a second look confirmed for Say Yes to the Dress viewers that she would have been so much more excited and confident in the dress she had wanted originally.

Say Yes to the Dress -- "Practically Family"

This episode of Say Yes to the Dress focused on two girls whose mothers disapproved of their wedding gown style choices. Tiffany won the battle and went home with the dress of her dreams, while the other bride caved to her mother's wishes. She returned a week later to try on the gown she wanted again, which she looked gorgeous in, but she talked herself out of it again to confirm to herself that her mother had been right.

I wish I had a photo to share of Tiffany's pink floral print dress. It was a gorgeous alternative choice, and fit in perfectly with her hot pink and leopard print wedding. In an effort to try and accomodate her mother's more traditional sensability, Tiffany tried out a white dress--then added a leopard print band at the waist, and suggested pink tulle under the hem. Kleinfeld fashion director Randy wisely suggested she go with the pink dress and make a grand statement, rather than doing something hodge podge with a white gown. Tiffany's mother relented, with the mother-in-law-to-be's help, letting Tiffany be happy with her unique pink dress.

I enjoyed the fact that both of tonight's Say Yes to the Dress episodes had non-traditional gowns. It's fun to see the different options that exist for girls who don't want to wear white satin--especially since the style and elegance of the gowns still stand out as distinctively bridal, even though they're not in the classic color and/or shape.

Watch Say Yes to the Dress on TLC, Friday nights at 9/8c.

PHOTOS: Brides Bri and Susan, Say Yes to the Dress, "Overbooked", c2009 TLC.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vampire Diaries -- Pilot

Damon Ian Somerhalder Vampire Diaries pilot pictures images photos screencaps screengrabs capturesErgh. We all know how much I love Boone from Lost. So when I heard Ian Somerhalder had a new series coming out, Vampire Diaries, I knew I would be all over that. Then I saw the previews for the show, mostly featuring Paul Wesley, who plays Stefan, and Nina Dobrev, who plays Elena. And I started to feel less excited.

While the story is not exactly the same, the pilot episode of Vampire Diaries unfortunately feels like a pale reproduction of Twilight--and not in a cool, sparkly pale vampire way. I thought Pattinson and Stewart had great chemistry in Twilight, and really sold the angsty teenager overwrought love story for maximum guilty pleasure goodness. In contrast, Wesley and Dobrev don't feel all that intense or cosmically destined. Elena doesn't seem all that deep, and the 27 year old Wesley sticks out as way too adult to be in a high school setting. Sure, Stefan's an ages old vampire, so he's bound to seem more mature, but it just throws off the teeny melodrama mood.
Stefan Paul Wesley Vampire Diaries pilot picture screencaps screengrabs captures images photos
Wesley also has this tough edge to him, more suited to a Brando-on-a-motorcycle vibe rather than a tortured broken-hearted lover who pours his heart out in a diary every night. It's possible that Somerhalder would have been better in the sensitive role, with his tousled hair, ever-rosy cheeks, and sparkling eyes. (And on a purely superficial note, I have to say that Somerhalder is not quite as striking with dark hair--it's too bad the dark broody vampire look doesn't lend itself to a few blonde streaks to play his eyes up better.) Somerhalder does the arch-eyebrowed villian well, though, and I'm hoping things will heat up for all the characters in later installments.

Vampires are hot right now, but there's always the danger of it becoming boring. After you've seen Moonlight, and Twilight, and True Blood, and now Vampire Diaries, the mythologies overlap and you feel like you've seen it all before. I did like in this episode a return to older vampire lore, where Stefan couldn't cross the threshold until Elena specifically invited him in. There's also a new twist, whereby Stefan needs a special ring to be able to venture out in daylight.

My first impression is that Vampire Diaries is going to be a somewhat insubstantial teen drama. But it's difficult to judge an entire series on the pilot alone, so I'm willing to stick with it for another episode or two. Stefan and brother Damon (Somerhalder) have a century and a half of sibling rivalry to explore, and there's the mystery of Elena's striking resemblance to Stefan's love from the 1850s. Plus there's biting and blood and murder and all that scary vampire stuff.

