Scene & Heard

Pat Clark: ‘Master Chef’ helps heat up summer TV season

pclark@modbee.comJune 5, 2014 

With its fifth season just underway, this food competition show fanatic finally – finally! – has clued in and started watching Fox’s “Master Chef.”

Why I ignored this show for so long, I can’t really say. It likely flew under my radar because one viewing long ago of “Hell’s Kitchen” put me off Gordon Ramsay, who’s the lead judge/host of “Master Chef.”

But the Ramsay ever so briefly seen on “Hell’s Kitchen” isn’t really the Ramsay on “Master Chef.” I prepped for Season 5 of the food competition show – which pits home cooks against one another for $250,000, a cookbook deal and the titular honor – by watching Season 4 on ye olde tablet. It turns out that Ramsay, while a particularly biting (ha! biting) critic, isn’t the toughest or the most irritating judge/host on the show.

Oh, no, that guy would be Joe Bastianich, a chef and restaurant owner who comes across as so incredibly pompous and rude, it’s almost funny. He has to be playing a role, because if he truly is like this in real life – and, granted, he sadly might be – then he’s a real piece of pretentious work.

The third judge/host is celebrity chef Graham Elliot, who is the voice of kindness and reason. I like Elliot. I liked him when he competed on “Top Chef Masters.” And I was bowled over by the amount of weight he lost between Seasons 4 and 5 of “Master Chef.”

Elliot is the glue that holds the egos of Ramsay and Bastianich to the floor so they don’t float up and completely overshadow an otherwise solid cooking competition show.

It’s no “Top Chef,” mind you. And it’s woefully overwrought with dramatic pause. The worst offense, however, is how Ramsay keeps calling “Master Chef” the biggest cooking competition “in the world.”

I take umbrage with that. Like all similar cooking competitions that have come after Bravo’s “Top Chef,” “Master Chef” is a second-tier copy. And, dear Mr. Ramsay, “Top Chef” remains the biggest cooking competition in the world.

So there.

Season 5 of “Master Chef” began in late May, just one of many summer premières that keep TV-aholics happy during the once-dead season. Several favorite and lauded summer series have just started or are about to begin. Actually, more than several. A lot.

I don’t watch all of them – can’t in some cases, since I lack the premium channels – but I can pick out several that viewers will be happy to see return. There also are some new shows debuting this season that, at least on paper, look intriguing. Others are noteworthy for their ridiculousness.

Here’s a rundown of a few new and returning summer shows (some descriptions are from wire reports):

•  “Derek” – Season 2 of the comedy-drama about a group of outsiders, starring Ricky Gervais as the title character, who works in a home for the elderly, became available in May on Netflix.

•  “Crossbones” – This new show from the creator of “Luther” began in late May and is an action-drama about Edward Teach, better known as the barbarous pirate Blackbeard (John Malkovich). Fridays on NBC.

•  “The Next Food Network Star” – You know I’m watching this one. Season 10 of the competition show that rewards its winner with his or her own cooking show airs Sundays on Food Network.

•  “Halt and Catch Fire” – Set in the early 1980s, this new series dramatizes the personal computing boom as a small company confronts the corporate behemoths, starring Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”). Sundays on AMC.

•  “Orange Is the New Black” – Season 2 is available beginning today of the acclaimed dramedy about a young upper-class woman sentenced to prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime. All episodes became available after midnight on Netflix.

•  “Royal Pains” – The drama about a concierge doctor in the Hamptons begins Season 6 Tuesday on USA.

•  “Suits” Moving from Thursdays, the legal drama begins Season 4 Wednesday on USA.

•  “Graceland” – The sophomore season for the undercover cop drama starts Wednesday on USA.

•  “Perception” – Season 3 about a neuroscientist and professor (Eric McCormack) recruited to help the federal government crack difficult cases debuts June 17 on TNT.

•  “The Last Ship” – This new series from Michael Bay and starring Eric Dane (“Grey’s Anatomy”) is about the aftermath of a global catastrophe that nearly decimates the world’s population. The crew of a Navy destroyer must confront the new reality. Premières June 22 on TNT.

•  “Rising Star” – A new singing competition has Josh Groban as host and Kesha, Ludacris and Brad Paisley as experts. June 22 on ABC.

•  “True Blood” – This will mark the seventh and final season of the popular vampire drama. June 22 on HBO.

•  “Covert Affairs” – The fifth season of the spy thriller. June 24 on USA.

•  “Tyrant” – After a 20-year exile, the younger son of a dictator brings his American family back to his turbulent Middle Eastern nation. June 24 on FX.

•  “Big Brother” – The 16th season of the reality show. This is still on the air? June 25, CBS.

•  “The Leftovers” – This new drama takes place in the wake of a mysterious global disappearance that some believe is the biblical rapture and centers on the people not taken in a suburban community. It’s big-name stars include Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler. June 29, HBO.

•  “Under the Dome” – OK, so here’s the deal: Last summer, this was supposed to be a one-time miniseries based on a Stephen King novel. No. 1, it bore only passing resemblance to the book (yes, I read it). No. 2, it did so well in the ratings that CBS extended it into a full series. Did I mention I’m completely peeved that it not only didn’t follow the book, it also didn’t wrap up as promised last year? Of course, I’ll have to watch to see how they (try to) pull this off. The sci-fi drama explores the mystery of the massive, transparent, indestructible dome. June 30, CBS.

•  “Extant” – This one has major star pedigree. Halle Berry is a female astronaut who returns home to her family after a year conducting experiments in outer space, only to find strange goings-on on Earth. July 9 on CBS.

•  “Masters of Sex” – Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan return in this acclaimed series as real-life sex researchers Masters and Johnson in what looks to be an even wilder second season. July 13, Showtime.

•  “The Strain” – A new thriller from Guillermo del Toro is about a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. July 13 on FX.

•  “LeAnn & Eddie” – Apparently, Eddie Cibrian wants a piece of what his ex-wife, Brandi Glanville, has on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” This “scripted reality” show features the actor and his latest wife, country singing star LeAnn Rimes. July 17, VH1.

•  “Food Fighters” – Well, it’s another new food competition, so I’m in. This new series mixes the cooking and game show genres. July 22, NBC.

•  “The Quest” – Reality TV just keeps getting more bizarro. This competition series has 12 people competing in a fantasy (bizarro) world. July 31, ABC.

•  “Bachelor in Paradise” – Oh, just give it a rest, already. This new series features former “Bachelor” stars getting one more chance. Aug. 4, ABC.

•  “Legends” – Based on Robert Littell’s novel of the same name, this series centers on a talented deep-cover FBI agent (Sean Bean) who begins to question his identity following an encounter with a mysterious stranger. Aug. 13, TNT

•  “Dallas” – I was in when this show was rebooted. But after the death of Larry Hagman and, hence, the loss of J.R. Ewing, it lost its luster. Maybe I’ll try it as the third season picks up after the first part aired in the spring. Aug. 18, TNT.

A final note: One of my favorite competition/reality shows, “Project Runway,” is set to return for its 13th season sometime in July, according to the show’s Facebook page. When in July? You tell me. What I can tell you is that a designer booted from a previous season will return thanks to fan-vote contest Runway Redemption. July, TBA, on Lifetime.

Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at pclark@modbee.com.

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