The Husband:

It happens every year. Just like the film industry, ideas seem to come in packs of two or three. In 2004, Lost fever infected the networks, and three deep mystery science-fiction shows were unveiled for the 2005-2006 season. Two made it a full season before being unceremoniously canceled (Invasion and Surface) while one didn’t even make it to midseason (Threshold). The quality of these shows are unimportant, because they were created to either capitalize on a trend or a repair a hole missing from the schedule. This works in the film world, too. In 1998, we had both Armageddon and Deep Impact. In the same year, we had both A Bug’s Life and Antz. In 2005 we had both Capote and Infamous (one was pushed back to 2006, can you guess which?). And this is not a new concept in Hollywood. I can trace back to most years started with the studio system and can point out virtually identical films coming out within the same few months. But with television this year, two things happened:

1. CBS tried once again to give us their version of what they think draws people into Grey’s Anatomy, but on their own network. That show is called Three Rivers.

2. After a staggering 15-year run, ER finally came to a close last season, and NBC frantically tried to recreate its medical drama glory. But this time, they decided split the show in two to hedge their bets but take up too much room on a schedule already reeling from one man named Jay Leno.

If you don’t feel like listening to my half-assed television history lesson for the remainder of this article, let me just break it down for you. So far, NBC’s Mercy has aired three episodes, NBC’s Trauma has aired two, and CBS’s Three Rivers has aired one. And how do they rank in terms of quality? The exact order I just put them in, with Mercy almost head-and-shoulders above Trauma and Three Rivers, with only a single episode, drudging the bottom of the lake.

The title is probably ironic.

The title is probably ironic.

So about that splitting ER into two parts. It’s really not at all complicated. Mercy is the character drama, and Trauma is the action show. Put together, these elements apparently made some of the best ER episodes of all time, but on their own, it can be a struggle. So far, however, Mercy is a remarkably competent (big praise, I know) slice-of-life story about the unsung heroes of hospitals — the nurses. This year they have come back in a big way, and while I haven’t seen an episode of similarly themed Nurse Jackie and Hawthorne (two other nurse dramas, unseen because I don’t have Showtime and I avoid networks like TNT and USA like the plague), I can tell you that it’s a refreshing change of pace. Surgeons get all the glory, but nurses are the backbone of any hospital. Taylor Schilling leads the show as former army nurse Veronica Callahan, and she is in the top five best new characters on television this season. Tough and hard-edged but sympathetic, she seems like a real woman doing an unappreciated job, and her quiet energy is such a welcome respite from the outwardly emotional hysterics that populate Seattle Grace and Oceanside Wellness. She is a true find, and her personal life storylines (her troubled marriage, her drunk family, her affair with Men In Trees‘s James Tupper) help the very reality-skewing Jersey City-set show and are handled by the writers with what at least appears to be a great deal of honesty.

I haven’t been able to get a handle of many of the remaining characters, but Guillermo Diaz (he of Weeds and Half Baked) does well playing against type, and while the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg as rookie nurse Chloe Payne brings the wrong kind of tone to the character, casting a lesser known and more sullen actress would have made the character completely unimportant. My favorite element, oddly enough, seems to be the reversal of roles, as James LeGros’s doctor character, Dan Harris, is mostly seen on the outskirts of storylines, much how most nurses are treated on nearly every other hospital drama. (You know how Nurse Olivia was just let go from Seattle Grace at Grey’s Anatomy? It took me a good thirty minutes to remember that she was the one who gave George syphilis after getting it from Karev way back in the early seasons.) And, almost more than anything, I appreciate the fleeting comparisons the show finds between Jersey City and the warzone of Iraq. Both are lost places in their own way, and it’s haunting without being obvious. This is definitely staying on my Season Pass list, and I hope that its unfortunate placement Wednesday at 10 (it belongs later, but thanks to The Jay Leno Show, half of NBC’s schedule seems misplaced.)

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

HOLY SHIT THIS IS EXPENSIVE! AND ON FIRE!

