Wednesday, September 25, 2019

This Is Us 4.01: “Strangers”

“It’s so strange, isn’t it? How a complete stranger can become such a huge part of your story.”
- Rebecca

The Pearsons are back and even though we didn’t spend a lot of time with them this episode, it still felt so good to have them back on our screens. I know some people were probably annoyed or unhappy with the new characters they introduced in the episode but as much s I love Jack and Rebecca, they will run out of story to tell and we need to expand. We’ve got a whole host of other characters to explore and increase their orbit.

We do catch up with Jack and Rebecca as they are getting back from their cross-country road trip. They exchange adorable goodbyes about not calling each other first and then of course, Jack calls her. She invites him to dinner with her parents and their friends at a fancy country club and Jack being Jack, tells her not to worry about anything. He goes to a store to buy a suit—even though we know he’s strapped for cash and jobless—and he meets Miguel! I think their friendship is born partly out of Miguel letting Jack take the sport coat since they aren’t doing any alterations and lets Jack just tuck the tag away and return it a week later. Hopefully without that little bit of lobster he got on it at dinner. Honesty, I wasn’t surprised by the way Rebecca’s parents acted and treated Jack. They clearly don’t have a high opinion of him, no matter what Rebecca’s dad says after dinner. But as we know, Jack isn’t giving up that easy and he wins out in the end. I did love how he matter-of-factly told them that his parents aren’t worth much and he lost a lot in the war. It was eloquent in that beautiful Jack Pearson way. And the night ends with Jack and Rebecca going to one of her old haunts and her singing during open mic night.

Throughout the episode we are introduced to several new characters. There’s Cassie Sharp, a Marine clearly dealing with PTSD and alcoholism. There’s Malik and his parents and his little (very adorable) baby girl. And there’s the unnamed blind musician and his cute diner waitress. I wasn’t entirely sure where any of these storylines were going until we got to the end of the episode. I wasn’t surprised by Cassie’s storyline necessarily. I was a little surprised by the waitress and musician and Malik’s storyline just makes me grin ear to ear.

When we first meet Cassie, she’s overseas in the Middle East, trying to get intel from a local woman. She’s ultimately successful but the higher ups change their plans and take out the terrorist they got intel on. It killed at least eight civilians. We also learn (and I have to believe it’s fairly accurate because I don’t see Dan Fogelman not doing his homework) they pay civilians $1,200 per death as compensation. That’s honestly horrible and sickening. And it brings Cassie to a point where when her husband tells her their water heaters is busted and will cost $1,200 to fix, she kind of goes into a trance and ends up hitting her son, Matt. Her husband kicks her out of the house for what she’s done (and the drinking no doubt) and she ends up at an AA meeting. As she’s talking about how she can’t feel anything, someone throws something through the window and we see Nicky standing there, sucking down booze. We later see that its’ the Big Three’s birthday and Kevin gets called to go deal with Nicky’s situation. So maybe people are right and she will be the mother of Kevin’s child in the future.

Malik and his family end up being from Philadelphia. He’s got to work now that he’s got a baby to support but when he tries to get in on some shady business from one of his customers—gang affiliated I’m assuming—his dad ends up dissuading him. I’m really interested to see Malik’s story and what brought him to this place. By the end of the episode we find him at his friend’s house where he meets Deja. By the look she gives Randall when she gets back, she’s clearly smitten. That’s going to be an interesting situation to bring Randall and Beth into when Deja finds out about his daughter.

Lastly, we have our blind musician (who I learned is actually both blind and a musician) and the waitress. He’s got a little dog (it looks kind of like an American Eskimo actually) who ends up breaking a plate so he’s got to go out for breakfast where he meets Lucy. She’s a waitress with aspirations of owning her own restaurant. We briefly see their friendship develop into a courtship and marriage before we see her reveal that she’s pregnant. Our musician is thrilled and we see him take the stage at the end of the episode, introduced as Jack Damon. As in, Toby and Kate’s son. We see them learn that he’s got retinopathy and he likely won’t every regain his sight. He’ll see lights and darks a little and some blurred shapes but that’s it. That really struck me that they’d really consider the effects of him being born at 28 weeks. It also hits close to home because that’s the same eye condition I have. I have more usable vision than Jack but still, it’s lovely see a character I can relate to. I know we likely won’t get a ton of Jack and Lucy and the next generation of the Pearson/Damon clan but I really hope we see him again because he’s very pretty to look at and he’s got a great voice. And I love that they are playing the musical skill through the generations from Rebecca to Kate to Jack.

