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Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2011

Food puts cable cliches on ’Ice’

March 3, 2011

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Cupcake shows are so 2010. Tonight brings “Ice Brigade” (9 p.m., Food) chronicling the high-stakes world of professional ice sculptors, who use chainsaws and industrial equipment to fashion one-of-a-kind artworks for weddings and other special events.

In many ways, “Brigade” is a distant descendent of “Monster Garage” and “American Choppers,” the forefathers of the dude-as-artist genre that has proven so durable on cable. “Star” Randy Finch is a big guy who looks more like a roadie for Motorhead than a fine artist. A former chef, he decided that he couldn’t handle the heat and got as far out of the kitchen as he could. With his partners in Grand Rapids, Mich., he’s created a laboratory dedicated to all things frozen.

The process of fashioning ice sculptures, drink-dispensing fountains, tables, bars and even a pool table and a DJ booth out of frozen water is pretty fun to watch. In fact, I wish “Brigade” spent more time explaining just how this stuff gets made. Instead, it manufactures a lot of the fake tension required for basic cable fare. Will the art and artifacts work? Will they melt before getting to the function? Will Finch’s crew squabble? You’ve seen this all before. It’s “Cake Boss” on Ice!

And following a logic that only applies to showbiz, Finch’s male co-workers do their chain-sawing and ice lathing wearing gloves and hooded sweatshirts, while his two new female staffers wear fairly skimpy outfits. Apparently, you’ve got to be hot, even when it’s 27 degrees.

• TLC plunges into the women-in-prison racket with “Babies Behind Bars” (9 p.m., TLC) dedicated to the stories of hardened criminals giving birth while incarcerated. Why does this sound like the setup to a sitcom? Because that’s how the Fox comedy “Raising Hope” began.

• On six consecutive episodes of “The Office” (NBC), Ed invites the gang to his local theater production (7 p.m.), Michael fears he has a social disease (7:30 p.m.), fear of a rival salesman (Timothy Olyphant) (8 p.m.), Darryl’s initiative irks Michael (8:30 p.m.), Michael grows wary of China’s geopolitical clout (9 p.m.), Michael awaits Holly’s decision (9:30 p.m.).

As fans of “The Office” know, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is leaving at the end of this season. Former “SNL” cast member Will Ferrell will appear later this year in several episodes. He can be seen tonight in the 2004 news spoof “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (7 p.m., TBS).

Tonight’s other highlights

• “American Idol” (7 p.m., Fox) reveals the names of the finalists.

• Trashy evidence cast suspicion on a hoarder on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• A cultist offers information about Red John on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Homeland Security prosecutes a soldier on “Fairly Legal” (9 p.m., USA).

• Experts contend that America’s feral swine population growth is a ticking “Pig Bomb” (9 p.m., Animal Planet). And you thought this was about Charlie Sheen.

• Bad weather on “Out of the Wild: Venezuela” (9 p.m., Discovery).

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