Trauma, so far, is just a big, slick, expensive version of Emergency!, a spin-off of a spin-off (Dragnet to Adam-12 to…) which ran for several seasons back in the 1970s (six seasons plus a handful of TV movies). From the several episodes I’ve seen of that show (starring a young Kevin Tighe, a.k.a. Locke’s father on Lost), I really can’t see much of a difference between the two programs other than its location and its budget. I complained that I couldn’t get too much of a handle on Mercy‘s characters, but at least I can give you a general impression of their internal monologue. Not so on Trauma, which is as surface-level as one could get outside of a CW primetime soap. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis is, so far, the only character with any personality (unfortunately, it’s a shitty one) and the rest get lost in the shuffle.

What Trauma has going for it, though, is a whole lot of money behind it, something that could cause it to be canceled very soon. Paired up with the fledgling Heroes, Trauma continues to represent how NBC is hemorrhaging money and viewers, and by not putting the show at a proper 10 p.m. spot, it’s getting crushed by the two CBS Chuck Lorre sitcoms. But oh man, does it ever get saved by its big action sequences. Nothing has been spared in the high-octane situations that structure the show, from the mostly unnecessary season opener that blew up part of a building to what can’t be cheap San Francisco location shooting. But with an HD DVR and a 52″ HD LCD Eco-Series Bravia television, I’ve never missed my old stomping grounds of the San Francisco Bay Area more. I’m staying to watch this show just from how much is shot there, how [mostly] accurate the set-ups are, and even its inclusion of mayor Gavin Newsome’s actress wife in the supporting cast. My wife can tell you more about the show’s focus on North Beach, where she worked for two years.

My issue, though, is seemingly contradictory. The action is what makes the show work, but it’s a chore sitting through a single episode. It’s fun to yell out “Trauma!” whenever something terrible happens, but in the second episode, we had four separate cases of trauma including the Embarcadero Street Fair getting pummeled by a car piloted by a man having a stroke. This is enough for three episodes on Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s almost a sidenote here. It’s too much action in a show that desperately needs it to survive. But goddamn, does it look expensive. And that expense kind of negates the verité style it’s going for, so I don’t know what to think anymore.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

I would rather see Alex O'Laughlin do anything else.

Three Rivers has only aired one episode, and this is after it was heavily recast (which happened to Alex O’Loughlin’s last show Moonlight as well) as it was decided to air the second episode first. No matter, because the show helped drop CBS to one of its lowest-rated Sunday nights ever, being paired up with Cold Case. (All the family viewers and young professionals pretty much abandon the channel after The Amazing Race is over.) It’s not long for this world, and for good reason. It thinks that we want to be preached to right off the gate, and so this drama about an organ transplant facility in Pittsburgh just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to judge it based on one episode (and one that isn’t the damned pilot), but when a show starts off talking down to us, it’s not a good feeling. ABC’s Grey’s started off as a much frothier show (I would even call it a dramedy) and only later fell into its soapy rhythms, but Three Rivers doesn’t seem to have time for that. A major problem: I understand its decision to include the story about where the organs are coming from in order to humanize the situation, but it’s mostly unnecessary and I hope they abandon it, because it makes the characters back at the facility complete ciphers, just going through the procedural motions. Even O’Loughlin, as famed surgeon Andy Yablonski, isn’t enough to draw me back for much longer, and I once again fear that Alfre Woodard is one of the most misused actresses of her generation. It’s not the worst new drama of the season, nor is it the most obnoxious (so far, that seems to be the tonally misshapen The Forgotten), but if it doesn’t pick up soon, it will be canceled before I even give up on it. (Remember CBS’s hospital drama 3 Lbs.? No? It was on less than five years ago. Still don’t remember it? Exactly. But I watched all three episodes.)

So give Mercy a chance, and I don’t think you’ll regret it. Its cases, while mostly unoriginal, are handled delicately, and the characters feel like actual people. The other two shows? If you’re not into high-definition cinematography of San Francisco or learning about the intricacies of putting new hearts into pregnant women, they probably won’t work for you, either.

The Wife:
I worry about Mercy‘s necessity. Fundamentally, I like the show. And I really didn’t think I would. When NBC was promoting Mercy, they almost entirely glossed over the fact that this show is a narrative about an Iraq war veteran struggling to reintegrate into civilian life, instead using its promo time to make it look like some slick, glossy glorification of nursing (which indeed deserves such glory) and the bonds of female friendship. Case in point: even if Veronica’s background as a soldier was included, what I remember from those promos is the shots of the girls at the bar together, drinking and smiling.

