Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SEASON FINALE: Next Great Baker: The End was a Flop

That's right, a late-night post about the Next Great Baker season finale! I think this is the first time in a long while where I was happy about the contestants who made it into the finale of a reality competition series. I would have been happy with either Blue or Black winning, and it was Buddy in whom I was really disappointed. The final cake challenge just didn't "pop" for me! I wasn't impressed with the fact that there was no baking or selling component to the challenge, either. I mean, the Elimination Round yielded more extravagant feats that the final! Anyway, I wish Al and Lia the best of luck, and hope to see them next time I'm in Las Vegas!

The finalists:
Blue: Al & Lia of St. Louise, MO, coworkers at a fondant-free cake shop, where he strictly decorates, and she decorates and bakes. They didn't know how to sculpt faces before this show. He started working in a bakery when he was 16; she's religious, to the extent that she carries prayer cards.
Maroon: Kaiulani & Roxanne of Salt Lake City are niece & aunt perfectionists. Kai and her two kids are currently homeless. Other bakers are referring to them as the Kakedashians. "Our style is extremely artistic."
Black: Manny & Al of Woolwich, NJ, have been working together four years. Al has a family bakery.

For even more on the contestants, check out this, and be sure to scroll down for images of the latest masterpieces from the contestants!

Cake Boss: Next Great Baker "Vegas Showstoppers" (S04E10): Two teams will travel to Las Vegas, so there's an Elimination Challenge to determine who won't be competing. In seven hours, one of the teams will fail to have the "total package," which requires a giant Cupcake judged on flavor and appearance, a three-tiered piped cake, and a centerpiece to be judged on its chocolate, ribbon, sugar, and flower techniques. [I have that cupcake pan! I did a friend's 30th birthday cake a couple years ago and paired a giant cupcake with 30 minis. For what it's worth, I did an amaretto cake with amaretto cream filling, and I made a candy mold of the pan to use as the "cupcake wrapper."]

Blue: They do the cupcake and the piped cake first because they can whip them out, using a vanilla bean cake with strawberry filling. [I would've liked that recipe, actually.] For their centerpiece, they do modeling chocolate roses, which is new territory for them, plus Lia hasn't done sugarwork since culinary school. Their piping is, of course, beautiful, as are their roses. [I agree - so delicate!] The design of their centerpiece is inward, not outward, but with a delicious cupcake flavor to boot, they win.

Black
: They're worried about the centerpiece (Manny had training in sugarwork but it's been years since he's consistently done it), so they focus on the molds and get it all done first. [I literally gasped when their pink piece fell off and shattered.] Manny starts the baking and fills the cupcake with chocolate ganache. [heh. I've only ever covered a cake in ganache - what a great idea to put it inside!] They go crazy with the roses and the piping, and end up with very nice sugar roses, though their cake is gaudy. [I agree with the team - it was very 1975!] The cupcake is very Dr. Seuss, but the taste of their cake may be the reason they're off to compete in Vegas!

Maroon: They focus on the cupcake, as "baking is not [their] forte." [um. remember the title of this show, guys?] The cake is firm and tastes dense to them, so they add an extra layer of frosting and pipe a large rose on top. The result is cartoony (positively, though), but it's rubbery. Kai hasn't done a lot of piping, but their tiered cake is lovable and clean. For the centerpiece, they pour teal sugar over a foil board, then cover it in plastic wrap as their base. They believe that they tried things they didn't previously know how to do, which is why they should stay, but it doesn't work out that way. [I was glad Buddy pointed out that they're not the only ones with children. I hate sob stories about how you need to do this for your kids.]

At the Venetian, the other competitors are there, and trash-talking starts. Then, we hear about the final feat: in 12 hours, make a Vegas-themed cake to be on display when the new bakery opens the next day. This means eye-catching is key, and to put on extra pressure, they decorate right in the hotel atrium! [only hearing from the Tan team who they were rooting for was odd.]

