Bravo comes up with the classiest, most dazzling version of a reality television show ever -- oh, Project Runway, how I adore thee! -- and then you come along. You're like Project Runway's bitchy little sister. You wear your big sister's clothes and mimick her walk, and then get all pissy when you're not asked to the dance. Well, I got news for you. It's not the clothes and it's not the walk; it's about the bigger picture. It's about the attitude.
And your attitude? It sucks.
Anyone else concerned that I'm writing a letter to a television show? Mm, yeah.
Project Runway did it first, did it right, did it better. Why do you feel the need to alter their formula? Pardon the punnery, but you're messing with a winning recipe, and it's leaving quite a bad taste in my mouth.
Project Runway's formula works:
- Find contestants who are talented
- Give them challenges that test their abilities
- If you give them really difficult challenges, with extra twists and turns, be fair when you judge them
- Give them someone they can turn to for a little objective advice and support
I'm not saying that the judges on Project Runway are all sunshine and lollipops, but they offer fairly balanced feedback -- even with the disasters -- and recognize when challenges were tricky for everyone. They show compassion.
With the exception of Ted (we love you, Ted! Doo doo doo do do doo doot dooooo*), Top Chef's panels don't do the same. It's as though the judges take an "us against them" attitude. Every time Tom and Gail approach a challenge, they seem to walk into it with the expectation that the contestants will have sucked. "I wonder how bad they'll be THIS time."
They are smug and snide and unhelpful.
They are surprised, visibly and verbally, when contestants do well.
Their critiques are probably correct from an objective standpoint, but they never take into account how challenging the circumstances were. "If this were a real restaurant, we would have left." Um, if it were a real restaurant, it wouldn't have been BUILT IN 45 MINUTES.
I think it's ridiculous that during the restaurant challenge, Tom declared that there WERE NO WINNERS. That they had all failed.
Yeah, hi. Red flag. If a manager, or director, or coach, or CEO sets a challenge for her entire team and the entire team fails, guess who is responsible? (I'll give you a hint, Top Chef: it's not the team.)
Last year, I started off loving the show just as much as this year, but by the end I was just as pissed off. Remember last year's wedding challenge? Let me remind you:
For the Quickfire Challenge, you asked the chefs to come up with a unique and gourmet menu for a wedding. The winning menu would be selected by an engaged couple.
Given the openness of the challenge, the contestants came up with some really creative and difficult ideas.
But when the winner was selected, and you dropped the bombshell: that the winning menu had to be served at a wedding. THE NEXT DAY. You gave them extremely limited time and resources to pull something amazing off, they busted their asses to do it, and you? Rather than acknowledge how impossible the task had been, you GOT MAD WHEN THEY CUT CORNERS.
And then, yes you did, you said they'd all failed.
Don't you think they would have come up with different menus if they'd known they had 24 hours to pull it off, with only one overnight supermarket to buy from, with limited funds? Don't you think you were unfair? Don't you think you could have taken ANY of your limitations into account when judging?
Yeah. I noticed you didn't let them spout off about that during the reunion show.
So in looking back throughout this season and the (again with the punning) "meltdowns" that more than one contestant has had, I no longer thing it's their fault. I blame you.
Of course I think that there are more mature ways for contestants to handle themselves. Obviously they are under a lot of pressure and it's no wonder that they snap and spout off now and then. A reasonable amount of "losing it" happens on Project Runway every season. (Say it again with me: Where the HELL is my chiffon!)
But. As I've re-watched Mia's breakdown (since the first time it seemed bizarre to me), and the Lord Of The Flies-like treatment of Marcel, and Cliff's complete undoing, I can't believe it's just them being sensitive.
I think it's you, Top Chef, and your petulant, hypocritical, compassionless judges.
And before you go defending yourself about "some" cruel judges on "some other well loved reality show" being popular, I'll put it out there for you. I actually think Simon Cowell is kinder to the top 12 American Idol competitors than Tom is to his contestants. Simon has announced on more than one occassion that the contestants have had an off night, but he never calls them all failures. He doesn't always feel the need to qualify good performances. He doesn't go in expecting to be disappointed. And you know? Even when he is tough, he has a different job than your judges do, because he's not the one sending contestants home.
