Monday, June 28, 2010

so long, Das

In the most recent episode of "The Next Food Network Star," we witnessed the downfall of poor Das. I liked him, but he seemed unable to establish true camera-friendly appeal. He also committed the unforgivable sins of matching sweet berries to beef (think: blueberries and strawberries), and being unable to define what "prime rib" was. (Full disclosure: I would have failed at that pop quiz, too.)

The normally ebullient Herb didn't fare so well, either: he was at the bottom this week, right alongside Das, and survived by the skin of his teeth. Given the ambiguous editing of the episode, we never learned why, exactly, Herb seemed so off his game. He ended up looking bipolar-- joyfully bouncing off the walls in previous episodes, then turning somber and gloomy for no obvious reason, before the week's challenges had begun. He should have been riding high after his coup last week: he and Brianna had won the team challenge.

For her part, Brianna blossomed this week. She has proven to be one of the best and most consistent cooks among all the contestants. She might even give Aria and Aarti a run for their money, as long as she continues to work on her on-camera persona. Aarti won one of the challenges this week, and deservedly so. In my mind, she is overtaking Aria as the front-runner, and with Herb's major stumbles this week, I'm beginning to wonder whether it's time to revise my Top Three list.

Paul, the unfunny improv guy, somehow managed to be declared "safe" from dismissal this time around. Grizzled Tom and rapidfire chatterbox Serena were also declared safe during the second contest, as was Brad, whose beret, a good-luck charm from his granddad, annoys my brother David. Brad still needs to work on his consistency, and like Paul, he needs to stop talking about his supposedly high level of training. Speaking of Paul: the judges spent some time trying to figure out what his culinary point of view was, and Paul practically admitted that he didn't have one, essentially telling the judges that he'd do whatever they expected as opposed to having an opinion of his own. How Paul survived this week is beyond me; I had thought that he would have been eliminated before Das.

With a defeated Herb on the chopping block alongside Das, this was truly a suspenseful episode, and it came as a relief when Herb was allowed a new lease on life (though I was sorry to see Das go; he seemed like a genuinely good fellow). I keep thinking that Herb simply needs to take whatever life-affirming advice he normally gives to clients in his role as a personal trainer: pick yourself up, dust yourself off, remember who you are, and soldier on. This week, Herb seemed to be in a downward spiral of self-doubt and depression. It struck me as uncharacteristic, but again, the narrative we're being fed is largely a function of editing (as Charles noted in a comment a while back). Maybe Herb's emotional downturn occurred for reasons too personal to put on the air; the Food Network generally errs on the side of good taste, which is one reason why I prefer its reality shows to those on other networks.

It was a good episode, all in all, and I look forward to whatever will happen next week.


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