Shows I kept current with: 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Bake Off Creme de la Creme, Broad City, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Catastrophe, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Faking It, Girls, Grandfathered, Grantchester, Inside Amy Schumer, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Orphan Black, Outlander, Penny Dreadful, Shameless, The 100, The Americans, The Flash, The Good Wife, The Graham Norton Show, The Path, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep
Pilots tried: Gavin and Stacey, The Girlfriend Experience
Non-current shows watched: assorted old episodes of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and The Graham Norton Show; rewatched season 1 of Catastrophe
Other: Time Traveling Bong
Things of note:
Bake Off: Creme de la Creme
This is a spin-off of The Great British Bake-Off and I more or less like it, although apparently not enough to actually have kept up with it on a weekly basis past the first four or five episodes. From the headlines that pop up when one searches it on Google, though, it seems to have been less well-received by others—certainly a disappointment compared to its ridiculously popular parent show, appears to be the general consensus. And I can see why people feel that way: other than its premise as a baking competition with multiple rounds of challenges per episode in the same sort of format as GBBO, Creme de la Creme changes all of the elements that were probably the most key to GBBO‘s success:
- The amateur bakers of GBBO have been transformed into professional pastry chefs. This means that there’s none of the endearing humility of the hobbyist on display in Creme de la Creme. I mean, the competitors on GBBO know that they’re good bakers, otherwise they wouldn’t have made it to the show in the first place, but it’s not their professional reputation on the line if they fuck up. Other than the occasional baked-Alaska-in-the-bin outburst, there’s much less external anger on GBBO and more crying and self-doubt or even just self-deprecating jokes, earning the bakers the audience’s sympathy. Not so on Creme de la Creme, which has so much bleeped-out swearing that I would just love to see, like, the HBO version.
- The individual competitors of GBBO are now teams of three. The bakers on GBBO occasionally commiserate or josh around in the kitchen, but for the most part, we only see them talking to the hosts, the judges, or the confessional. Our main impression that these people actually get along and like each other would probably come from their Twitter interactions, if we, um, deigned to look at those. Most of the teams on Creme de la Creme consist of three pastry chefs who have already known each other for a while, whether it’s three co-workers from a bakery, a culinary school instructor and two of his former students, three cooks for the British Army, etc., so we’re seeing established interpersonal dynamics. And it can start to feel a bit uncomfortable and voyeuristic at times. Each team has a head chef and that’s not necessarily a flattering position in a time-sensitive, high-pressure situation. Whether it’s passive-aggressive tactics or outright beratement of the “underling” chefs, there are moments where as a viewer you feel privy to an aspect of these professional relationships that you weren’t supposed to see and in some cases are even like, “shit, are they still going to be able to work together after this? Or is this just what it’s like all the time for them?”
- Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have been replaced as judges by Benoit Blin, Cherish Finden, and Claire Clark, and man, those three do not take any shit. Mary and Paul, I think, always try to find something positive to say about even the worst dishes, so as not to completely destroy the bakers’ egos or discourage them from pursuing their dreams or whatever. But because the Creme de la Creme competitors are legit professionals rather than hobbyists, the judges feel free to ouright eviscerate the teams for not living up to their expectations. And Benoit Blin is just, like, so French about it all.
- The tent in the picturesque English countryside is now the elaborately decorated interior of a country house. I’m definitely down with either aesthetic, but yeah, a lot of the GBBO charm probably lies in the pleasant, summery feeling of the tent with the cutaway shots of grazing sheep.
- Mel and Sue have been replaced by Tom Kerridge, who is amiable enough and certainly less likely to inadvertantly sabotage a competitor’s dish. Mel and Sue’s (charmingly) dumb antics work very well in the relatively low-key setting of GBBO, but would probably be unwelcome in the high-pressure world of Creme de la Creme. Still, it would be nice to lighten the mood a bit.
So, yeah, Creme de la Creme: ultimately, GBBO’s cold, detached, angry cousin. The food is beautiful, though, especially if you get pleasure out of seeing uniformly layered things and precise execution. And a lot of amusing moments of juxtaposition between competitors’ (often) vulgar colloquial language and the delicate classy pastries they’re preparing.
In season 3, the show still remains fairly enjoyable, but it definitely feels like it’s fallen victim to its own hype. A lot of the appeal when the show first premiered was in how fresh and unlike anything else on TV it felt; that still may be the case—that no other show on TV is doing quite what Broad City is doing—and yet now it’s competing with its own history. Broad City now knows precisely what kind of moments will get GIFed and placed in Buzzfeed lists of “23 Times Ilana on Broad City Was All of Us” or whatever, and it seems to be playing to that at the expense of introducing something new/weird/interesting. I hope it doesn’t continue for too many more seasons, so that we can be left with a mostly positive impression of its run.
This show remained excellent as the season ended, and I don’t have any additional commentary on the show itself. Apparently, I wanted to say something here about how much discussions of this show and the concept of mental health irk me, but I don’t know that I have it in me at the moment to make it in any way coherent. Basically, there are so many comments to the effect of “[insert character here]’s choices are so unhealthy” or “[insert relationship here] is unhealthy” or “I don’t think Rebecca should be with either Greg or Josh; I just want to see her be healthy” or whatever, that the terms “healthy” and “unhealthy” seem to become devoid of any actual meaning. Rather, they seem to be a way to lend opinions a level of clinical validity that means fuck-all when you consider that most of the people opining are not medical professionals (and even if they were, I’d be dubious). “Unhealthy” usually seems to convey “not conforming to my view of accepted social norms,” which is very odd when it’s coming from the sort of enlightened, liberal arts college graduates who would elsewhere claim that “[insert pretty much anything here] is a social construct.” It would probably be more accurate to say “degenerate,” but then we couldn’t hide behind objectivity, could we?
Which is not to say that I don’t find most of Rebecca’s actions in the show totally cringe-worthy and hard to watch, because wow, they are. But still, I take issue with the concept that it’s somehow “healthier” to seek happiness through meaningful friendships or career ambitions or Zen enlightenment or whatever the fuck than through romantic relationships?