Black: They go for the Venetian fountain, but when they miscalculate the size, they lose about an hour of work. However, when the end result isn't straight, they have to further scrap their efforts to put together a tiered "waterfall" cake instead. [I didn't think their fountain was that bad...] They're still able to incorporate some hand-formed statues they already made, but the cake is STILL crooked, and the flowers are a little flat. Though they had a stronger vision, and they proved that "a champion finishes," they're at the end of the road.

Blue: They design a pagoda and go crazy on flowers for a cherry blossom tree. [Al has been quiet forever, but now he's chatty in Vegas?!] It's looking too Japanese, and Buddy suggests they do a topsy-turvy element or something to solidify it as Vegas, but they ignore that idea. [I'm surprised Buddy didn't address this, or at least in the judging that made it to air.] The result isn't the most fitting for an Italian bakery, but they once again prove that their work is solid. They win the job of running the Las Vegas Carlo's Bakery! Their families celebrate with them.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Falling Skies: Heading to the Moon?

I really enjoyed listening to Tom recite President Kennedy's speech, and I guess I'm happy that Tom and Anne are married (I had forgotten that they weren't), but otherwise I found this episode rather draining. There's not even a wedding to look forward to, as the proposal and the ceremony were practically one after the other! The return of Mira, who was once a love interest for Matt, had potential, but, just as Tom and Weaver did, I was suspicious of her as soon as she started talking.
JAMES DITTIGER
She caused some unnecessary grief, as did the Sara-Pope plotline - who cares? The Ben-Maggie-Hal love triangle is now also officially a "thing," and it doesn't look like it will be quickly resolved. Furthermore, the idea that the 2nd Mass must now FLY TO THE MOON has me staring at the screen in disbelief, like a deer stuck in headlights. As the season begins to wrap up, I wonder if it should really just be dying down. 

Falling Skies "Till Death Do Us Part" (S04E09): The moon seems to be powering the Espheni machines, so to knock them out, the 2nd Mass will need to fly to the moon and shut everything down at the source. Everyone works to uncover the buried "beamer," but Cochise leads Weaver, Anne, Matt, and Tom to a stockpile of high-tech devices to help. [why have the area written to be a toxic waste dump where the characters must wear gas masks to avoid the chlorine??] Mira is there, and while Matt is excited to see her again, Tom ties her up while they dig. [and apparently nobody thinks they should keep a close eye on Matt...] She talks Matt into untying her, then blows the whistle that summons the Espheni to "dissidents." They arrive, there's gunfire, but the 2nd Mass is still victorious, even if there were a few wounds. [I really think a death would have been more believable here.] Plus, they now have Mira's whistle, which Cochise is able to deconstruct in order to control Espheni devices, and he raises the buried beamer. [so it won't even take long to get to the moon, huh?]

Maggie can't control her senses or strength, so Ben helps her work on tuning out others' conversations, jumping from heights, and sharpshooting. They kiss, Hal sees, then Maggie realizes it must be the spikes that are drawing her to Ben, nothing more. Hal later slugs Ben, and tells him to give up on Maggie. [but, as Comic-Con suggested, the brothers are not done vying for the girl.]

Also, Pope thinks Sara is taking drugs, but it's actually only aspirin. [yawn!]
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Girl Meets World: Parents

It has already been explained that Farkle, like his father before him, counts his As. What's new, however, is the idea that Topanga and Riley might have as many As as the father-son duo, which suggests that Riley is more her mother's daughter than her fathers; Cory was known as more of an average student on Boy Meets World. While the return of Stuart Minkus was fun for long-time fans, it also brought up some questions for the viewer... if Minkus is incredibly wealthy (as illustrated by arriving via helicopter), why is Farkle attending this public school rather than a more exclusive one? 
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Girl Meets World "Girl Meets Maya's Mother" (S01E07): It's career day in Cory's class, and Topanga comes in to talk about being a lawyer. [remember when Mr. Turner hosted career day and Alan handed out coupons as he talked about being a grocer??] When Farkle's father arrives, he believes that Maya and Riley are the girls are always after his son, and they're polite enough to play along.  [Cory didn't obsess over Topanga at the same time Minkus did, so the rivalry was a bit odd. "do you have a helicopter, Cory?" "Nope, do you have a Topanga, Minkus?"] Maya's mother, Katy, shows up a day late, with a tall tale about having a baby in the Colorado River the day before. [I didn't even understand what the point of this shenanigan was!] In reality, she was auditioning for a soap opera, as she's an unsuccessful actress who really just waitresses. [what was with Maya's "our imaginary father" line??]

