Hyphen TV: Stupid Beard

January 3, 2012

Sara next to her very ethereal-looking paper crane installation

Happy new year, fellow television fans! I know it's been tough getting through this past week or so with no new episodes of anything (thank goodness for marathons of What Not to Wear and Tabitha's Salon Takeover), but I hope you all managed and had happy times with loved ones and whatever. Now, onto the shows we haven't yet discussed!

Work of Art finished out its okay season with an okay finale. As Tim Gunn had established, we got to see the finalists' homes as Simon visited each of them to check on their progress. First stop was Chicago, where we met Young's cute boyfriend Mark and even cuter mother Suzy. Young is working on a traveling photography piece that involves a structure based on the security platforms at the president's house in Korea. Huh? Simon is Concerned about the dryness of the maps Young is marking and the disconnected nature of what looks to be a totally random structure popping up in different places. But then -- what do you know -- Simon spots Young's collection of his late father's shirts and other possessions, which he may incorporate into his show. Simon encourages him to do so. Phew, sighs a nation.

Young's like, "Try to not be distracted by my outfit, Simon..."

At Sara's in Brooklyn, we meet her also-cute boyfriend Jim and see her performance art piece in which she wore a slightly freaky bird mask/belly and got people on the street to write down confessions for deposit into her bird art belly. Right. In the studio, the confessions are hanging up, a mattress is pierced by a whole bunch of hypodermic needles (okay, THAT is freaky) in a take on one person's drug-related confession, Sara's talking spiderwebs, she changed her painting style to do caricatures of the people she encountered ... and Simon is Concerned again. Not so into the new style or the sculptures he saw. Aw man, you guys.

Fast forward a month to the final gallery presentation. Young's show ("Bool-sa-jo" which is "phoenix" in Korean), per Simon's suggestion, is now almost entirely centered on his late father, with photos of the elder Han from childhood through his final days in the hospital, a room filled with Young's father's shirts hanging from clotheslines, and shrines like the one Simon spotted with stacks of journals, books, and photographs. Also incorporated are projections of Young's boyfriend. And of course, the old platform. The pieces didn't all quite gel for me, though I do appreciate how scary it must have been for Young to share such an incredibly intimate part of himself and his family.

A quietly moving homage to Young's father

Sara's show ("Anonymous Contemplations") includes a projection of her confession-gathering performance, the needled mattress we saw earlier, complete revisions of the portraits that Simon didn't like before (I prefer these new ones as well), and hundreds of white paper cranes arranged to look like they're flying out of a huge antique birdcage en masse. The latter piece is stunning, but I have to say that I've seen the "thousand paper cranes flying" thing a loooot of times before. Again, it's not all coming together for me, but I do like the individual pieces in Sara's show quite a bit. The sum is somehow less than its parts, though.

Sara's bird head and egg belly. Would you confess to that thing?

In their crit, the judges were complimentary toward both shows. Jerry pointed out that Young may have explained too much without leaving enough mystery. A pretty good description of much of the work we've seen from Young, I think. Bill noted that Sara's show felt disjointed, comparing it to a short story collection. Again, I can't disagree. Sara was eliminated first out of the three, and then Young came in second to Kymia. Bummer that neither of our guys took home the prize, but I'm genuinely glad that they got so much exposure, and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them (for once I would believe the reality show "You haven't heard the last of me" send-off) down the road. Congrats, guys!

In Top Chef Land, the chefs were moved to Austin, Paul's hometown. The Quickfire challenge involved the chefs' taking instructions from people on Twitter (lame), and Paul won, bringing glory to Austin and another $10K to his pocket. Beverly was also in the top, but Ed landed in the bottom for burning his hash. Never burn your hash, everyone.

