Tuesdays, 8pm, ABC
Captive audience: Foodies, aspiring chefs; people who have rubbed one out to either Anthony Bourdain or Nigella Lawson.
Moment of truth: You might as well call this latest reality-show competition The Voice with food because that’s exactly what it is. Bourdain, Lawson, a French dude with tattoos (I guess he’s the Adam Levine of the crew) and Top Chef loser Brian Malarkey are the judges/mentors, blind taste-testing meals prepared by chefs and home cooks looking to earn a slot in one of their kitchens and eventually win the competition. It is quite compulsively watchable, plus it’s funny as hell seeing the judges weed out the Guy Fieri wannabes and egotistical assholes and send ‘em packing.
Emmy or phlegmmy: Emmy. (Craig D. Lindsey)
Tuesdays, 10pm, NBC
Captive audience: Broadway/theater geeks; 42nd Street/A Star is Born fans; TV hate-watchers.
Moment of truth: For those of you still sticking around for the second season of this more-loathed-than-loved serial musical, rest assured that a few much-needed changes have been made. Gone are the despised characters (buh-bye, Ellis—for now!) and awkward cattiness that made this a chore to watch. They’ve also added Jennifer Hudson as a special-guest starlet who’s basically around to 1) bust out some ass-blasting musical numbers and 2) dispense sista-ly advice to the show’s painfully neurotic characters. Don’t ever say throwing in some soul to an otherwise vanilla operation won’t save the day.
Emmy or phlegmmy: Emmy. (C.D.L.)
Wednesdays, 10pm, FX
Captive audience: Homeland watchers, Cold War enthusiasts; people who miss Felicity.
Moment of truth: Look out, Damian Lewis—there are some new sleeper-cell agents on the block! FX unveils its very own enemies-among-us drama, this time going back to the ‘80s to tell the story of undercover KGB agents (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) posing as bland, suburban parents. It’s an interesting premise that’s unfortunately laid out in a pilot episode as dull as an old Ginsu knife. The second episode is a lot better, since it actually has Russell and Rhys doing more dangerous, morally ambiguous shit. Let’s hope this show learns from its mistakes and turns out some more compelling episodes.
Emmy or phlegmmy: Phlegmmy. (C.D.L.)
Walnut Street Theatre presents
An Ideal Husband
Fri., Jan. 25, Walnut Street Theatre. walnutstreettheatre.org
Overall vibe: Walnut Street is acting its age, producing a well-made 19th-century play on a 19th-century stage. Malcolm Black’s production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband is a crystal flute of champagne bubbling with high comedy, simultaneously toasting Black’s 30th directorial anniversary and the reunion of Wilde’s words with the stage, inhabited by society women draped in bejeweled gowns of wealth—what Wilde’s hero, politician Sir Robert Chiltern, declares is “the god of the 19th Century England.”
Most memorable moment: This is a comedy latent with Wilde’s own anxiety as a homosexual living, and in love, in Victoria’s England, which is beyond the emotional range of Ian Merrill Peakes, as Sir Robert Chiltern, but can be found in the text. Robert confides to Lord Goring: “Is it fair that the folly, the sin of one’s youth, if men choose to call it a sin, should wreck a life like mine, should place me in the pillory, should shatter all that I have worked for, all that I have built up. Is it fair, Arthur?”
Scene stealer: Ian D. Clark, as the grounded Earl of Caversham, is an opinionated force of nature, leading with his cane and newspaper, dismantling his dandy bachelor son, Lord Goring, with merely a look and a word. (Jessica Foley)
The Girl God
By Trista Hendren (TheGirlGod.com)
In summary: A deceptively simple story about a whimsical young girl named Helani Claire, who would make Emily Dickinson smile as she deconstructs the patriarchal god of her father with the bluntness of a child.
Akin to: If Kate Chopin was still alive, writing (and self-publishing) children’s books. Elisabeth Slettnes’ colorful paintings are feasts for the spirit, as are the addition of selected quotes and poems. Wisdom abounds.
Author fun fact: The young Helani Claire of the story is named after Hendren’s actual daughter. (J.F.)