For art class, Farkle poses in a singlet, and Maya once again astounds everyone with her drawings. [a 48-pound seventh grader? that's pretty undersized.] Maya is asked to submit a piece of artwork to the school exhibit, but she'd rather avoid the spotlight. But, Riley decides that her talent is helping people (and she sees that as superior to her father's close-up magic skills and her mother's hip-shaking abilities), so she enters Maya in the show and invites Katy to attend. [I didn't really "get" the hip thing, and can't recall Cory ever doing magic before...] Maya gets upset, the girls have a paint fight, and in the end the Matthews support Maya in the show because Katy doesn't come anyway. [I was dumb and didn't get the "half of the woman" in the painting until Farkle mentioned it, LoL.] Riley goes to the diner to talk to Katy, and learns that the woman feels she's not good enough for her daughter. [just like Chet thinking Shawn was better off with Turner or the Matthews family.]

Additional notable similarities to the original series abound in this episode, including a showcase of Cory's love/preoccupation with mashed potatoes, and the idea that sharing a parent is tough. Eric once explained how tough it is for two sons to share a father using a metaphor that half a coconut isn't enough for either monkey, but here we saw Maya happy to have half a tuna melt, because having half a mom was still better than no mom at all.
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Friday: Comic-Con Comes to Sesame Street

When I was young, my favorite thing about Sesame Street was learning the signs for different words, courtesy of Linda. My next favorite part, however, was the songs that taught you things about numbers, like "Martian Beauty Number 9."

I was greatly looking forward to the Sunday morning Comic-Con panel, "Spoofs on the Street," and was tickled pink by the lengthy clip shown near the beginning of the session: Numeric-Con. It was smart and educational and funny, and I look forward to it airing on PBS this season (and not just so people will understand my Numeric-Con t-shirt!). Here's a little taste of the greatness that will be featured:

Don't you just love The Dark Nine? Doctor Two? Fiverine? Capten Kirk? I swear, the jokes get SO MUCH BETTER you won't believe it. Wait until you see Elmo encounter Bert! When the episode is set to air, we'll be sure to let you know!
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hot in Cleveland: Switching Characters

In the 90s, there were serial daters with their own shows. Cheers had Sam, Friends had Joey, Frasier and Seinfeld had their title characters... it was a thing. It brought fresh faces to the sitcoms for a stretch of episodes, and then they were replaced with new ones. Hot in Cleveland has had that, too, but it's getting extreme as well as boring. Revolving boyfriends, extended family members, coworkers, and even neighbors have been appearing on this comedy, and as soon as a viewer might start laughing at someone, they're out the door. As soon as one of the four ladies might start growing because of someone they're frequently with, that process gets shut down. There's something to be said for sticking with the initial premise of a show, but there's also meat behind the idea that change is good.

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Hot in Cleveland "The Italian Job" (S05E20): Melanie gets a new co-host, Frankie, as the show is now designed to have a lot of conflicting viewpoints. [I'm crinkling my nose here.] When she manages to get him dumped by his girlfriend, he decides to stay at the girls' place and offer his advice to them... and they prefer it over Melanie's! [meh. not the most realistic thing ever, and I think Melanie's constantly changing jobs is one of the more sporadic things about this series!]

J.J. wants Victoria to meet his grown children, Jessica, James, and Lisa. Victoria tries her best, but manages to upset each, and then when she reminds J.J. too much of his ex-wife, they decide to take some time apart. [well, that was a quick relationship! It was kinda destined to fail from the start, though.]

Also, Joy and Elka both fail an oral exam, but decide to listen to Frankie and suggestively blackmail the teacher into passing them. It works.
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