This felt a little bit like the pilot in how it revealed the timelines at the end of the episode but I’m not mad about that. I’m intrigued by the new characters we’ve met and can’t’ wait to see how they enhance and deepen the lives of our core family.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2019: The Aftermath

“And for that, I am here. And for that, my children are here. So step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.”
-Alex Borstein

I have mixed feelings about Sunday night’s Emmy telecast. Overall, because it was hostless, it was very disjointed. On the other hand, there were some interesting winners and inspirational acceptance speeches. On the whole, though, it wasn’t much to write home about. I suppose the fact that the telecast ended on time was a blessing, although it probably ended on time because of the lack of performance bits that a host would probably provide. I generally don’t mind if a show goes a little over (not too over, though) if fun performance bits break up the monotony of distributing the awards. I’m a fan of Broadway-style song and dance numbers, so I want all the theatrics with my awards telecasts.

I was most curious about how the show would open with no host, and it turned out that it would be a combination of Homer Simpson, Anthony Anderson, and Bryan Cranston. The telecast started with an animation of Homer about to start hosting the show and falling through the stage. Anthony Anderson then took over and tried to get the show back on track. This entailed trying to find someone with enough gravitas to start the show off right. Since he is an Emmy winner, Bryan Cranston fit the bill, and he performed admirably. This is where there would usually be a host making fun of a lot of the folks in the room, but without a host, that didn’t happen. I would imagine the self-serious celebrities who don’t like the usual roasting at the beginning of an awards show appreciated this development.

Ben Stiller then introduced the comedy awards, and the doling out of the hardware began. Tony Shalhoub won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which I appreciated, since he is indeed excellent on the show. His acceptance speech was amusing and pointed out that Amy and Dan Palladino basically fill every role on the show’s production crew (writer, director, producer, etc.). Alex Borstein also was a “Maisel” repeat, winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. I was most surprised that she was sitting in the audience with Seth MacFarlane. I didn’t realize they were co-stars on “Family Guy,” which makes me a bad nerd. I spent most of the rest of the telecast frantically Googling and watching my Twitter feed to try and figure out if they are in a relationship or just friends (my research was inconclusive, by the way). Borstein went on to give an amazing acceptance speech where she invoked how her grandmother survived the Holocaust (it’s quoted above). I completely missed it in real time because I was so busy googling “Alex Borstein Seth MacFarlane.” Because my priorities are apparently messed up.

There were a few other little gags that were presumably included in the show thanks to the lack of a host. Comedian Thomas Lennon did commentary and voice over (he kept up the tradition started by John Hodgeman of saying funny things about people as they walked up to accept their award. He had one joke that was a pretty sick Felicity Huffman burn (basically a shout out to an Emmy winner he understood was spending a couple weeks in jail). Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel also did a really funny bit that was basically all about how having no host for an awards show sucks (it does!).

Less successful was the creative team’s attempt to have a sort of “in memoriam” for shows that completed their final seasons in the past year. There was a moment where the entire cast of “Game of Thrones” was invited to come out on the stage and be applauded for wrapping the show before they presented an award. The same thing was done for “Veep,” as well, although that went a little better because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a pro and is hilarious. Hugh Laurie introduced that bit, and Tony Hale got in on the gag by continuing to hover around Julia like his character does on the show. To top it all off, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson introduced a video montage that was basically an in memoriam for a bunch more shows that recently ended. It was weird, and “The Big Bang Theory” was basically the centerpiece. Oddly, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” was not included in the montage, when it absolutely should have been.

