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Archive for Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chef show model getting a bit stale

March 11, 2009

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Can it really be eight years since NBC gave cable chef Emeril Lagasse his own sitcom? Sure, “Emeril” was a bomb, but at least they rolled the dice. In the time-honored tradition of TV development, somebody took a notion and threw it against the wall to see if it stuck. It didn’t. But neither do most new ideas. Now, TV-development types seem to be afraid of new ideas. NBC has all but banished them.

As if to make us yearn for the brazen originality of “Emeril” or even “Knight Rider,” NBC offers the 4 millionth variation on the cooking competition series, “The Chopping Block” (7 p.m., NBC).

Master chef Marco Pierre White is the star of sorts. We’re told that he’s a very big deal in Europe and that he was the host of the British version of “Hell’s Kitchen.” He avoids the profane rage of Gordon Ramsay.

Instead, he projects the world-weary concern of an aging professor and sports an unruly hairdo that makes him look like a brooding composer. Seriously, he looks a little like Philip Glass.

White spends a lot of time sitting by himself and mulling the “moral” responsibility of picking the right person to kick off the show. Basically, he’s Yoda with a spatula, and viewers can find that funny or pretentious or a little bit of both.

Look for excited competitors to speak in familiar cliches about their dreams and wishes. The phrases “I’m in it to win it” and “Don’t throw me under the bus” are uttered. Several of them refer to White as “a god.” Later, they run around like headless chickens and bicker. Some boast; some cry; some saute.

In one interesting twist, White will invite a new food critic every week to dine anonymously and judge the meals and choose the winning and losing teams.

But after the judgmental scribe makes his or her call, it’s up to White to make the final decision, to, in his foreboding words, “pull the trigger.” Again, White does not breath fire or shout epithets. He’s the maestro of the withering glance and extended purgatories of abject silence. He delivers his verdicts dripping with an understated disappointment of a very personal nature. And that approach could prove more devastating than a thousand curses or hurled sauce pans.

Tonight’s other highlights

• The case of a missing child proves particularly painful on “Lie to Me” (7 p.m., Fox).

• A dangerous corporate game leaves a soldier dead on “Life” (8 p.m., NBC).

• The results are read on “American Idol” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A beardless Sawyer takes charge on a repeat “Lost” (8 p.m., ABC). Only now, he’s La Fleur, and “now” is really 1974. Or is it 1977? You could develop a nosebleed trying to keep up with the twists.

• The team probes a haunting in a 17th-century Pennsylvania home on the sixth-season premiere of “Ghost Hunters” (8 p.m., Sci Fi).

• After a bombing, Mac picks up the pieces on “CSI: NY” (9 p.m., CBS).

• An apparent hit-and-run may not have been an accident on “Law & Order” (9 p.m., NBC).

• Stewardess-ing can be fatal on “Life on Mars” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Patty’s courtroom tactics bear fruit on “Damages” (9 p.m., FX).

• “Earth: The Sequel” (9 p.m., Discovery) profiles green entrepreneurs.

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