A grab-bag of highlights and lowlights from this week's TV schedule:
American Idol checked in with a real dud of an "inspirational" show. Right from the start, I was flummoxed when Michael Johns picked Aerosmith's "Deam On" as his choice. Dude, never in my 10 million years on this earth have I ever processed that tune as "inspirational" -- it doesn't matter if the song goes "dream on ... dream until your dreams come true ..." but rather how it says it. That's not a chase-your-heart's-desire song.
A dumb choice, and now it seems a lot of voter thought so, too. Must say, Johns looked really stunned when Seacrest sent him packing. Ouch.
The fake drama continues on Hell's Kitchen -- can there really be chefs this dumb? One of the indistinguishable girls was sent home, but not after "best loser" Corey blurted out her strategy of calling out her competition Jen and Christina for elimination. (Honey, brush up on Survivor skills: The less said about teammates, the better.) Ramsay actually doesn't care what Corey thought and sent Sharon home. In other developments, a lot of halibut went in the trash.
This week's Last Restaurant Standing microwave-meal challenge saw the inevitable demise of my favorite couple -- the clueless Martin and Emma. They were endlessly funny though, and I appreciated that they never tried to go frou-frou. Admittedly, they were so ill-suited for the biz that it was only this many weeks into the scheme that the working-class pair from Lancashire figured out that offering working-class fare from Lancashire might be their strength.
Take-way moments from the episode included Emma describing supermarket chain Marks and Spencer's ready-to-eat meals as being "up their own asses"; Emma opening a marketing pitch by loudly exhaling "Jesus Christ"; and the mean supermarket buyer deflating the cute-and-organic twin chefs by icily sniping: "And the sustainability of the cod?"
The heat is finally up on Top Chef, as things get personal. You knew they would, but it was slow simmer. In the Elements challenge, the Fire team won, with Lisa snagging the bonus prize of a trip to Italy. I was kinda with her teammate Dale, who expressed disbelief that making bacon snared the top slot. (But then again, previous seasons have proved you can never go wrong adding bacon.) Pointy-headed Richard got a pass on his scaly, mushy salmon, and the spiceless girl-partner Zoi was sent packing. After which, a vicious fight broke out over butternut squash soup. Of course it did -- this show is on.
Survivor plods along, still trying to milk any juice from its failed Fans vs. Favorites set-up. Ozzy looks more like Capt. Sparrow every day; Parvati grows more annoying; and I still can't sort out the remaining two female fans.
This episode also featured one of my favorite late-model Survivor strategies as offered by Eliza: Keep me around because nobody likes me and thus I'll make the perfect companion at the final two. Didn't work.
Eliza scored the episode's best line when confronted with Jason's fake immunity idol -- "It's a [expletive deleted] stick!" She may have no friends, but at least she's got her wits. And calling out Ozzy on his immunity-idol status should shake things up her wake.
And after the strike-imposed hiatus, The Office is back. And I'm a little worried. Situation comedies are tough to sustain over time. That's why the Brits run 'em short and sweet (mostly). Some shows get lucky the hard way: They're cancelled early and can live on in sweet perfection (Frank's Place comes to mind).
This week's episode took place at Michael and Jan's condo, and adding "fun new locations" is a warning sign that the creative mojo may be fading. (Add to this: the jaunt to Dwight's farm, too many trips to NYC, the car crash at the lake, the day in the woods.) The episode wasn't without laughs, but I'm concerned this season that (1) we're out of the office too much, and (2) the show is too focused on relationships – Jim & Pam, Michael & Jan, and now Angela & Andy.
This show's real groove is the absurdity of office work and the inane people you have to share that space with, and for most of your waking hours. Comic romances are the stuff of every other TV show out there. Bring back the excruciating minutes in the lunchroom.