TV

Kitchen Nightmares - What Happens When Gordon Ramsay Comes to Your Neighborhood?

I didn't want to like him, and for a long time I didn't, instantly changing the channel whenever I saw his mottled face shouting bleeped swear words and inexplicably calling someone a Muppet. But then I got into contemporary cooking shows and somewhere in that transition I finally sort of understood the appeal of Gordon Ramsay.

British celebrity chef Ramsay is the histrionic host of numerous food-themed shows both here and in his homeland. "Food-themed" is me being generous, because while there's certainly food here and there, shows like The F-Word, Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares are really more about manipulation, wallowing in manufactured confrontation and Ramsay's gargantuan ego.

The American version of the formulaic Kitchen Nightmares, currently airing its third season on Fox, always sees Ramsay called in to save a failing restaurant. I've watched most or all of maybe 10 episodes of the show, and they all fall into a very firm template: Ramsay arrives, samples the food and is appalled. And despite the show's popularity, every single chef and/or owner is stunned by the criticism.

Ramsay then observes a dinner service that goes down in flames, returns the following day to help craft a dinner special, watches everything fall apart again, completely remodels the restaurant's interior and its menu "overnight", and eventually splits town through a gauntlet of awkward hugs.

Ramsay's success rate in turning these restaurants around isn't terribly high, but they'd have probably all collapsed without him anyway, so I suppose there's something to what he does, even if that "something" is the restaurant capitalizing on his name until their episode finally airs.

Most episodes of Kitchen Nightmares seem to happen within 50 miles of Midtown Manhattan, though for the first time in my brief tenure as a viewer, Ramsay finally hit a restaurant in Brooklyn.

I'd never been to Mojito, though I'm fairly certain I'd seen it before as I'm a sucker for Cuban sandwiches. But was it before whenever last year Ramsay stepped in and tried to fix the problem? And since then, have the former couple who co-own the joint gotten less irritating than the program made them come off as? And what's the story with that one server's Vulcan hair?

Before now, the episodes of Kitchen Nightmares I'd seen had all been set in restaurants in New Jersey, other parts of New York, even the Midwest. What was it about this one being a place in Brooklyn that got my attention? And do other people in other parts of the country feel the same when they live within spitting distance of a restaurant featured on the show?

Now that I've given in and accepted Gordon Ramsay as my personal obnoxious television chef, will he ever hit someplace where I've actually choked down a meal. Or will these near misses be enough to give me a phony sense of televised community?

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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