The hurt backpack.

The hurt backpack.

I do think Mercy, as a show about a female Iraq war veteran, an Army nurse not unlike my mother (who once made her non-military living as an OR nurse), is utterly necessary. It is important for us to experience narratives of soldiers returning from conflicts overseas and to understand what it’s like for them to try to carry on with all the horror they’ve experienced. And it’s especially critical that this is a narrative about a female soldier. For all the women who fight for this country, too many artistic renderings of soldiers focus on the men and their experiences. I even applaud the decision to focus this story around the life of an Army medic, a crucial military position I think many forget about. My mother never (thankfully) saw conflict. But when I hear Veronica talk about setting up field hospitals, I can’t help but think of my mother. She knows how to do that, and has done so many times in her life. I’ve seen what those hospitals look like, as we always went to the family day at the end of the Army Reserve’s two-week summer training exercises where her medical unit practiced setting up those hospitals. So this character is perhaps doubly unique to me. I know the women that she is drawn from, my mother and her friends, and that alone makes her utterly real to me.
But although I think Veronica is a starkly unique character and its important for us to have a narrative of a female Iraq war veteran, I do think that gets lost in the way NBC advertised Mercy and its inevitable pigeonhole as just another medical show. I don’t care so much about the cases Veronica deals with, but I care deeply about her inability to share her wartime experiences with her no-longer-estranged husband. Seeing her hold his head in her hands so that he cannot face her when she talks about losing her friend in the field was truly effective, and I hope those of you who watch Mercy continue to tune in for those stunning portraits of a soldier coming home to a world she no longer knows how to navigate.

As for Trauma, the best parts of the show are screaming “Trauma!” when something traumatic happens, and realizing that I probably walked through the set dozens of times when I worked in North Beach. In fact, there was a scene filmed on Green St. between Grant and Broadway in the second episode that I know I’d walked through during tear-down one day when my coworker and I were heading up to North Beach Pizza for lunch. (I was extra impressed that they got a shot of the new location of North Beach Pizza, which only opened in April or May . . . directly across the street from its former location.) This scene happened to feature a homeless drug addict trying to scam the EMTs into giving him morphine, and I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if the show stumbled upon some of North Beach’s actual colorful homeless people. I will keep watching simply to see restaurants I used to frequent and, hopefully, a glimpse of Knifey Knife (a homeless woman who once threatened my friend at the bakery across from my old office with a pumpkin carving knife) and Charlotte (a kindly homeless woman who enjoyed wigs and often sat outside my office, complimenting me on my shoes). Hell, if one of my couriers, Junior, made it into B-roll on Anthony Bourdain’s San Francisco episode of No Reservations, he might even turn up in a long shot, riding his bike down Columbus.

There is really nothing good about Three Rivers.

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The Wife:

From the minute the boys spied Summer Glau on the Pacific Coastliner (which is actually the Pacific Surfliner, for those hip to SoCal Amtrak), I thought I was going to hate this episode. I figured it would just be 22 minutes of Summer Glau looking uncomfortable as each of our geeks (minus Sheldon) took their turns hitting on her in awful and horrible ways, and while that’s what this episode basically was, it wasn’t horrible. It was actually kind of pleasant.

The boys are on that train, by the way, because they’re all going to a physics conference up in San Francisco, a city in which Penny loves to get trashed and ride on cable cars. Thanks, Chuck Lorre and company. Because it’s not like we up in the Bay Area have anything better to offer than great microbrews (that’s true!) and quaint, antiquated modes of transportation that have become iconic thanks to a product no actual human in the Bay Area eats. (That’s right, Rice-a-Roni. I’m talking about you. There’s too much good food up here to eat you, you bullshit side dish.) And Sheldon really, really loves trains. So one vote from Sheldon in favor of a train ride easily outweighs three votes from the others in favor of a flight from LAX to SFO. This is just an excuse for Sheldon to toss out numerous facts about trains, which, while irritating, were somehow endearing because Parsons played each of these lines like a little boy comparing his model train set to an actual train for the first time in his life.