There were some other interesting winners outside of the comedy world. John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” won a bunch of awards, which made me happy because John Oliver is awesome and has really been an exceptional torch carrier for the type of smart, informed comedy Jon Stewart perfected on “The Daily Show.” A show I had never heard of before, “Fleabag,” which is available on Amazon, also won a great deal of awards. It appears to involve some raunchy British humor, so I will be checking it out at some point, no doubt. Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (beating out Julia Louis-Dreyfus of all people!), and the show itself won for Outstanding Comedy. While “Game of Thrones” didn’t win many individual awards (Peter Dinklage did pick up another Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama trophy, though), the show did receive the Outstanding Drama award, presumably as a going away present. Actually, I think the fact that so many actors from the show were nominated hurt it certain categories by splitting the vote. That fact did make for more variety of winner, though, which brought some much needed interest to an otherwise lackluster telecast. Can we have a host again next year, please?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2019: The Players

I’ll admit I haven’t been watching a ton of scripted TV lately (the latest season of “Glow” is awesome, though, by the way). The real world is too stressful and dramatic right now for me to want to add more stress and dramatics in my downtime. I’ve been writing about the Emmys here at MTVP for a decade now, though, so I’ve still got some opinions I’d like to share. As always, my usual disclaimer: I’m not a professional awards prognosticator. There are plenty of better known sources you can go to on the internet for that. My choices here might not even be who/what should objectively win. There is so much TV these days, and I’ve scaled back on my watching at the same time, so there’s plenty of Emmy-worthy stuff I haven’t even seen. This is just a few categories where there is a particular possibility of a winner whose work has made me happy. Also, a brief aside, there will be no host for tonight’s telecast on FOX, so I don’t have that to chat about here, either, this year. The choice of host is always one of my favorite things to speculate about, so I’m a little disappointed. Just because the Oscars couldn’t get their act together to choose a decent host this year doesn’t mean the Emmys had to follow suit. Anyway, with that, on to the discussion of specific categories.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nomiees:

Christina Applegate (Dead to Me)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)
Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll)
Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek)
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep)

My Pick: Rachel Brosnahan

I’m going with Rachel Brosnahan for this one because hers is the only show I’ve seen. Applegate, O’Hara, and Louis-Dreyfus are all seasoned comediennes, and I’m sure they have turned in outstanding performances. I do especially want to try watching “Schitt’s Creek” someday, because I’ve heard great things. But as of today, I’ve only seen “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Brosnahan has been consistently fantastic in it. She can be subtle, such as when you can sense how much pain her mother running away to Paris has caused her, and she’s also not afraid to be big and completely go for broke in any stand-up comedy scene. I think that broad range of talent makes her a deserving winner in this category of very talented women.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Sarah Goldberg (Barry)
Sian Clifford (Fleabag)
Olivia Colman (Fleabag)
Betty Gilpin (GLOW)
Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)
Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Anna Chlumsky (Veep)

My Pick: Betty Gilpin

In some ways, this one was tough for me to make a pick, and it some ways, it wasn’t at all. Seeing Betty Gilpin’s name here was pretty much the only nomination that has gotten me really exited out of the whole shebang. On the other hand, Marin Hinkle and Alex Borstein both turn in consistent excellent performances on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The sequence where Rose (Hinkle) goes to Paris in season two is especially memorable. Betty Gilpin, however, is a tour de force. I’m actually surprised she was submitted as a supporting actress instead of a lead actress (it was probably strategic), considering she was the glue holding GLOW season three together. Her character Debbie’s struggles balancing being a mom with advancing her career was really compelling to watch. I appreciated her determination to try and find the right balance that worked for her. I also appreciated that Debbie could be ruthless (I won’t spoil the end of season three if you haven’t watched it yet, but she’s definitely ruthless). There are also plenty of moments where she shows her humanity, as well, especially in her friendship with Ruth. Gilpin handles it all effortlessly and deserves all the kudos.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

The Nominees:

Bill Hader (Barry)
Don Cheadle (Black Monday)
Anthony Anderson (black-ish)
Eugene Levy (Schitt’s Creek)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method)

