Hyphen TV: So Darn Good with Computers

September 18, 2012

Your new, adorable MasterChef!

The fall television season is really getting underway, so we have a LOT to get through. First up: Christine won MasterChef! For her final meal, she stuck to simple, homemade Vietnamese fare, and once again I am blown away by her ability to cook her food to perfection without being able to see it. It was also nice to see Christine's husband and extended family cheer her on, and there was an especially sweet moment when Christine was feeling for her chef's knife during her cooking session (just thinking about that makes me nervous about cuts!) and her husband John shouted "to the right!" from up above in the rafters where he and Christine's former competitors were watching. Aww, teamwork.

Christine with her husband John (in light blue to the left) and their cute family. WEEP!

In the end, Christine's Thai papaya salad with crab and mixed veggies, braised pork belly with quail egg on top, and coconut lime sorbet won the judges over, and I'll admit that i got tears in my eyes when her win was announced. Congratulations, Christine! I'm definitely ready for all the amazingness you're about to unleash.

No such good news for Patricia on Top Chef Masters, who was eliminated after a tough challenge where the chefs had to prepare picnic meals (as in served cold) the night before Diner en Blanc, a flash mob-type of event where a huge group of people, all dressed in white, enjoy a fancy meal in a secret public location. Since they were serving dinner at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Patricia took inspiration from Marco Polo, cooking an edamame salad, bison with chili jam, and a sumac-dusted bread stuffed with curry, spanning the Italian, western Chinese, and north Indian flavors of Marco Polo's silk road journey. Unfortunately, the bread became stale after being left overnight, and the judges found the spiciness of the chili jam too overpowering for the bison. After an ongoing (and somewhat odd-seeming) rivalry with Lorena, the two landed in the bottom together, and Patricia was sent home. She raised $16K for Heifer International and definitely made me want to visit her restaurants.

Patricia almost looks a bit apologetic here, like she knows the bread in those bags is stale.

There are plenty of new competition shows starting up -- between The Voice and The X-Factor alone, we got what felt like 20 hours of auditions last week. Sadly, the only contestant to mention here was Uvay Trivedi on The X-Factor. After his audition, Simon told him, "If I were you I'd go out and buy a puppy...because the singing was awful." Aww. Hopefully we'll have other auditioners to discuss in the coming weeks!

Another new group of young singers appeared on the PBS documentary series Broadway or Bust, a three-part look at sixty teenagers from all over the country competing and performing in the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City. One of the students highlighted is Sabaa Sharma from Southaven, MS. Her extended Indian family is full of doctors and engineers, and Sabaa herself takes four AP classes in addition to lessons in piano, voice, and classical Indian music, but just a year ago she made the decision to go out on a limb and start performing. She got the lead in her school musical and won the contest that brought her to New York on her first try, so she's a bit greener than many of her fellow performers.

In describing herself, Sabaa says, "I'm a really internal person: I'm quiet, I don't share my feelings," so when she was rehearsing her solo piece, "The Light in the Piazza" from the musical of the same name, her coach literally pushed Sabaa around while she was singing, spinning her and throwing her all over the room to loosen up the tension in her body and focus on confidence. The experience clearly shook Sabaa up, both physically and mentally, but it's undeniable that her voice is gorgeous and she's a real contender in the competition (despite the fact that she's a pretty weak dancer). It's pretty incredible to see how much her coach was able to bring out in just a short amount of time.

Also acting as a coach is Telly Leung, an actor who has had numerous theater, film, and television roles (you may recognize him, as I did, as one of the Warblers on Glee). It's fascinating to watch Telly and the other coaches bring out the talent and passion of their young students, and I'm excited about this week's conclusion with the final performance and awards. If you've missed out on either of the first two episodes, they're all online on the show site.

And, we've got new scripted shows, too! The New Normal is about Bryan and David, a settled gay couple in Los Angeles who are looking to have a baby with surrogate Goldie. Goldie signed up to be a surrogate because she needs money after leaving her husband Clay, who Goldie catches cheating on her with -- surprise! -- Ming from Awkward. (Jessica Lu) playing Tabitha. Once I got over the shock of seeing a grown man sleeping with a person I had ingrained as a high schooler (ew), I was pleasantly surprised. Tabitha even got to return in the second episode when Goldie's grandmother enlisted her help in tracking down Goldie and her daughter, Shania. "You people are so darn good with computers. And thanks for helping build the railroads." Yes, that line from the completely racist (she's also homophobic!) grandmother is pretty cringe-y, but when's the last time you heard any primetime show recognize the Chinese American workers who helped build the nation's railroads. Progress? Maybe.

