A look back at the best and worst of TV in the past week (Aug. 8-14), and a peek ahead at what’s coming up.
1. “Top Chef Masters” (Bravo). I was kinda gleeful when the “Top Chef” alumni made their appearance. For better or for worse, those guys always are good for some drama. And thanks to Dale and Spike, the sparks flew. It’s fun watching the Masters succeed under adversity week after week, and dealing with those characters and their egos was the ultimate test.
2. “No Reservations” (Travel Channel). Anthony Bourdain tore up and down San Francisco’s hills in a Mustang, guzzled martinis and ate lots of red meat. Not exactly what I expected from an SF episode, but it worked. And he really seemed to have a local’s insight into the city. Too often, SF is seen on TV from a tourist’s pie-eyed perspective. I liked how he hit places where locals actually go, and got a good sense of the soul of the city.
3. NFL Network. I’ve waited a long time for it, and now the channel is available on Comcast’s basic digital cable. Woo hoo! Not that I’ll be watching it much just yet. Preseason NFL is the most boring sport on the planet. Well, besides Major League Soccer. But it’ll be awesome once the regular season starts.
Honorable mention: “Entourage.” Jeffrey Tambor’s cameo as a profane, crazed version of himself was classic. His golf-cheating ways and foul-mouthed kids cracked me up and were the highlight of the episode.
1. “HGTV Design Star” (HGTV). Specifically, Tashica, who was mercifully shown the door. God, she was horrible – no discernible talent, original ideas or backbone. Great qualities for a reality TV participant, but not so good for a design star.
2. “Giulianna & Bill” (Style Channel). The real life of E! News “anchor” Giuliana Rancic and her husband, “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic, is pretty boring. He seems halfway normal, but she’s living in her own little dream world, where the skies are pink, she’ll be a hot TV personality forever and you can buy $20,000 coffee tables like candy. I do kinda like how she calls her husband “Rancic,” especially since that’s her name now too.
3. “Skins” (BBC America). The series is great, but geez, the accents this week were almost indecipherable. Maybe because it was a Cook-centric episode – he seems to be the hardest to understand. And he’s not even Welsh! Thank god for subtitles.
Looking forward to . . .
1. “Mad Men” (10 p.m. Sunday, AMC). Is it the best show on television? Yeah, I wouldn’t argue with that. It’s slow and thoughtful and a deep character study, not your typical hit show. But like “The Wire,” the sum of its parts is greater than the individual pieces, and at the end you feel like you watched a book, it’s so rich and deeply layered.
2. “Top Chef” (9 p.m. Wednesday, Bravo). Season 6 kicks off in Vegas. Awesome. I love this show and the “Top Chef” guest stars on “Top Chef Masters” just whetted my appetite for the season to start. There’s an impressive cast of chefs onboard, and I’m hoping the series regains its stride after a fairly disappointing fifth season.
3. “Hung” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO). I’m really liking this series, and look forward to it more than “Entourage” now. There are a ton of quirky characters, and I love how Thomas Jane doesn’t play his role for laughs. Even though the situations are hilarious, he’s just a hard-working, sincere but dim-witted schmuck trying to make it.