My Pick: Ted Danson

This was another tough category for me, as I have seen and enjoyed the work of most of the actors on the nominee list. The inclusion of Eugene Levy again makes me really want to catch up on “Schitt’s Creek” (I’ve watched too many Christopher Guest films to not be excited about another Levy/O’Hara team-up). Since “The Good Place” is the only show I’ve watched, however, and Ted Danson is excellent in it, I’ve got to give him the nod. I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I have only seen seasons one and two of “The Good Place” thus far (planning to watch season three soon to get this blog caught up), but at least in those two seasons, Danson successfully left me wondering whether his character, Michael, was good or evil. Of course, he’s a demon, so there’s at least a bit of an evil core there, but he does seem to be genuinely trying to help the humans, though. I’m still wondering, though, since he also seems to care quite a bit about saving his own skin, if he’ll keep trying to save them. Only time will tell!

Outstanding Competition Program

The Nominees:

American Ninja Warrior
Nailed It!
RuPaul’s Drag Race
The Amazing Race
The Voice
Top Chef

My Pick: Nailed It!

I still love “Top Chef,” and this past season in Kentucky was fantastic, but I’ve got to give this one to “Nailed It!” for trying to do something different. In a world of food TV where everyone is striving for perfection, “Nailed It!” stands out for showcasing ordinary people just trying to do their best with extraordinary baking tasks. The results are what we’d expect when any of us civilians (as opposed to pastry chefs) decides to try and recreate some beautiful decorated baked good we saw on Pinterest. The show embraces the ordinary. Hosts Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres also have fantastic chemistry and play well off each other. Byer, a comedienne, goes for the joke whenever she can and has a really big personality. Torres, an acclaimed chocolatier, lends some prestige to the proceedings, but he also is always game for some banter with Byer. The combination of all this is the perfect way to get sucked into a major Netflix binge.

The Good Place 3.01: “Everything is Bonzer!”

“I know what you mean. My goal in life was to be completely different, too.”
- Michael

When we last left our core four, Michael had convinced the Judge to send them back to earth as living people to see if they could be better people. Throughout this episode, we see Michael go down to earth and save them all from the incidents that would have killed him. But, unfortunately, while they all have short-lived bouts of wanting to be better people, inevitably, all four revert back to their original selves. Eleanor gets bored of being good, Chidi suggests a friend get in shape and his friend then ends up seriously injured. Tahani spends time in a Buddhist monastery for a while until a news reporter finds her and she ends up back in the spotlight and Jason assembles a dance crew but after repeatedly losing competitions, he goes back to a life of crime.

Despite the Judge’s instruction that the core four needs to succeed on their own Michael can’t sit by and just let them all fail. He’s invested in this little experiment and against Janet’s better judgement, he goes back down to push them together. He thinks at first that it just needs to be Eleanor and Chidi. He had a lot of fun playing the bartender for Eleanor and the librarian (whom Eleanor dubbed as sexy) and it does get Eleanor to head to Australia to ask Chidi for help. I enjoyed the little forays into the year of their lives from when they had their near-death experience and where they end up during the present timeline of the episode. I also found it interesting that there is going to be a love interest for Chidi, just so that he and Eleanor don’t’ end up together too fast. Clearly as it stands now, they have very little in common. Although, it was pretty funny to see Eleanor play match maker while Chidi underwent another MRI. It does seem like a semi-reformed Eleanor thing to do.

This prodding by Eleanor sparks Chidi’s third thesis idea (thank goodness he dumped the first one). He wants to study survivors of near-death experiences and see what impact it has on ethical decision-making. And he gets to partner with Simone, the neuroscientist that he’s now kind of dating. As much as I want Eleanor and Chidi to be together I kind of like Simone as a romantic prospect for Chidi. She’s bubbly and quirky and fits into the group really nicely. I like that she has a way of bringing Chidi out of his shell.