Yep. I think Simon is a more "palatable" judge than Tom. And that is really saying something.
Honestly, I believe it comes down to this: no one wants to watch a show where everyone loses. No one wants to watch a show where everyone is declared a failure. It makes your judges seem mean, and it turns us viewers off. It makes us uncomfortable. And angry.
The show is set up to have us rooting for our favorites, and so we do! And then when you slap them down, over and over, our spirits are diminished, too.
Don't you think that's kind of stupid?
I do. And I feel like your machinations have left me so that I almost don't care who wins anymore.
Marcel is weird and a little creepy, and obviously egotistical. But exactly who on the show isn't? Every single one of the contestants believes he/she is good enough to be there. Maybe editing has saved me from having to see all the really horrid aspects of Marcel, but he was ostracized early and completely. He's shouldered it pretty well, and he's never really lost his focus. I don't think he's ever even raised his voice, while I can count at least five other contestants who have outright yelled at him. I'm not saying I want him to win, but at this point, why not?
I really like Top Chef (and Project Runway) because the show, at least in pretense, focuses more on talent than interpersonal relationships. Marcel is the only one who has said more than once at the judges' table, "Can we just talk about the food?" Bonus points for that.
I'm surprised Elia is still around, except that I figure they can't very well send ALL the women home and none to the finale. (For what it's worth, I don't think the show is sexist, but I don't think they found very strong female competitors this year.)
Elia is young, and I think she shows it. She has not handled the pressure very well. Her decisions have been very inconsistent -- she's missed the mark completely as many times as she's been spot-on. She is not (yet) a good leader, and has not seemed to make very good interpersonal choices (she has consistently befriended under-performers). She has professed all along to like Marcel, but has been inactive and silent in his defense, especially in the last episode. Overall, I think she's cute, smart, interesting, multi-faceted and talented...but still learning. She comes across as too timid and unsure of herself to be a good leader.
And I don't think someone who tried to flambe with red wine should be Top Chef.
Ilan is now my least favorite, and I really liked him in the beginning. He's clearly a talented cook with sophisticated ideas and tastes. However, his complete inability to get over his dislike for Marcel is childish and annoying. If he were Top Chef material, he'd stay above the fray. As it is, he seems way too preoccupied with Marcel. Why is that, hmmm? Obviously, Ilan feels threatened...I wonder if it's because he's afraid of Marcel's talent, or if it's because Marcel hits a little too close to home? I suspect Ilan is afraid of being everything he accuses Marcel of.
And his crush on Elia is cloying.
Did anyone not think Sam would win from the very beginning? I mean, the winner might very well be an upset (because this whole season has gone south and who's to say anymore, really) but he's clearly the favorite. Unfortunately, he, too, can't seem to get over his hatred for Marcel, and it makes him seem petty. Harold -- last year's winner, who Sam certainly resembles in many ways -- kept his mouth shut and his focus on executing flawless challenges. Sam has not been able to do that. He's also off-puttingly cocky. A degree of arrogance is required, I think, but if he were really THAT sure of himself, he wouldn't feel the need to constantly put Marcel in his place.
In the end, Top Chef, I want to see the personalityless-(but-oh-so-much-better-than-Katie-blink-blink-Joel)-Padma turn to Gail and Tom and, quoting them as often as possible, thank them for their time but tell them they have been a complete failure. That waltzing in at the end of a challenge to offer nothing but smirks and raised eyebrows is in poor taste, and that they should have been able to offer more. That shaking their heads disapprovingly and laughing at your contestants is unnacceptable. That you don't understand why their feedback was never more balanced.
And then tell them to pack their knives and go.
Short of that, at least (pleaseohpleaseohplease) let Ted serve as Top Chef's Tim Gunn.
Let me know what you think,
*That'd be the theme song from Queer Eye, obviously. Duh.