The “plot” occurs when Sheldon realizes he’s forgotten his flash drive at home, which means he can’t print out his paper at the hotel and hand it to Nobel Prize-winning physicist George Smoot (who gets a cameo at the end of the episode), and he would really, really like to see Smoot’s face when he reads Sheldon’s paper, so Leonard’s suggestion of emailing Smoot the paper at a later date is out of the question. After Leonard convinces Sheldon not to jump off the train in Oxnard (which I wouldn’t recommend, either), taxiing back to their Pasadena apartment and then driving Leonard’s car up 101 to meet the train again in San Luis Obispo (a feat which would probably involve going about 95 in order to achieve), Sheldon calls Penny to ask her to retrieve the flash drive from his room and email the paper so he can later print it out and hand it to Smoot.


“It seems you are once again caught between a rock and a crazy place.” – Leonard, on Sheldon’s train-hopping plot to retrieve his flash drive


Meanwhile, Summer Glau boards the train and Raj and Howard decide that this is their one chance to try to put the moves on the Terminatrix.


“What would Summer Glau be doing riding the train?” – Howard


I have the same question, Howard.

Utilizing Sheldon’s train knowledge – as to where the booze is – Raj heads off to have a beer or two in the dining car, leaving Howard to attempt to talk to the actress. Even though he comes up with the perfect line (“It’s hot in here. It must be Summer!”), he can’t bring himself to actually talk to her, choosing instead to sit near her, trying to work up the courage. Freshly buzzed, Raj swoops in and steals Howard’s opening line, which Glau finds charming. He then proceeds to talk to her about Slumdog Millionaire (“Loosely based on my life.”) and his various knowledge of astronomy, which she actually finds quite impressive, until he starts talking about how jealous he is that she got to actually be in space when she was working on Firefly. Raj protests that he’s not a geek like Howard, and sends Howard off to get him a beer . . . which is when Howard realizes that Raj has been drinking non-alcoholic beer the whole time, a fact he promptly presents to Raj who freezes up and runs away, allowing Howard to take a chance with River Tam.

Summer Glau, doing her best Olivia Wilde.

Summer Glau, doing her best Olivia Wilde.

Howard then proceeds to talk Glau’s ear off with all the wrong things, including a dream where he was ice skating with her and then her legs tore off and she turned into a loaf of pumpernickel bread, which, by the way, comes from the German for “fart goblin.” I probably laughed harder at that dream sequence and the fart goblin comment than I have at most other jokes on this show. But then again, I like non-sequiturs and language humor, so that’s probably not totally surprising. Glau is really not thrilled to be hanging out with Howard, and its written all over her face. I’m honestly not sure how good of an actress she is because she wasn’t very good at being bored/terrified/disgusted by Howard, but someone the blank River Tam face of crazy worked decently here. But I’m really worried for who Summer Glau is as a person if she’s this boring (albeit hot) when playing herself. Nonetheless, she does let Howard take a picture with her for his Facebook page, but smashes his camera when he suggests they take pictures that would indicate they were involved romantically.

Leonard then tries his hand at wooing Summer Glau, but she abruptly exits the train as it stops in Santa Barbara. I now have another question: why would Summer Glau be taking the train to Santa Barbara? Did someone invite her to a party on Del Playa or something and she didn’t want her publicists to know about it? Plenty of celebrity types hang out in Santa Barbara from time to time, but they generally try to be as inconspicuous as possible. (Except Jeff Bridges. That dude showed up at UCSB all the freakin’ time. He hosted a screening of Tron and The Big Lebowski once. Another time, I saw him interview Tony Kushner.) And they’d never take public transportation in SB. Can you imagine being mauled by college students while on vacation? That would be no fun at all.

While Penny enters the inner sanctum of Sheldon’s room, she finds a box of letters from his grandmother and discovers that Sheldon’s pet name in his family is Moonpie. Penny tries to call him that, but Sheldon grows angry, growling into the phone with such vitriol:


“No one calls me Moonpie but Mee-maw!”


Penny refuses to go any further in following Sheldon’s precise instructions for finding his flash drive (which is hidden in a Chinese puzzle box of no sentimental value that Penny ultimately smashes) unless he tells her why his grandmother calls him Moonpie, the answer to which is easily the best line of the night:

“She calls me Moonpie because I’m nummy-nummy and she could just eat me up.”