I think I liked Michael’s persona the most when he was talking to Jason. I feel like he was able to get Jason to express himself. It was honestly the first time we’ve really seen Jason act like not a complete idiot. He had feelings and emotions and he didn’t sound like a dope. He was invested in his dance crew until he got caught stealing to try and pay rent on the rehearsal space. I just know that Michael’s little scheme to get all four back together is going to backfire somehow. The Judge isn’t that stupid. She was pretty all knowing last season. I can’t imagine she would see past Michael’s antics. And it may be sooner than he expects. Then again, he is convinced he made it through without anyone the wiser. He even bribed the Doorman with a frog covered insulated mug for his decaf anti-matter. I highly suspect the “key” made from the first atoms of the universe is going to come into play before the end of the season. They made a big deal about it. It can’t just be a throw-away gag. On his last trip, I thought Michael may have used the mug to distract the Doorman while he took the key. But, I think the Doorman would have realized it before Michael had a chance to get away. Still, it has to come back at some point.

While the Judge may not be aware of Michael’s meddling yet, Sean, Michael’s demon boss, is certainly aware. He has demons working to hack the Judge’s system so they can see what’s going on down on earth. They finally get access during Michael’s last trip down to earth. I was half-expecting Sean to pop down to earth and try to directly mess with our gang. But, it turns out he’s going to use one of his lackeys to do his dirty work. He sends one of the demons who got run over by a train in the fake Good Place to be part of Chidi’s study. Michael and Janet see this at the end of the episode and realize it’s bad. I will be interested to see where this goes.

Overall, I think I enjoyed this episode more than the season 2 premiere. Part of it was because we didn’t rehash the same plot line we’d spent all of the first season building to over and over again. I liked that we got to fill in the blanks on their lives during their second chance but we still ended up with everyone together by the end. I do think they have a lot of chemistry together and you can see little hints of the people they will become. I still think Jason and Tahani have the farthest to go but I suspect they will eventually get there. That said, I’m not sure where they can go with the storyline after this season. I’m assuming the whole season will be spent on earth trying to get them be good people so that they get into the real Good Place. Still, even if they are successful, to me that feels like a series ending arc. Given the popularity of the show and the caliber of the cast, I don’t see the network saying goodbye after only three brief seasons. NBC needs more successful comedies and they aren’t going to want to let this one go anytime soon.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Good Place 2.12: "Somewhere Else"

“The point is, we’ve all gotten better. Why should we have to go live alone in a boring void because of a messed up system? How is that justice?”

The second season finale of “The Good Place” gave us yet another of the show’s signature twists. I think part of what makes “The Good Place” such an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch is that the paradigm is always changing. In that sense, it kind of reminds me of “Fringe” about ten years ago, which really got interesting when the creative team worked to flip the script each season for the last three seasons or so. Both with “Fringe” and with “The Good Place,” sometimes the twist works and sometimes it doesn’t (can Chidi and Eleanor just be together already without all this rebooting!), but I always appreciate the effort to try something different and keep things fresh. I have a feeling that Mike Schur and the team at “The Good Place” will keep us entertained with their creativity for some time to come.

We pick up with this episode in the Judge’s court room, where Michael is trying to argue that the Good/Bad Place system is fundamentally flawed and our four humans shouldn’t be punished for it. After all, they have become “better” since their death, and the current system, which just tallies up what you did in life, doesn’t account for that. Tahani and Eleanor chat while the judge is figuring out what she’s going to do, and they actually acknowledge that they have become friends, which was nice. Janet also takes the opportunity to appear next to Jason and confess her love for him. And yes, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of Japan Youtube, and the Japanese concept of “confession” pretty perfectly describes what Janet does here. Chidi has an epiphany when he sees this, and he grabs Eleanor and kisses her. Eleanor’s response is to say “hot diggity dog!,” which she is embarrassed by at first, but then she decides to own it. I thought it was pretty adorable, myself.

