Hyphen TV: Drag Race and Great Restaurant Finales, Bad News on Top Chef and ABDC

May 3, 2011

Sudhir Kandula assists a customer at the soft open of Spice Coast

I'll cut to the chase: America's Next Drag Superstar on RuPaul's Drag Race is none other than Raja! We knew it all along, girl. Manila fought the good fight and came in second. I couldn't be prouder of our Asian American drag sisters.

We got a little insight into the girls' lives when they sat down for a "luncheon" (read: Tic Tacs) with RuPaul (Raja's reaction upon seeing the spread: "Oh, is this Thanksgiving? I couldn't possibly!"). Manila discussed the fact that drag is a part of her life that her father doesn't like to be a part of. Raja shared her fear of intimacy and the duality of being an introvert in an extrovert's body -- she explained this as part of being a Gemini. She, too, was hoping that her parents would see how proud Raja is of who she is.

The top three await instruction from RuPaul

The girls filmed a music video for RuPaul's new single "Champion" (great, Ru has me shilling for her too), and everyone had some trouble during the sensual scenes with the "pit crew" guys: Raja's intimacy problems came up again, and Manila felt unfaithful to her boyfriend, fellow drag queen Sahara Davenport. They made it through the filming and impressed the judges on the runway afterward, Santino telling Raja that he loves her take on drag and Michelle calling Manila a pretty princess. Naming their own strengths and weaknesses, Manila admitted that she could be crazy, unpredictable, and stubborn, but she's always herself. Raja said with tears in her eyes that for the first time in her life she could say that she is a beautiful person.

One last round in the workroom

It came down to a lip synch battle for the two queens, and the judges had their final deliberation. About Manila, Ru said, "She's amazing, she can do anything," while Michelle said that "Manila is a superstar." Ru said that Raja is "heightened, intellectual, and special." In the end, the crown went to an emotional Raja, who reminded everyone again that "it's all right to be a social misfit." Love the message, love the lady. Congratulations, Queen Raja!

Unfortunately not such happy news for Sudhir on the finale of America's Next Great Restaurant. Though Spice Coast is this "newly minted" American citizen's "embodiment of the American dream," it wasn't meant to be, at least through the show. For the soft opening (which Sudhir called "the opening of my life"), he went full throttle with the Indian Chipotle idea, expanding on his Indian taco with a quesadilla and carnita. Sudhir wished his mother were there when he first saw his newly redesigned sign, and his wish partially came true when his sister and two of his best friends showed up. "It was the closest I've come to fainting," he said about spotting their entrance. Aww.

Are those avocados? Indian avocados?

The look of the store was clean and welcoming, and I liked that the seating was cheery cushions on wooden benches (though I immediately thought of how gross those cushions will get with all the spilled sauces and whatnot). The judges also liked the appearance, though they had their criticisms for Sudhir. Curtis didn't like how the menu seemed more Mexican than Indian, and Lorena didn't think Sudhir was engaged and ready to roll up his sleeves. In the final judging, Bobby Flay pointed out the Sudhir is a good organizer and inspired the people he works with, but the food was going in the wrong direction. Though Steve Ells pointed out that Spice Coast is "an opportunity for people to experience something completely different," they went with the soul food concept instead. In his final interview, Sudhir vowed to push forward with his idea, and I certainly hope that he does. I'll get my lunch there, man!

Glee was all about everyone's most embarrassing attributes. Mike pointed out Tina's blue contacts, calling her a "self-hating Asian," but she claimed she was just mirroring the non-Asian women she sees in the magazines. One Mike dance and tidy little life lesson lesson later, Tina decided, "If I don't have Asian sex symbols to look up to, I have to be one myself." Because that's how reasonable and self-aware teenagers are, yup. Okay, I guess that's the least of the show's problems. Still, NO ONE thinks/talks like that!!

Mike Chang, dance me away from the foolishness of the rest of this show.

There was a second generation Indian American woman who auditioned on the premiere of The Voice (NBC's Idol knockoff). Sonia Rao's adorable parents are extremely supportive of their daughter's singing career, but it worried me that she claimed to have no backup plan. If your ONLY option is a reality television show, I'm pretty concerned for you. Though Sonia's dad literally said "Wow" backstage during her performance and her mom muttered "Come on, push the button" to the judges from backstage, no one turned around (though Cee Lo did give her a "Hey, pretty girl" once he saw her), and so her time on the show -- and the full extent of her planning?? -- is over. Sorry Sonia! Love your parents, though.

Be glad that they couldn't see your poncho-boots combo, girl.

Floyd took another win on Top Chef Masters with his delicious-seeming and low-calorie meatball sub. Healthy and low fat options were key in this episode, and Floyd shared his own son's struggle with weight loss, even showing a photo of the poor slightly pudgy kid at 15. Cruel, dad! Even worse news, though: Suvir went home! Noooooooo! He decided to make a veggie burger for his low-cal cheeseburger dish, serving it with an impassioned description of the evils of red meat (much to the chagrin of Hugh, who followed the diatribe with his own serving of steak). The judges were unhappy with Suvir's extreme take on a burger, calling it "a lecture on a plate," and so he was given the boot. I am still crying a little. Your hilarious one-liners and flair for style will not be forgotten, Suvir.

Hugh's like, major meat damage control time; thanks, Suvir

Though it's a bit of a stale subject at this point, Olivia Munn had a sweet and pretty funny piece about Tiger Moms (specifically her own Tiger Mom) on the Daily Show. We got to see her adorable mom at home, who pointed out the dent in the refrigerator from when she banged her daughter's head into it. This was contrasted with Munn's interviews with Caucasian women who are vehemently against the type of harsh parenting that Mrs. Munn employed. Watch right here.

Margaret Cho had a bizarre and hilarious turn as Kim Jong-il on this week's 30 Rock. Though (s)he kidnapped Jack's wife Avery, we also got to see the 30 Rock take on the North Korean propaganda machine and Kim's buddy cop comedies with Tracy Jordan. I'm still a bit disturbed by Avery's demise (she'll be back eventually...right?), but I enjoyed the Team America-esque take on the dictator. Well done, Margaret!

Margaret Cho as the neutrals-loving Kim Jong-il

Over on America's Best Dance Crew, IaMmE and Instant Noodles were both voted to safety while Street Kingdom and Request landed in the bottom. Considering that D-trix was moved to tears by Street Kingdom's routine and called it "the best performance I've ever seen in my life," it's no surprise that Request was sent home. The ladies were clearly crushed, and I felt the same, particularly with not-so-awesome crews (sorry Iconic Boys ... and yes, Instant Noodles) still on the show. So much love, Request! You guys are fierce and deserved to go so much further! Weep.

I promise that not all of America is that mean, Request!


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.



On The Voice, Dia Frampton and Sara Oromchi are both Asian! Dia is Korean and Dutch, and Sara is Japanese and Persian. Kewl.

Julia Eason is also of part Japanese and Korean descent--more on all three ladies in my new post going up Tuesday! Thanks for dropping in.