My beloved Gossip Girl players were a little stiff and caricatured in the beginning of the first season, and then developed into far more complex, interesting, and delicious characters as the series progressed. Here's hoping that Vampire Diaries can do the same, and that we can get into some interesting history, vampire lore, and hopefully some pretty boy love triangles.

Vampire Diaries continues next Thursday, September 17, at 8/7c.

PHOTOS: Ian Somerhalder as Damon, Paul Wesley as Stefan, Vampire Diaries Pilot screencaps, c2009 Alloy Entertainment, CBS Television Studios, CW Television Network.

America's Got Talent -- Hairo Torres on to Finals

America's Got Talent semifinals finals performance dancing breakdancing contortionist Hairo Torres screencaps images photos pictures video Sept 8 screengrabs capture prom high schoolAmerica's Got Talent viewers once again voted the amazing and wonderfully unique Hairo Torres ahead to the next round. Amongst the singers, singers, and more singers, it will be refreshing to see an actual variety act in the finals. (You can read my Semifinals Results review here.)

America's Got Talent semifinals finals performance dancing breakdancing contortionist Hairo Torres screencaps images photos pictures video screengrabs capture prom high schoolEach performance, Hairo brings something new. He's not just dancing up there, he's telling a story. He injects humor into potentially bone-breaking maneuvers, charming us with a smile and a wink as he makes his limbs go seven directions at once. He flies through the air, he slams his body down the ground in contortionist poses, he does backwards somersaults while doing the splits. While the majority of us are lucky if we can almost touch our toes, Hairo Torres is bending his body in ways we never thought possible.
America's Got Talent semifinals finals performance dancing breakdancing Septmeber 8 2009 contortionist Hairo Torres screencaps images photos pictures video screengrabs capture prom high schoolAnd yes, that is his foot behind his head. But don't take my uber fangirl squealing word for it. Just watch the adorable master at work:

You'll get the chance to see what the talented contortionist breakdancer does next on Monday night's finals competition of America's Got Talent, on NBC at 8/7c.

PHOTOS: Hairo Torres in his Semifinal Top 20 performance on September 8, America's Got Talent screencaps c2009 NBC.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ultimate Cake Off -- Square Dancing

Courtney Ultimate Cake Off TLC square dancing beach screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs woodie station wagon carWhile we're waiting for Buddy and the Cake Boss crew to return, TLC is keeping us entertained with Ultimate Cake Off. Each week, three cake designers compete for the chance to be featured at an event and win a cash prize. Tonight the cake artists had to construct a cake 5 feet in height, for a national square dancing competition. They needed to include the bright colors of the costumes, the competition logo, and had to combine both beach and square dancing themes.

As I reported on the first episode of Ultimate Cake Off, the judges interrupt the designers twice for "skills" competitions. The winner then is allowed to bump a competitor out for 30 minutes. The show doesn't need the manufactured drama--it's interesting enough watching the incredible designs the Ultimate Cake Off designers come up with. There are also plenty of mishaps, mistakes, and nerves fraying as time winds down on the competition.

Courtney Clemence Norm Ultimate Cake Off contestants photos images pictures screencaps screengrabs capturesThe cake tasting skill is an important one, but it would be nice if the winner of that competition would get an extra half hour to work on their cake. I hate the tendency of reality shows to always take the negative angle. Why not offer rewards instead of forcing one of the competitors to inflict a penalty on another designer?

Tonight's Ultimate Cake Off cake designers: Courtney, Clemence, and Norm. All three seemed to be experts in creating topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland style cakes. Courtney and Norm were also adept at adding moving parts to their creations.

Time is definitely an important factor in the Ultimate Cake Off challenge. Clemence had a sort of airy-fairy "organic" approach to things and ended up way behind in getting her cake done. She won the cake-tasting Ultimate Cake Off challenge for her multiple chocolate layer cake, and did some scrollwork the judges liked, but she lacked experience in creating cakes on such a grand scale. The end result was that her cake was tasty, but unfinished, and she was eliminated from the final decision.