Michael and the judge try to work out a compromise that will test Michael’s theory that people can become “better” after death. Their first potential solution is to send everyone to the medium place while Michael does more work to build his case. When the humans learn that this means they will have to be separated and alone for as long as it takes (a medium place has to be fine-tuned to be perfectly medium for each individual), Eleanor throws a fit. She doesn’t think it’s fair that they all have to be alone because of a faulty judgment system. Michael and the judge then come up with an alternative plan that will test his theory. He needs to prove that humans will become better without a promise of reward.

Suddenly Eleanor is alive again and waking up in her bed in Phoenix. She goes to the store and harasses the guy who wants to get her to sign a clean energy petition, just like on the day she died, but she gets pulled out of the way of the flying shopping carts and truck, so it’s just a near death experience instead of actual death. Eleanor, to the surprise of everyone who knows her, decides to go on a self-improvement kick and become a better person. She quits her job at the shady pharma company right before it gets shut down by an investigation, and she joins the Clean Energy Crusaders. She also spends time hanging out with the guy who always tried to get her to sign that petition. She’s drinking less and generally trying to be kind to people. Michael is very happy at the results he is seeing.

After a few months, however, being good all the time starts to get tiring for Eleanor. She gets kicked out of her apartment for telling her roommate the truth about something she did the previous year. She writes a note when she bumps someone’s car and gets sued by the owner. Eventually, she quits her job with Clean Energy Crusaders and goes back to her boss from the pharma company, who has started yet another shady pyramid scheme. Michael is very disappointed and decides to try and intervene. Eleanor goes to a bar to drown her sorrows, and the bartender is none other than Michael, which gives Ted Danson his “Cheers” moment for the series. Elanor thinks trying to be good is hopeless. She is, after all, the person who “cyberbullied Ryan Lochte until he quit Instagram” (seriously…he’s so pretty, but so very dumb).

Michael tells Eleanor that the question to ask is “what do we owe each other.” While moping at home, Eleanor googles this and finds a video of a lecture by Chidi. He is faulty at a university in Australia now. This gives Eleanor yet another epiphany. Next thing we know, she has hopped on a Qantas jet and is headed for Australia. She shows up at Chidi’s office and tells him she’s a fan of his lecture. And I’m swooning. With all the twists this show keeps throwing at us, one thing seems constant. Eleanor and Chidi are meant to be together.

I’m pretty excited to see what this latest reset is going to bring for the next season. Presumably, at least for one episode, we’ll get to see all the humans back on earth, and we’ll see how they all reacted to their own near death experiences. I’m especially curious to see what Jason has been up to during his time on his own. I’m also excited to see how things will progress with Eleanor and Chidi now that they’re reunited (although I’m sure they’ll be reset again soon enough – it’s already happened several hundred times!). Even if this ends up being one twist too far, I think attempts at creativity and changing things up should be appreciated.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Food TV Friday: "The Chef Show" Season 1: Volume 1

“Part of the reason we do this is because I used to cook with Roy all the time when he was training me, and then the movie came out and it all ended.”
-Jon Favreau

I started watching “The Chef Show” on a flight home to the East Coast from Seattle earlier this summer (yes, it’s still summer for a few more days, damnit!), and I binged the whole thing pretty quickly. I think it’s safe to say that Jon Favreau’s “Chef” is my favorite movie. It incorporates several of my favorite things, like talk about how food evokes memories of a place and New Orleans. Although my favorite thing to eat in New Orleans isn’t beignets. Beignets are great, but I’d rather stuff myself with oysters, po boys of all types, jambalaya, etouffee, and I’ll stop there before I basically recreate that Simpson’s bit where Homer describes his eating in New Orleans. That bit basically describes me every time I go to the Crescent City, by the way. Anyway, “The Chef Show” features Favreau and chef Roy Choi, who was a consultant on the movie, talking and gabbing, sometimes with celebrities. It’s just an enjoyable way to spend time when you want to take a break from the world and have fun nerding out about food. Since season two premieres on Netflix today, I thought I would share my thoughts on season one.

