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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