If I didn't confuse you enough in that last paragraph with all the show's characters, here's one more: David is an OB/GYN who is friends with other doctors, one of who is Amir (Ravi Patel). The first two episodes seem to have set us up for future doctor humor and gay guy/straight guy hijinks with these pals, so I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of Amir. Cool!

The Matthew Perry sitcom Go On premiered during the Olympics, but its second episode didn't air until last week. Perry plays Ryan, a sportscaster trying to move on after the death of his wife. The show is pretty split between his radio workplace, where he's under boss Steven (played by the wonderful John Cho), and his support group, which includes the uptight and rules-obsessed Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura). It's great to see a prominent actor playing the underling to a high-powered Asian American, but the Yolanda character (and much of the rest of the support group characters) is reading pretty one-dimensional at the moment. Hopefully she and the rest of the cast will get more depth in future episodes.

Steven approves of the work done by his minion

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about our regular shows! Alex had an absolutely gorgeous performance with Eliana on So You Think You Can Dance. I really can't overstate how happy I am that they brought Alex back as one of the all-stars this year. Woo!

I would probably faint at the sight of Alex Wong, too

I almost don't have to tell you what happened on Project Runway, right? It was the week when the designers were tasked with creating their own fabric patterns (this time with images "based on their cultural heritage"), so Ven drew -- guess! -- a pink flower. To be fair, the drawing was of a hibiscus, a flower that Ven explains are used in religious functions in India, and "if you look at a lot of the Indian gods, you'll see that they're holding one in their hand." Still, it's a pink flower. Coming from Ven, Yawn! When Tim came by and saw the folding technique Ven was using on his fabric (which totally concealed the image of the flower, by the way), he had a bit of a Gunn freak out. "I see an homage to a menstrual cycle...it looks like cloths that have soaked up blood...I just hope that no one's offended by it because it looks like a maxi pad." I have to say, that's not what came to mind when I first saw the garment, but the expanse of white with mystery blobs of dark pink...I see where Tim's coming from.

Okay this isn't the dress Tim had a problem with, but it's pretty lame

So Ven started over, and can you guess what he did? That folded rose pattern he's done every week! He draped the hibiscus fabric on top as a sort of afterthought. The judges (who included season 9 winner Anya) were not fans. "To me she looks like a Hawaiian airline hostess," Heidi said. "The flower on the bottom, which we've seen many times, looks like a rose. With the hibiscus together it doesn't flow." Couldn't agree more, Heidi. The double flower thing seems really odd. Michael said, "You gotta get to the next thing. You're a fabric florist at this time," and Anya added that it looked like three different dresses put together. Everyone was so shocked that Ven trotted out the same folding technique again that they actually brought Tim out during judging to see whether he'd ever tried to steer Ven away from repeating himself over and over. Tim has, of course, and added his two cents about Ven's original "menstrual" design. Ven was safe in the end, but Heidi issued her second warning to him: "I'm telling you, if we see this flower thing one more time..." Anyone want to take bets on whether he does it again? Or is no one that foolish?

Hi, Anya and Mondo! My two favorite winners.

Sullivan and Son, which got renewed for a second season, finished its first season the way it began: with a whole bunch of casual racism played for laughs. Old racist white dude, Hank, gets in trouble at work for his racist, sexist, and homophobic comments, and it's up to lawyer Steve and the guys at the bar (who happen to be multiracial, thank you) to get him out of his legal jam. In the end, the men's friendship overshadows Hank's close-minded comments, which is really a mixed message. So...making slanty eyes in a courtroom is okay as long as it's played for laughs and you're doing it in reference to a friend? Note that the man who accused Hank in the first place got in trouble himself for calling that gesture "slope eye." So two racist wrongs can make a right? I'm not offended by this outcome as much as confused about what they're trying to say, if anything. My guess is that it's probably closer to "nothing" than "anything."

Additionally, we had to get one last Ok-cha plot line in to really solidify what a hardass cheapskate she is because she's Korean. She and Susan have a mother-daughter bonding session when Susan gets her mom a fake senior citizen ID that gets her discounts. Ok-Cha is delighted, but readily dumps her daughter when she's caught -- until Susan offers to pay for her movie ticket. The out and out hatred that Ok-Cha has for her daughter also baffles me. I could understand a preference for a son over a daughter, but I really don't get the complete abhorrence for the daughter. Just another aspect of Sullivan and Son I'll have to ponder until next season.

Ok-Cha checks out her new ID while a caveman hangs out behind her

If all that wasn't enough, we have a couple late night hits: Steven Ho returned to Conan to show him some defense moves against guns and knives and in a men's room. All important things for anyone to know.

How will Steven get out of this jam?

And finally, Korean internet superstar Psy made a special appearance on Saturday Night Live. I've already said too much about the skit; just watch it right here.

Okay I've just totally spoiled it now. Just watch the video.


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.