From a truly dreary premise, this episode far exceeded my expectations, winding up in some truly funny goofiness involving fart goblins and the nicknames given to us by our respective mee-maws.

The Wife:

It’s Dine About Town in San Francisco right now, an awesome event in which a number of restaurants in the city offer $35 prix fixe three-course dinner menus. I held off on watching “Restaurant Wars” on Wednesday because my brain had already exploded from watching Fringe a day late (thanks to a Dine About Town outing) paired with the two-hour Lost-a-thon. Instead, I saved this for last night’s post-Dine About Town viewing. Coming off the high of a $48 prix fixe three-course with two-course wine pairing at One Market, “Restaurant Wars” was pretty disappointing. Food? Boring and safe. Restaurant concepts? Nothing exciting. That whole Hosea and Leah drama? Not dramatic at all. This episode made me long for the days of season three’s Big Gay Dale and his idiotic scented candles, or even for the satisfying teamwork between Blais and Stephanie in executing their really sweet gastropub last season. This episode – and these contestants – really need some spice, and not Hosea and Leah flavored.

Padma announced the Restaurant Wars challenge really early on, tying in the Quickfire to the Elimination Challenge, which I liked. She brought in guest judge Steven Starr of Starr Restaurants, for whom the cheftestants would cook a single dish that would showcase the concept for the restaurant they would like to open. Two winners would be chosen and, rather than giving either of them immunity, they would be chosen to execute their restaurant vision in the Elimination Challenge.


The Quickfire Dishes and Restaurant Concepts

  • Carla: seared cod in tomato oil for a homemade, seasonal New American joint
  • Hosea: shrimp with morels, garlic potato puree and asparagus for a Mediterranean seafood restaurant
  • Leah: tempura poussin with soy sauce and dashi for a blandly described “Asian-inspired” restaurant, in honor of her Filipina mother (a fact I never could have guessed, actually)
  • Stefan: an asparagus trio featuring trout, salad and soup for an Old World Meets New concept
  • Jeff: salmon with sunchoke and artichoke puree and grilled corn for a simple American restaurant
  • Radhika: seared cod with chorizo, creamed corn and spice rub for a global restaurant
  • Jamie: chilean sea bass with grilled corn and cherry tomatoes for a seasonally focused restaurant
  • Fabio: carpaccio, roasted veg and a high-end cheesesteak sandwich for a Mediterranean lunch spot (Fabio would punch me in the face for calling his filet mignon sandwich a cheesesteak, but it was a cheesesteak.)


Rightfully, Steven Starr placed Jeff and Fabio in the bottom two. Jeff’s dish was a little too simple to demonstrate a concept, and Fabio’s was just confusing. I do not understand how the three things he served on his plate went together at all. Starr’s top honors went to Radhika and Leah for their more innovative dishes. Looking at the dishes they prepared, these two deserved the win for the Quickfire, however, I think a better set of winners might have been Jamie and Stefan, whose visions for their restaurants were clear in the dishes they cooked and who, frankly, we all know would have ended up being better leaders. When I heard that Radhika and Leah were given the prize of having their restaurant concepts executed, I knew we were in for a fucking disaster. We’ve never seen either of them step up to the plate (Husband Note: The other kind of plate. Not the kind with noms on it.) and express an opinion before, and I didn’t think they were going to be able to start now.

Radhikas winning dish.

Radhika's winning dish.

Things were looking up for Radhika at the beginning of this challenge. She got first pick of teammates and chose Jamie, Carla (why?) and Jeff. As the team talked out the concept, Radhika immediately had an idea for a name for her restaurant: Sahana, a Sanskrit word meaning strength. I would eat at a place called Sahana. It sounds pretty. In fact, there’s a Middle Eastern place in San Francisco called Saha that must be derived from the same root word. Leah, on the other hand, picked Hosea (natch), Fabio and Stefan, her least favorite person. She had no thoughts on a name. Honestly, if you come in to Top Chef without potential names for restaurants you want to open in the future, you are probably not the right temperament to be on a show called “Top” anything. (Husband Note: Except for Top Stupid! Or Top Bad Chef! Or Top Gun…I mean…what was I talking about?)

