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Has Top Chef Jumped the Shark?

Is it just me, or has season 3 marked an increasing reliance on gimmicky challenges, sad pandering to sponsors, and generally less focus on the actual food?

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  1. I think it was inevitable that they cave to the commercial interests. I thought the Bombay sapphire thing was a huge stretch, the Bertoli one wasn't so much of a stretch but somehow it felt sleazier.

    But I think this season is more focused on food than on histrionics a la Season 1 and 2, i.e. Stephen, Tiffany, Ilan, Marcel.

    1. None of the challenges thus far are as bad as last season when they had to make a 'gourmet app' out of a vending machine. At least the frozen food challenge had them cook.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mojoeater

        How about the gas station pantry meal quickfire challenge of the first season? I thought that was disgusting.

      2. I think perhaps the novelty of what they are doing has worn off a little. In so much as people know how the show works and what it is all about. For me I think the show has found it's stride. Season one seemed to be full of more gimmicks with things like the vending machine, and gestation challenges. But they had a strong winner. Season two, was a joke, they focused too much on the high school like drama and wound up with a pathetic winner who is more of a mimic than a cook. Certainly not a chef.

        Yes this year there are lots of product placements. Then again they've also shown contestants complaining about these products(Hung saying the GE stove sucked). Or makeing fun of the guest judge. But the contestant seem like a very competent cooks. The focus seems to be back of the food and the talents of the chefs. I think they managed to stop themselves from Jumping the Shark.


        3 Replies
        1. re: Withnail42

          It seems like most shows on Bravo are all about product placement. Look at the Actors Studio. It always has someone on who coincidentally has a new movie coming out.

          1. re: sugarbuzz

            Someone has to pay the bills, especially as more and more people are using DVR and blowing through the old-timey commercials.

            I'm not sure why the timing of guests on Inside The Actors Studio is a "product placement" as much as it is smart production. Why would they NOT plan when they tape and air their guests to coincide with times when people would be most interested in watching those guests? If the university gets a kickback from the studio for showing the Matt Damon interview the week before Bourne Ultimatum is released instead of the Sean Astin interview, more's the better.

            The product placements in Top Chef don't really phase me. It's a game show. Game shows have always been full of product placements. I've never heard anyone complain about that on The Price Is Right, though.

            1. re: jzerocsk

              Good post. Let's see...let's TiVo it so I don't watch any commercials...damnit, why is there product placement. Let's think about how great a show and a network you would have without advertisers...

              I think the Top Chef, Next Food Network Star, Hell's Kitchen triple play is always leading to chef show exhaustion. I mean, my wife and I generally watch all 3 in some form and fashion...and not much else these days. We said it the other day...do we only watch reality cooking shows???

        2. As likeable as the dude seemed, that show had already jumped the shark when Michael made it to the final 5 in Season 2.

          1. I'll probably be in the minority with this opinion, but...I think that the product placements is much less egregious this time. Less "throw your food in your Gladware and hop in the Rav 4s." I think this one is more about the food, and I think it's boring. What lacks is human drama and characters. The drama with Hung is really contrived and I'm just not buying it. I don't think the group dynamic is that interesting, and no matter what the food challenges are, that wouldn't change.

            1. I don't feel this season is any different than the previous ones. They had product placement from the very start. I think definition of jumping the shark would be if they ended up doing some challenge that had nothing to do with food, such as if they had to each design their own chef's uniform. For now, at least they're still cooking.

              1. I'm not as distracted and distressed by the product promos this season as last. The "GE Kitchen" and "Rav4" were grating. When they gave away the trip to Italy to the winning team last week, I was just waiting for the "American/United/etc. Airlines" plug which happily didn't come. The Bertolli-inspired frozen food challenge was a nicely indirect compliment when the "secret" of individually quick frozen parts of the recipe ended up winning.

                The interpersonal drama doesn't have to be as in-your-face as the Marcel vs. Betty of last year. I liked when the claws came out during the team challenge last week.

                Just an aside -- I must have missed the top 4 Season 1 vs. Season 2 challenge where the Season 3 contestants were tasters. I saw it a couple days ago as a repeat. When you see the best from both groups going at it with less pressure, the food results were fun. Shows that Harold on an off day beats the pants off of Ilan. And it was great to see Marcel escalate his foam obsession to tableside presentation and still get beat.

                3 Replies
                1. re: nosh

                  for some reason, I have less problem with giving away a trip and thanking the sponsor -vs- the bombay saphire thing were the gin is the integral part of the contest and the company shill, er I mean mixologist is the guest judge. For me it just seems skeevier. The effort to "sneek" the product placement in, by making it part of the show, seems too clever by half.

                  I do get it, the money has to come from somewhere and the product placement horse is out of the proverbial barn. Still, we as viewers can comment on it if it seems over the top.

                  1. re: chrisinroch

                    That's the problem for me..they sneak in product placement. I know the sponsors pay for the prize money & the trip to Italy..etc..but it's just getting to be too much!
                    The Dame Chocolate challenge? Hmm..oh yeah. NBC owns Telemundo, which airs Dame Chocolate, as well as Bravo. So not only are they shoving their products down my throat they are also shamelessly plugging their other shows on other networks that they own.

                    1. re: sugarbuzz

                      I'm not disagreeing, but just pointing out that it's just easier to round up people you "own" rather than people you don't/that your competitors do. They probably come cheaper ;-)

                2. in the advent of tivo and dvr's commercials dont get the word out like they used to. product integration is the future. and anyway where do you think the 100k for the winner comes from, under tony soprano's mattress???