Tuesday, August 23, 2011

{alltv} 4 Reasons We're Sweet on Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 2

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After a more bitter than sweet first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts, we know we weren't the only ones who were wary of what a second season could bring. Will there be another breakdown-prone Seth? Two more crazy Heathers? Twenty gazillion more buckets of tears?

Having seen the premiere (Wednesday, 10/9c, Bravo), we at TVGuide.com are happy to report that the new season is no crybaby-fest redux. So why should you come back for seconds? Here are four reasons:

1. The cast seems normal! After last season, the only way the casting directors could go was up, right?  The Season 2 cast is still arrogant (what chef isn't?), anal, competitive and catty, but no one is as emotionally fragile, insufferable or malicious as the inaugural crop that spewed homophobic slurs (ahem, Morgan) and was in dire need of anger management. We don't need everyone to be likeable on a reality show — someone's got to fill the villain role (which this season is looking like it's going to Orlando) — but we do need everyone to appear like they passed the entrance psych evaluation. These newbies seem stable and self-aware with a healthy competitive appetite (Chris vs. Orlando!) and a sense of humor. Of Hansel & Gretel — the Elimination Challenge is fairy tale-themed — Rebecca quips, "Although they bake children, so that probably won't be a good dessert." Bottom line: Don't expect another "The Red Hots are for my mommy" implosion.

2. The focus is back on the food: Thanks to innumerable fights, mood swings, freak-outs and meltdowns last season, the cheftestants' creations felt like an afterthought to the high-strung drama. Not so here. Everyone gets down to business from the get-go with the Quickfire, in which they have to put a modern spin on a soda fountain-style dessert, and while there are tiffs between team members in the Elimination Challenge, they all blow over quickly and everyone gets back to the task at hand.

3. Bring on the recipes! The source of some of the freak-outs last year: Cheftestants could not bring recipes. It was a ballsy move since pastry is a finely measured and precise craft. The results weren't terrible by any means, but producers — maybe fearing more hissy fits — have dropped the ban this go-around. Good call — no one can complain and it can all be about execution now. Our one hope: Don't give them more time or make the challenges less demanding. A competitive reality show, especially a cooking one, is about being out of your element, adapting to the twists and thinking on your feet — not just how well you can whip up a dish.

4. Hair today, gone tomorrow: OK, it's not totally gone, but head judge Johnny Iuzzini's distracting towering, over-gelled Elvis-esque bouffant has been trimmed and relaxed. Now we can really concentrate on the sweets!

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