Hyphen TV: The Land of Candy Bars and M&Ms

March 21, 2011

Raja salutes the (possibly very confused) troops. This and other Drag Race images from the Logo blog

The college study-group-cum-surrogate-family that is the cast of Community continues its second season with (Ex-)Señor Chang (Ken Jeong) as a strange new permanent addition. Though, I can't say I hate the odd dynamic his presence adds to the group, particularly with the development of his possibly being the father of fellow student Shirley's child. Of course the show deals with the ambiguity in its own absurd way, having Annie throw an ethnically representative baby shower with nods to both possible fathers: an African American doll should Shirley's ex Andre be the baby's dad and "a very nice letter from the manufacturer promising to expand their selection" for the baby if the father is Chang. Afterward, cue well-intentioned but ever-unsuccessful Dean Pelton wearing a rice paddy hat and a dashiki: "Can I get a ni hao up in this hizzy?"

As for Chang himself, he went on a brief stint as a "good" father to prove himself to Shirley, then reverted to his usual selfish and childish jerk ways in the end. I don't love the character per se, but he's certainly different from any other character on television, let alone an Asian American one. Keep it weird, Chang.


    Everyone knows the hallmark of a good dad. Cardigans.

America's Next Great Restaurant had our pals Stephenie and Sudhir on their toes, first having the contestants work an actual Chipotle (where Stephenie impressed the judges with her welcoming smile and Sudhir raised suspicions by hiding in the back room), and then having them overhaul much of their previous restaurant set-ups. Sudhir happily followed the judges' advice to get a new chef, but I was sad to see that he changed the name "The Tiffin Box" to "Spice Coast," which refers to the spice coast of India where he is from. His slogan is "Eat Flavorfully," and the food he made with his new hire (who is the sous chef to Sudhir's head chef) was a big improvement over what he served last week with the Swede. Nice one, Sudhir!

Not such good news for Stephenie, who just couldn't wrap her head around figuring out a "flavor profile." She (thankfully!) kept the name of her calorie-conscious restaurant Compleat, adding "Conscious Modern Fresh" to the logo and the slogan "Flavor You Can Count On," a nice little play on words. The problem was that no one knew what that flavor is. Bobby Flay really tore her apart, saying she was "playing it safe" and admonishing her to "stop counting -- find us the flavor." Fellow judge Lorena Garcia said Stephenie's food was "missing the soul." I think Steph finally understood that her restaurant has to be about the taste of the food in addition to the calorie count, which is a good thing because she narrowly missed elimination after landing in the bottom three. Watch out Stephenie; Bobby Flay seems to have it out for Compleat!

Stephenie was in the hot seat...the flavor hot seat

This week on RuPaul's Drag Race, the ladies were celebrating America by making videos for the troops. We got a little bit of background on Raja, who was born in the States but grew up in Indonesia, where America was seen as "the land of candy bars and M&Ms." She sported a pin-up girl look for her video, which featured the general theme of "freedom." I'm sorry to say that I once again found her performance stiff and somewhat mirthless. Guest judge Johnny Weir called her "a wet, dead fish," and I don't disagree.

Manila, on the other hand, went with a representation of America as "so many different kinds of food." Her video featured suggestive eating of different cuisines, loud farting, and being in bed with Lady Liberty. To borrow the judges' words again, I couldn't have put it better than Santino: "Relying on a fart joke ... your message of having freedom of choice got lost for me." I don't want to bring up my distaste for Manila's broad and unnuanced sense of humor for a third time, but ... fart jokes, you guys!

Manila goes for American subtlety

Both girls were safe, but there was a little flare-up backstage when Manila complained about the judges' critique of her blond wig. "Do I just have to be Asian all the time for them ... Sometimes I think that hey just want me to come out there with chopsticks and fans all the time." Shangela took the words right out of my mouth when she pointed out, "That's what you served from the beginning of the competition!" First of all, no one said that Manila had to be "Asian," just that the blond wig wasn't flattering. Secondly ... from day 1, her clothes and characters featured Asian themes. Who's to blame if that's what people come to expect after seeing it over and over? Perhaps it would also help if, when Manila did branch out, the areas she chose were a little less random and more sophisticated than Sesame Street and farts. I want to wholeheartedly like you, girl! Convince me that you're putting more than the bare minimum of thought into this!

Speaking of established themes, Raja's known for her "ethnic" outfits on the runway, but her look this week -- "a little bit Native American and a lot of rock 'n roll" -- left me feeling unsettled. I sound like the PC police over here, but the stereotypical headdress (dramatic though it is) and the ancient non-humor of "How" Native American "talk" is as tired as anything I've called Manila out for. Would love to see you work it beyond the visual, Raj. For me??

Yup, very new and unique.

Bit of a Native American theme this week, as Thia Megia sang "Colors of the Wind" on American Idol for Year You Were Born week. Which was 1995. Color me crypt keeper grey, seriously. Thia enunciated the Pocahontas idea with long, straight hair and a floor-length, mesh(?) brown dress. Her rendition was serviceable but not goosebumpy for me like last week's "Smile," and the judges were disappointed that she went with a ballad yet again. Randy compared her performance to a "boring pageant," describing it as "nothing special" and "safe." I wish I weren't such a hater this week, but I totally agree! I'm missing the swingy tempos and weirdo pronunciations from Thia's audition days. I'm falling asleep over here! See if you can stay awake right here.

The color of Thia's wind is that of sleepy ballads

On the plus side, Thia's parents are as adorable as ever. Is it creepy if I wish Mama Megia would sing the Dumbo song to me as I'm falling asleep? Yes? I don't care.

Not sure exactly what's going on here, but Lil' Thia is way too adorable.


Dianne Choie


Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.