Norm was an experienced cake designer who apparently had a slew of awards to his credit. It was obvious he was a skilled competitor with a talented team as he created an ambitious cake tower with multiple layers. The entire piece was supported by four chocolate boots, and topped with a couple dancing their way across a globe. The globe trotters moved, as well as a circle of dancers at the bottom of the cake.

Courtney was an incredible perfectionist. Every detail was meticulously tended to, including using the perfect shiny gold dust on a sheriff's badge, and the paneling on a woodie station wagon. She had a plaid cake, a cow print cake, and a cartoonishly distorted red barn with a poppyseed roof and hand-lettered banner. She also had elaborately dressed dancers spinning at the top of the cake.

Unfortunately her perfectionism caused her to run out of time for other elements. The judges noticed that a few of the mechanical elements hadn't been covered with fondant, and that her dancers' faces weren't very detailed.

While Norm had arguably the most complex Ultimate Cake Off cake, and also the only one who fully completed the task, the square dancing competition representative noticed a few key errors. First, Norm had done dramatic lettering on the cake, but wrote "annual" instead of "national" for the competition title. Second, the layering of the cowboy hat, shirt and tie, and jeans cakes were out of order, with the jeans on top of the shirt.

Norm confessed later that he fully expected to win, but he was gracious when it was announced that Courtney's cake was the winner. I did appreciate the detail and accomplishment of Norm's cake, but there was something very eye-catching about Courtney's creation. The whimsical nature of it perfectly blended the somewhat disparate themes of beach and square dancing, combining some unexpected elements like the competition logo being emblazoned on a belt buckle.

Ultimate Cake Off does have its surprises, and as TLC viewers have learned from Cake Boss, it can be fascinating to see how designers sculpt these creative masterpieces. And as we've seen in promos for the upcoming season, there's always the danger of dropping one of these towering cakes on the way to the judges' table...

Watch Ultimate Cake Off on TLC, Monday nights at 10/9c.

PHOTOS: Courtney working on her "skills test" cake; Contestants Courtney, Clemence, and Norm on Ultimate Cake Off, c2009 Eric Biermann, TLC.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

America's Got Talent Doesn't Go to the Dogs + My Yahoo Reality Show Articles

Tony Hoard and Rory America's Got Talent Semifinals Top 20 screencaps pictures images photos Tony Hoard and His Talented Pup Rory on America's Got Talent

Who can resist an adorable, Frisbee-catching pup who runs, leaps, and dances too? Apparently the American audience. While I'd hoped for another longshot chance for America's Got Talent contestents Tony and Rory, it wasn't meant to be, and the two went home tonight during the results show. (You can read my recap here.)

Tony Hoard and Rory America's Got Talent Semifinals Top 20 screencaps pictures images photos screengrabs
If the chatter on the messageboards is any indication, there was a lot of backlash for the judges choosing Tony and Rory in an earlier round--instead of one of the seventy million singers in the competition. I think NBC needs to give serious consideration to eliminating singers from AGT altogether. This year they had to change the rules, so that the judges could get actual variety acts into the semifinals. In previous years, America voted in all singers, which makes America's Got Talent nothing more than the poor man's American Idol.

While they may not be America's Got Talent voters, there still are plenty of folks out there who enjoy variety acts. Hopefully Tony can get himself some paying gigs now for himself and his talented dogs; certainly the national TV exposure couldn't hurt. Tony had to quit his job of 24 years because his boss refused to grant him a week's unpaid leave, so I'm hoping he'll have good fortune now to make up for the bad.

Watch America's Got Talent every Tuesday and Wednesday night at 9/8c on NBC.

PHOTOS: Tony Hoard and Rory, America's Got Talent Top 20 screencaps, c2009 NBC.

My Yahoo Articles for September:

America's Got Talent Top 20: Semifinals Week 1

America's Got Talent Top 20 Results: Semifinals Week 1

America's Got Talent Semifinals: Top 20 Week 2

America's Got Talent Semifinals Results: Top 20 Week 2

America's Got Talent Finale Winner Recap

HGTV Design Star: Celebrity Homes Recap

Design Star Finale: Is the Fix In?

Heroes Premiere Orientation: Push, Jump, Fall


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