A Sunday night without a soul-extinguishing cooking show didn't quite feel right after the trauma of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, so Mark Lisanti here was kind enough to let me keep this sad-party rolling with Worst Cooks in America. He is a classic enabler. In choosing to watch this show I feel a bit like an addict, in that I am making decision after decision that disappoints and scares my loved ones, and also the sort of people I am hanging around with look like Anne Burrell. I have no idea if Chef Anne Burrell has ever done drugs, and I am not implying she has; I am just saying she looks like the sort of person who can't get lots of regular jobs because they have strict "Have you ever taken ketamine at a funeral?" policies.
The sixth episode of Rachael Vs Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off was also its last. Perhaps Food Network is modeling this season after the British model of short "series," and that makes sense considering the show's intense commitment to quality. But it's a bad omen that the season finale begins with lie after lie. Guy says that he and Rachael knew they were in for some "amazing cooking" this season and Dean replies, "There are some really talented people here." Neither are true, liars. You might as well call this show House of Lies. Oh, that's already a show? What is it about? Really? Why would anyone want to watch that? Oh, they don't. Anyway, OK, then how about House of Cards? No, I said House of Carns, which is maybe a nickname for Carnie Wilson, which is already a nickname for Carnthony Wilson.
Angelina Jolie is "Surprise! Boring in bed." Whaaaaaa? This alleged information comes from shade thrown by her ex, Billy Bob Thornton, who has said, "sometimes, with the model, the actress, the 'sexiest person in the world,' it may be literally like fucking the couch." FUCK YO COUCH, BILLY BOB!
I've not had time to check with the Nielsen people, but I can only imagine that the penultimate episode of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off on Sunday night won its time slot handily, across all demographics. For some reason, and I can't think of what that reason might be, Food Network moved it to 10 p.m. from its regularly scheduled time slot of 9 p.m. Was there something else going on at 9? Maybe something that 108 million people were watching instead? If there was, it was probably done by 9:59 and that's why 10 o'clock made perfect sense. We all watched Rachael vs. Guy live, and it felt good to know that I was part of a global community all tuning in at the same time to see what Carnie Wilson's face looked like.
I did not watch last night's new episode of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off live, but while my DVR was recording it, someone tweeted at me saying that I'd have "a field day with this episode." Having now caught up on Episode 4, I imagine this person was trying to say that the whole hour was so filled to the brim with sopping-wet garbage that I would have an easy, playful time tearing it apart. This person misunderstands my relationship to trash, and also my relationship to field day. As a kid, I was very indoors-y. I liked books and The Simpsons and discovering myself on AOL, not color wars and loud kids getting competitive. At my school, we also had to run a mile on field day. Also, I always forgot it was field day and accidentally wore, like, corduroys, so the run was doubly painful. Supposedly it built character, but it was torture. Watching this show doesn't even build character. It does give me cramps, though, and I absolutely spend the last third of it out of breath.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, friends and family. Today President Obama renewed his oath of office and began another four years in the White House, and here I am writing so many words about the second "term" (season) of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, widely considered the President of quality television. This is exactly the future Dr. King was dreaming about. Let's take today to remember his most enduring legacy, a world where Carnie Wilson and Hines Ward could work together at a theme diner serving free sandwiches to bused-in tourists.
Cornelia has been eliminated, and I hope that she still has Sylvester Stallone's phone number; he is famously good at comforting the defeated with his silver tongue. A lot of people call his words "mouth poems" because they are so beautiful and also come out of his mouth. Conveniently, the loss of one of Team Guy leaves the two teams even at three members apiece. This happened last season as well, and it's a little hard to buy that the diners' votes at the end of each challenge truly add up the way they do. These challenges are not built to handle a team of four versus a team of two, and I for one would like to see some accountability. What we need on set is one of those PricewaterhouseCoopers guys from the Oscars, with a briefcase in his hand. He is very trustworthy, and hopefully we could trust him to open up his briefcase and take a hammer out and then destroy all the camera equipment on set.
Last night's Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off faced a lot of stiff competition for our viewing attention. What luck did this senior project of a TV show have against the likes of the Golden Globes, new episodes of Downton Abbey and The Good Wife, and the premieres of Girls, Enlightened, and Californication? Also, what luck did it have against the Weather Channel, recorded episodes of C-SPAN'S BookTV, or that Animal Planet show where they just tell you the ways different breeds of dogs are nice? In general, when I look across the faces of the remaining six contestants — Kathy Najimy, Carnie Wilson, Hines Ward, Dean McDermott, Cornelia Guest, Johnny Weird, and Chilli — "luck" is not a word that springs to mind at all. I see an explicit absence of it. Actually, maybe their faces do make me think of HBO's Luck, and how it was probably a bad idea to make a show with all those old, washed-up horses, and how merciful it was they all got shot.
Did anybody have a good 2012? I did not. I have polled a lot of people, or at least some people, and everyone I talked to agrees that 2012 belongs in the garbage bucket. My New Year's resolution is to buy a garbage bucket. Even Obama, who in 2012 was a doctor office's magazine's Person of the Year and got himself re-elected most powerful person in the world, still has to go and be President for another four years, and frankly that seems miserable. He does not seem to be enjoying it one bit. The other person who maybe had an OK 2012 was that one gymnast girl, not the one who made a face, but the one who won more stuff. I've already forgotten her name, and the Olympics were not that long ago, so how great could her year have been?
