OK, I’m eating crow here, a thing that is becoming less and less common on reality shows, which is why I’ve started watching more of them. Here are my top four plus two contenders as the TV roster stands this summer.
1. Deadliest Catch: Who would think that watching guys fish for crabs would be absorbing? I was sure this was going to be another bang-clang type man show, but it’s not. Although the fellow who does “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe, is in charge of it, he doesn’t show up and make lame puns. He doesn’t even show up in the main show, which now has an offshoot called, “After the Catch”. Or something. Anyway, Deadliest Catch follows several crab fishing ships, their captains and crews through various crab fishing seasons – who knew there were so many kinds that would be commercially viable? —in the Bering Sea.
There’s pack ice, frozen sea water clogging up ships and weighing them down, people falling overboard, intership rivalries and pranks, big crabs, little crabs, helicopters, rogue waves, scary storms, and people being people – trying to do the best they can at what they do. I guess all the captains have gotten to be famous and are a little freaked out about it. I don’t wonder. It’s not what you’d think of as a glamorous job – it’s bound to smell awful, involve a lot of slime and engine grease, and I’m guessing it takes most of them three months in front of a fireplace to feel dried out. Sig’s a cutie, Phil is a dry wit, and there’s some newbie captain who deserves to be frequently pantsed. Give it a try and maybe you’ll wind up trapped in the crab pot, too.
2. Top Chef: I will never in my life, knowingly eat raw Geoduck, and certainly not with pomegranate sauce or a side order of sea urchin risotto. I’m lucky I know how to spell those things. Nevertheless, watching the chefs charge around the kitchen, chopping, sautéing, slathering, setting things on fire (sometimes on purpose) and making huge mistakes is another exercise in human nature in the pursuit of a worthy goal. They sure serve a lot of stuff raw, which makes my maternal soul wince. I’m sure that if you have really excellent health insurance and that ever-useful trust fund, running the risk of intestinal problems for the sake of gourmet cuisine is no problem.
Anyway, when I watch this show, I not only get to vent my inner picky child’s disgust at some of the foods, but I feel like I learn a little about cooking and get some new ideas for things to try to change in my own painfully ordinary kitchen. My husband, a man for whom the phrase “meat and potatoes” constitutes his complete lifetime’s desired menu, is also fascinated by Top Chef. We were both impressed by a handmade seafood sausage containing scallops, sea bass and possibly shrimp, to be served at a snooty barbeque. Go figure.
3. How Clean Is Your House: This is a BBC production with two adorably snarky British women, one little scamp who likes to come off as a household scientist, and a taller gal with starched, bleached, tightly coiffed hair, a rack like a middle-aged Pamela Anderson, and a tendency to call the clients “nasty little buggers” to their faces. They’re called in to clean disastrously grimy homes, they always seem amazed at how filthy the houses are, and, what makes me laugh the hardest is – they run around scooping bits of horribleness onto their fingertips and insisting the other one smell it. The smeller always yells out some very British epithet and then the scientific gal starts taking swabs of things to send back to the lab so they can prod their client to be less nasty in the future by terrifying them with scary sounding science. They have a team of cleaners to come in and do the majority of the scouring, so they don’t pretend to be doing it all themselves. The two gals also offer some nice tips for various bits of cumulative crud removal and general tidiness habits. I like that their cleaning solutions lean heavily towards environmentally friendly things that are affordable and easy to find. It also makes me feel like my house is not so awful, or, as my daughter put it, “Mom, our house has bedhead. THOSE houses are catastrophes!”
4. Project Runway: It’s not back yet, but I’m hoping for another season of getting to watch a bunch of men sitting around sewing and being catty. Where else, eh?
5. The contenders for possible future watching:
On the Lot: A raft of hopeful film makers make short films and are critiqued by Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher, and a guest name-brand director for the chance at a chunk of money and a chance to work with Steven Spielberg. The shorts I’ve watched were so much like commercials, I kept watching for the product I was going to be urged to buy. A few have been very creative, one or two deep, but the short format does not hold my interest over time. Garry Marshall is a class act, Carrie Fisher is mostly incoherent, and the guest directors have been either emo/self-absorbed or really outstanding in their critiques. The MC is a twit and they make her wear unflattering clothing, which is either blatantly slutty or fits so badly I can’t tell if she’s pregnant or has hip dysplasia. They also spend 2/3 of every show saying the same damn thing about calling in, over and over and over, until I leave the room and miss the rest of the shorts out of sheer annoyance. I hope they fix that, or a promising show will bomb due to viewer fatigue and irritation.
Hell’s Kitchen: OK, I don’t like hearing people yelled at by some hysterical rage fanatic, being humiliated, or treated like dirt. That’s why this show is on the edge with me, and also probably why it’s called Hell’s kitchen. I do enjoy the bits where the contestants talk about each other, working as a team, how they support each other, and the recipes, which are not as outlandish or impossible as the ones on Top Chef. Sometimes the Screamer in Chief has nice moments where he behaves as a mentor, and those are OK. My inner snark has moments of malicious glee watching the contestants trash talk or undermine each other in their alpha dog struggles.
OK, despite the TV talk, I’m heading out to deadhead petunias and mail some bill payments. Have a great weekend!