Monday, May 2, 2011

TV: Last Cake Standing: S2E5 Living La Vida Vegas

I have a love/hate relationship with Food Network: I remember watching it in the early years when all the chefs were chefs who legit skills who could really teach you how to cook. Today though, the network is filled with "personalities" with dubious credentials, and even the few stalwarts from the old days that remain (Paul Deen, Rachel Ray) have just become product-shilling caricatures of themselves.

Despite this, I can't give up the network entirely because they've tapped into my weakness: a love for skill-based reality competition television. I like watching genuinely skilled people show off their stuff, the time constraints can really make a chef shine...or completely blow up, both of which are entertaining. Last Cake Standing is one of these shows.

Genre: Reality TV (Skill based)

Official Description:
A Sin City scavenger hunt with the remaining four competitors reveals their next exciting challenge: to create cakes for clients who have come to Las Vegas to celebrate something special. But it's first come, first pick in this scenario and only the swiftest will prevail. Midway through the competition, the competitors head to the blackjack tables for a twist that will have huge implications on who moves on to the finale, and who will go home at the end of the competition. Guest judge and pastry chef Gale Gand helps determine who will advance.

The Review
Last Cake Standing is a six-week long competition with an ultimate prize of $100,000. The show started off with eight contestants. We join the show now with four remaining, and the specter of the finale looming over us.

The challenge for the week is not my favorite style of challenge: there are four clients that the chefs have to find, each with a different theme. First chef to find a client, gets to work with them. I hate these challenges for a variety of reasons:

1. It puts the contestant on an uneven field because some clients are inevitably closer than others - the clients were at different hotels, not even on the same property! Even assuming that everyone spends the exact same amount of time talking with the client, some chefs automatically will have less time to work than others. I don't think it necessarily enhances the game, it just comes off as unfair.

2. At least one of the themes is always difficult to fulfill and at least one of the clients is almost always impossible to please. The themes this time out: a 21st birthday party, a "big win", a bachelorette party, and a family reunion. This time, the guy who had the worst luck with the longest schlep ended up with the bum theme (family reunion) and impossible to please clients - they wanted him to create a cake that basically bridged time AND geographic distance and represented the family. In eight hours. Yeah. Totally fair to make a guy do that while some 21 year-olds want a car and booze. When one criteria is client satisfaction, this just seems again, unfair, not a game enhancement.

So they get going and then comes "the twist." A game of blackjack! It's announced that the chefs will have their assistants replaced by a formerly ousted contestant, and the winner of the hand will get to assign the pairs. But wait! There's more! The assistant paired with the winning chef gets to come back into the game.

Hold up.'re going to eliminate one chef the week before the finale, only to bring one previously kicked off chef back. What exactly is the point of this episode? How is that fair to the chef that made it that far? It seems like a ploy of the producers to bring back the one chef previously ousted that really is the strongest one there - the others? No shot of winning the final round.

The only reason I even kept watching at this point is because two chefs had very obvious trainwreck cakes and the poor sap who got stuck with the family reunion trying to do something to assuage them so they wouldn't completely scuttle his chances.

If you're spending more time rolling your eyes and screaming at the tv than enjoying it, we have a problem.

Unless you're a die-hard Food Network Challenge fan, this series is a safe pass.

My Rating: C-

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