For their elimination challenge, the chefs had to create a dish inspired by the person who taught them to cook. For Ed, his grandmother immediately came to mind. Because they didn't have money to buy meat, she cooked young Ed many a vegetarian meal. She also kept him from being a delinquent or having a "stupid beard." Aw, grandmalove. Paul also turned to his grandmother for inspiration, deciding to cook adobo like she used to make. You guys? I've talked before in this space about how much I heart Filipino food. Can you even begin to imagine adobo cooked by Paul? Happiness insanity.

Beverly made kalbi jim (braised Korean short ribs -- another fave of mine, FYI) in honor of her mother. She also talks about her son and how hard it is to be away from him, especially with all the bullying going on. Ahem, Heather. Spoiler alert: this is foreshadowing!

Judges' table. Guest judge Patti LaBelle (who is deLIGHTful; I hope they bring her back again) says that she is "not a quail girl," but she loves the quail in Paul's adobo. The other judges also admire his use of mango and herbs (not to get obsessive, but could that sound ANY more delicious?!). They also love Beverly's short ribs, complimenting the texture, color, and flavor (keep this information in your back pocket too). Though Ed worries that his vegetarian bibimbap is too simple, the judges are complimentary and deem it authentic.

Ed is filled with food-squeezin' glee

Ol' Bev-hater Heather is one of the first three chefs called before the judges. She's in the bottom! Yesss. But if that wasn't great enough, she was called out for not cooking her meat properly. She tried to cover herself by saying that she didn't want to use the pressure cooker, but Tom responded by saying, "Well, Beverly used the pressure cooker, and she's not here." I'm sorry, say that again? Because that was absolutely delicious. For Heather to be scolded is fantastic enough, but to be specifically, negatively compared to Beverly? Awwww yeah. Spoiler alert again: Heather was sent home! Woo hoo! Could have used a little more explanation of what was going on with both her and Beverly after the previous week's fallout, but I'm just glad the bully is outta here.

Meanwhile, Ed and Beverly (seriously, there was SO much retribution in this episode) landed in the top three. Padma also noted that it was Ed's second time in the top, and asked him what's it's like "to be on a roll." Weird of you to ask that, Padma, but the somewhat out of character comment was nice. Though Patti thought Ed's dish was "amazing" and Tom thinks that Beverly's mother would be proud of her dish, neither of them took the top slot this week. But that's okay because I'm still glowing from Heather's getting what she deserves. Can't wait to get a little Beverly interview time on that topic this week.

I couldn't find a triumphant Beverly photo, but this one will do. Yay!

And finally, wedding planner and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills occasional player Kevin Lee was on Conan. I hate to say that it was a deliriously awkward interview, with Kevin hitting seemingly every Asian and gay male stereotype out there. His thick accent and unnatural (at least it felt that way to me) take on "comedy" and "fabulousness" fell pretty flat with Conan, who is pretty boisterous himself. I don't have quite enough knowledge to fully back this observation up, but Kevin's whole deal struck me as particularly Korean (not Korean American, please note): there's something about Korean comics that harkens back to a sort of fop or jester character, playing out homosexuality as comical in a culture that will not acknowledge it. It's difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where I see this in Kevin's demeanor, and anyone who can help or disprove me, please chime in, but there's something about his behavior that reminds me of Korean comedy acts I've seen. Maybe I'm totally insane on this count. Judge for yourself here, but prepare to cringe at least a little.

Yup, that's him. Dressed as equestrian Michael Jackson.


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.



Making Kymia Asian American, too?

Thanks for your comment, catherine. You bring up an interesting point that's related to an issue I've raised on the TV blog before: who do we count as "Asian Americans" on TV? The Middle East is considered part of Western Asia (though there are obviously strong ties to Eastern Europe and Northern Africa, depending on where you're talking about), but not all Middle Eastern Americans necessarily self-identify as Asian American. Hyphen has certainly covered Iranian Americans in other areas, and I'm happy to be convinced that I should indeed write about people on television of Middle Eastern descent. This is not an area I'm terribly well-versed in, so I'm curious to hear what Hyphen blog readers think.