Several episodes feature Favreau, Choi, and friends recreating iconic dishes from the movie. The grilled cheese sandwich and the pasta aglio e olio are both memorable, of course. They also make mojo pork and use it to make Cubanos. Oh and there’s a running beignet fail gag, too. Note to all: if you ever pick up a cannister of CafĂ© du Monde beignet mix while in NOLA, make the beignets before the mix goes stale. It’s fascinating to get some insight into Roy Choi’s process through the cooking sequences. He’s very intense in the kitchen (which you can tell if you watch the sequence in the “Chef” credits where he walks Favreau through making the grilled cheese sandwich), and he cares about his craft deeply. One of the things he seems to really concentrate on while cooking is controlling the temperature. Even when just making a simple grilled cheese sandwich (which is loaded with multiple types of yummy cheeses, of course) or toasting bread for cubanos, he’s paying attention to the temperature of the grill at every second. He also has a habit of constantly changing up his recipes. There’s a funny bit where Choi loves a dish Favreau makes, and Favreau tells him that Choi texted him the recipe years ago. Choi had already added multiple additional ingredients into his own version.

There are many celebrity guests, primarily either chefs (like Aaron Franklin and Dave Chang) or Marvel actors (like Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow). Director Robert Rodriguez also makes an appearance. I think I enjoyed the chef appearances more. I really enjoyed the moments in the series that involved serious nerding out about food. I’m a bit of a barbecue snob (one of my favorite food memories is of trying the Sunday special prime rib at Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas), so I especially liked seeing how Aaron Franklin prepares one of his famous briskets. I’ve been a fan of Dave Chang for a while (I promise I really will write about “Ugly Delicious” here soon!), and it was fun watching him and Roy Choi compare food memories from growing up Korean American. There’s also an episode (the first filmed, I believe), where Favreau, Choi, and a bunch of Favreau’s Marvel actor friends get “crushed” by the staff at The Optimist in Atlanta. The towers of seafood they were invited to work their way through made my mouth water, and I vowed to check out the restaurant if I ever find myself in Atlanta again. I’m also not really a Robert Rodriguez fan, so I had no idea that he was really into cooking and included a recipe with each of his movies.

One thing I found interesting about the season was that there wasn’t really a standard format for an episode. Several episodes focused around Favreau and Choi cooking with others in a kitchen, but there was variation, too. Episodes filmed in Atlanta and Austin in addition to Los Angeles. The episode that was set in Atlanta, as I already mentioned, had an extended sequence of Favreau and a bunch of Marvel notables talking Iron Man and Spider Man while eating insane amounts of seafood (sounds like my kind of party!). There was also an episode in memory of Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold which, while it did include some cooking, also included a lot of discussion of Gold’s legacy and how he worked hard to promote small restaurants and many different kinds of cuisine. The final episode of the season centered around Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck festival, where he basically invited a bunch of chefs to Austin to cook whatever they felt like. Roy Choi made some smoked Korean barbecue, which I’m sure was awesome, because I had something similar at Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon earlier this summer.

Overall, I think one of the things I enjoyed about the show the most was getting to know Favreau and Choi better as people. Favreau makes Gwyneth Paltrow laugh by using Yiddish words, talks about making beignets with his daughter because she first saw them as a little kid when “Chef” was filming, and is actually a pretty accomplished amateur cook thanks to Choi. He also is a talented visual artist and quickly pulls together an impressive drawing for Robert Rodriguez’s guestbook. Roy Choi, as I said earlier, is very intense and serious about his craft. He also takes a lot of pride in how he was able to build his business. He seems to always be tweaking his recipes and never just settles on one, definitive version. I think my favorite moment with Choi was when he mentioned how his mother basically has a shrine to him at her house and makes sure all her friends who visit stop to see all the articles and other memorabilia she has collected to document her son’s success.

I’m not sure how much someone who isn’t a super fan of “Chef” like I am would like “The Chef Show,” but I found it just as uplifting as the movie. I think anyone who is interested in food or Marvel, or just creativity in general could find something to interest them in the show. I’m looking forward to diving into the second set of episodes as soon as I can because Favreau and Choi have succeeded in creating an environment where I just want to hang out and watch them cook and chat for a while.