Teams were given guestbooks for the evening, which was a nice touch, but definitely took away one major aspect of being a restaurateur, and that is promotion. Remember in season three when whoever played Front of the House had to act partly as a carnival barker to get butts in the seats when the restaurants opened that evening? I guess that wouldn’t quite work in New York to form the challenge that way, but I bet it would have made this challenge a lot more interesting. In addition to the guestbooks, teams were given the remainder of that day to put together and shop for decorations for the restaurant spaces. The following day they would get 3k to spend on food at Restaurant Depot and Whole Foods and 6 hours to prep for service. Restaurant Wars: The 24 Hour Edition.

The design process, which has always been an interesting part of the Restaurant Wars challenge, was also practically absent this season. We saw maybe five minutes of the chefs pulling bronze giraffes off the shelves of Pier 1 and Stefan, remembering Big Gay Dale’s mistake, hoarding all of the unscented candles for his team. But that was it. I once again have to point to Restaurant Wars from Season Three where the chefs were given 24 hours to paint and decorate their small restaurants in that Miami retail mall. Granted, the restaurants failed so spectacularly on their soft open that they were given a second night of “opening night” service, but the amazing thing about that challenge was that in between services, a decor consultant came in and gave the teams some small pointers on how to improve the decor to give the diners a better experience. How a restaurant looks and how it makes its patrons feel is a major part of the dining experience, and I didn’t get any of that this year at all.

Instead, I got Leah and Hosea getting too close, which ended up not affecting them at all on service. Why? Because they’re professionals. If I am to believe Tony Bourdain, a lot of shit goes down after service – and even during service – that certain cooks might not want to tell their significant others about. But even if that happens, when you’re cooking on the line, it doesn’t matter if you’re fucking the pastry chef or the hostess or having a ménage à trois with the garde-mange and the grill station. All you are doing when you are in the kitchen is cooking. So, thanks, Bravo. Nice try. I wish you had decided to show me some poor design choices instead. I am actually longing for scented candle and black table cloth disasters.

Other than that, there were some minor issues in the getting of the food stuffs. Fabio and Leah found that Whole Foods was out of the red snapper they wanted, so they bought black cod instead. Jamie and Jeff had a similar problem at Restaurant Depot when Jamie couldn’t find lamb shanks, but Jeff decided to poke about in the freezer on his own and managed to dig up two boxes. Problem solved.

Leah finally came up with a name for her Asian-inspired restaurant, Sunset Lounge, which is pretty much one of the most horrible names for a restaurant I could think of. (Husband Note: How about Syphilis Tumor Island?) I honestly can’t tell if it sounds more like a bar or a retirement community. Either way, I do not want to eat there. This is another reason I don’t want to eat there:

Sunset Lounge Menu

  • egg roll
  • sashimi two ways
  • short ribs
  • coconut curry bisque
  • seared cod
  • chocolate parfait
  • panna cotta


Will someone please tell me how those desserts complement that menu? And possibly why, for an upscale Asian-inspired restaurant, Leah and her team were unable to come up with a menu more elevated than what you might find at your local Hawaiian barbeque joint? Seriously, all she’s missing is a plate of loco moco and some gravy fries. The only thing Sunset Lounge had going for it, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that they had Fabio taking on Front of the House. I work in North Beach, a part of San Francisco that has hundreds of restaurants with Fabio-esque men asking you to eat there, and I can tell you that it does not hurt to have a pretty Italian man working in the front of your restaurant.

As far as the food is concerned, I’d rather eat at Sahana:

Sahana Menu

  • curried carrot soup
  • grilled scallop with chickpea cake (Chickpea cakes are all the rage now; I went to two restaurants this week that served them.)
  • braised lamb shank
  • seared snapper
  • baklava and frozen yogurts
  • spiced chocolate cake


During prep, Stefan discovered that his freezer was wonky, so he did what you do when in a bind in the kitchen: you find solutions. Rather than letting his panna cotta go to hell in a handbasket, he started chilling small batches of them in ice-filled pans to get them to cool properly. Carla had a similar problem, but didn’t figure it out until it was too late, forcing her to serve her froyos as froyo soups. Leah, meanwhile, ended up totally destroying her cod fillets because the bones were too delicate and she portioned them before boning them, basically ruining her fish.