I'm looking back on the year because I realized a few weeks ago that my 2012 started off with watching and writing about Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off for this very website, and I sort of blame that show for setting the tone for my year. If you did not watch it, I will recap for you: It was bad, and lots of people who were on it made me sad. Aaron Carter asked, "What about a macaroni salad?" and then tried to intuit ranch dressing via four of his five senses. Coolio saw his dreams of culinary stardom dashed on the rocks, and Lou Diamond Phillips helped his charity. The end. At the time, no one would have dreamed of referring to those six episodes, aired clumsily over five weeks, as "Season 1." That would unthinkably imply more seasons, in a way that a "witty" drunk television character might introduce someone as his "first wife" and everyone on the show (but not at home) would have a laugh about it.
In this corner: Guy Fieri, the immensely popular Food Network personality best known for a gauche personal aesthetic and an unabiding devotion to anything fried repeatedly. And in this corner: Pete Wells, the New York Times food critic, now enjoying quite the professional dream week. Wells's review evisceration of Fieri's first New York City restaurant, the aptly named Guy's American Bar & Grill, has blown up beyond all measures of standard food-crit awareness. It's got the city's food scenesters all riled up about their dude Wells doing the Lord's work in calling out Fieri; it's got Guy's Middle American army rising up to decry the eggheads up in New York. And this morning, it even got to the Today show.
There are a lot of people who look like Guy Fieri — for instance, this season's Food Network Star contestant Michelle, Anne Burrell, and Violent J after he washes his face — but Guy Fieri is a unique being. He inspires culinary and personal hatred for a number of reasons, including wearing sunglasses on the folds of his neck fat and accessorizing with flame decals. He yells, and sometimes yells while he eats. Despite this, he rose to fame after winning Season 2 of The Next Food Network Star, a show that I find uncomfortably fascinating because it compels its contestants to cook meatballs and fry garnishes within impossible time limits while telling (often fabricated) stories about their mothers, hometowns, or deceased and beloved relatives. There is a lot of perspiring, sometimes onto the plate. The losers are corralled into a boardroom, forced to watch tapes of themselves sputtering and holding leaky portobello mushroom caps, and are criticized by Food Network producers for failing to be genuine, or for lacking a distinct "P.O.V.," or for confusing the words “decomposed” and “deconstructed.” Last week, Alton Brown pinched his nasal bridge and tried to save a contestant on his team (whose "P.O.V." was health food, after having lost over a hundred pounds) by sharing a distinctly Alton Brown–like serving of profundity on what it is like to be overweight — one has to sell oneself because one feels so unattractive, so clumsy. It was sort of moving: So, Alton was once fat. The contestant cried, and then was eliminated. Nobody tasted his food.
With little fanfare or notice, the Food Network decided to wrap up Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off in five weeks instead of six. This past Sunday they aired the final two episodes back-to-back. Perhaps they worried the finale would get much higher ratings than the Super Bowl, and Guy Fieri didn’t want to be responsible for destroying the game he loves. “I’m a major pigskin-head, bro. I can’t do that to the Big Game. Unrelated: I’m allegedly uncomfortable around gay people.” If the Food Network were worried about putting the finale against the Super Bowl, why’d they premiere the show six weeks before? Was there a time where they thought it might actually compete with it? None of these things check out.
It’s the episode we’ve not been waiting for; the remaining cast of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off tackle the sinister and mysterious food truck craze, if you define a “craze” as just a “thing that has comfortably and unexcitedly just gone on existing for what seems like over half a decade now." This episode was almost so legit that I had to quit, you know? I hate throwing around the word “authentic,” but everything about this lunch cart challenge was très, très authentic. Is there anything cooler than eating food served to you by a guy in a truck? Maybe Terry Richardson riding on the back of Justin Theroux’s motorcycle during Fashion Week and photographing you while you eat a doughnut off his erect penis, maybe that is slightly cooler. But it’s close.
It’s hard to imagine Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off teaching anybody anything useful, save perhaps when to say no to class A drugs and elective surgeries, but most reality competition shows could learn a thing or two from the Cook-Off’s six-episode season. Six is plenty of episodes for this sort of horseshit. “On episode sixteen of America’s Next Master Cook, it’s Battle: Turkey Salami.” Enough. The third week of Rachael Vs. Guy may have sagged a bit, and how could it not have, what with the crushing losses of Big A Carter and Miss USA, but it’s all propped up by the fact that we are nearly halfway done. There are only three episodes left and then everyone on the show will be handed shovels and told to start digging and they will be all, “Why are we digging? Why does the hole have to be so big and deep?” and Food Network is just like, “It doesn’t need to be that deep, just big, but maybe you could get more leverage if you actually got inside the hole.” And then everyone goes to sleep for a while.
When judges eliminated America’s Sick Kid (Aaron Carter) in the first episode, I’ll admit that I was unsure whether or not Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off had legs. I was also unsure whether Aaron Carter had legs, because his vests and Jigsaw face make him look like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Are we sure we ever saw him standing on his own two feet without Joey Fatone a few inches away, his arm buried elbow-deep in Aaron’s party? Whoever is doing the Aaron Carter Puppet voice is a little offensive. No one really talks like that. “What about a macaroni salad?”
As someone who watches Top Chef, a number of things have always troubled me about the format. One, almost none of the chefs were in the movie Young Guns. Two, many of them seem to have previous cooking experience, or at the very least to have eaten normal human food through their mouths. Three, not a single person mentoring the chefs ever wears their sunglasses on the back of their heads. Very often, they aren't wearing any sunglasses at all! These things have always nagged at me, but now Food Network's Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off is here to "solve" these problems.