This Needs More Spice

I really should have written about the most recent season of Top Chef when it ended a couple of months ago, but couldn't work up the interest, which should tell you something about how Season 9 went. I've mentioned before that all reality shows, no matter how beloved, start to show their cracks after a number of seasons. Top Chef has had its up seasons and its down seasons, but never have I seen one that made me think the beginning of the end was at hand. Until now.

Setting. I'm not sure whose idea it was to have the chefs traipse around Texas, but with all due respect to the Lone Star State, nobody ever equates fine dining with cowboy boots and line dancing. Sure, they have their regional speciality, but Tex-Mex and barbecue gets mighty old after six episodes.

Challenges. They weren't bad towards the beginning, but got worse as time went on, culminating in the most ridiculous one this show has ever dreamed up: forcing chefs to compete in an athletic relay (ice chipping, trekking across the snow, and shooting at targets) before they could cook. I'm all for a challenge with a twist, but that was grossly beyond the pale.

Personalities. Meh. I liked Paul, and with his challenge record, it seemed clear that he merited the win, but there was nobody we could really sink our teeth into. The nice people were blandly nice. The mean people were blandly mean. Nobody was really worth rooting for or against.

Judges. Unibrow was fine, if not very noteworthy (sensing a theme?), but adding Emeril Lagasse to the panel was a mistake. Not a single opinion he offered, either complimentary or critical, was worth remembering three seconds later, unless it was the laughable time he snidely deemed chicken salad out of place at a block party. Right, nobody ever eats chicken salad at one of those. Next thing you know, people will be expecting turkey on Thanksgiving!

I can't decide if I'd have rather seen an out-and-out bad season than one so aggressively boring. I guess we'll see on the next go-round whether this was just a fluke, or if it's time to shuttle Top Chef off to the garbage disposal.

Top Chef - Season 9: C+


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