As far as service itself was concerned, Fabio rocked it out as Front of the House, being charming and attentive, which are exactly the qualities you need to work front of the house at a restaurant. I think he knew it, too, strutting about in his tight white suit and declaring, in a Team Fabio shirt THAT I NEED while in confessional:


“I run the front of the house. We can serve monkey ass in an empty clam shell and we can still win this one.”


Frankly, I would have liked to see that. It would have made their menu more interesting.

I am so on Team Fabio this year.

I am so on Team Fabio this year.

Radhika, on the other hand, was probably the worst person to play front of the house. She was smart in asking Jamie, who actually runs a kitchen as an executive chef, to be her chef de cuisine and run the kitchen for the night, with Jeff on the line and Carla, the pastry chef, on desserts. But I think Jeff, with his Jesse Spencer good looks, would have been better for Front of the House. All Radhika did all night was wander around nervously, dressed in that lavender grey dress that made her look like a rain cloud, harshing the culinary boner of her entire restaurant. She also didn’t seat people promptly, manage her tables well and spent too much time in the kitchen. I mean, really, Radhika, that dress was pretty, but not on you. When I walk into a global restaurant, I expect one of two things: hostess/front of the house/waitstaff all in uniform trendy black or I expect the hostess/front of the house to be brightly attired, to stand out and to represent the kind of vibe you’ll get from the restaurant. I realize Radhika might not have brought a sari with her (and might not own one at all, though I’m sure she’s been to several traditional Indian weddings in her life), but I wish she had worn something that would have made her look more like the feel of the restaurant. A bright pink dress. A bright green one. Anything bright. Just not that sad grey shift. The sadness of that dress just permeated the place. And Radhika herself was practically grim. Bad news all around.

As far as the food served that night, it was all pretty passable. Leah’s fish for the judges came out undercooked, but the worst part of that wasn’t the undercooking, but the fact that Leah gave up on herself and declared that she didn’t care in front of the rest of her team. Then there was Carla’s dessert disaster of runny unfrozen frozen yogurt. Thankfully, Stefan’s desserts were good. So good, in fact, that the judges decided they were the best part of either restaurant. And for that reason alone, Sunset Lounge was called first to Judges’ Table and was declared the winners. The judges also saw fit to inform Leah that her cod was the worst dish of the entire evening, but Stefan’s desserts and Fabio’s excellent service in the dining room got them the win. I really thought they would give the ultimate win to Fabio, but I guess that’s not fair because it’s not a show about being a great Front of the House, so, instead, Stefan was declared the challenge winner and given a suite of GE appliances just like the ones in the Top Chef kitchen.

I would like Leah to go home as soon as possible, given her incredibly morose tone and lack of confidence. I don’t think she could have sounded any less enthusiastic about herself and her abilities when she answered, though several stutters, that she thought her food that night was pretty good when asked her opinion by the judges. She honestly sounds like she doesn’t want to be there anymore. And that’s fine by me. Go the hell home so I don’t have to see you anymore. In my head, when she’s talking, I imagine that she’s the sad little rolly thing from the Zoloft commercials. She can go hang out the Radhika, the Prozac Rain Cloud and have a miserable ol’ time together. Just get her off my fucking television.

As for the losing Sahana team, the judges identified its two main problems: desserts and service. They grilled Carla about her strange dessert decisions, and she grew bizarrely defensive, shouting things about how even though she knew the yogurts were not good, she served them anyway because making them made her happy and she wanted to send that love out to the dining room. What? What? Excuse me? What? That doesn’t make any sense. Tom mentioned to Radhika that it was part of her job to sell the food from the kitchen and if she knew Carla’s desserts were going awry, she should have cleverly started calling them yogurt soups, thus letting the diners know what to expect and saving the menu item. But Radhika has no leadership skills. She reveals that she basically let her team create the menu and work on their individual portions and that she did nothing early on in service to stop the Carla trainwreck from coming to froyo fruition. This, ultimately, proved tot the judges that Radhika did not have the makings of a Top Chef, and she was told to pack her knives and go.

Hooty-Hoo needs to get hooty-home ASAP, as well. Her and Leah are next on my list of people I hate and want to see leave.

You see how disappointing it is to come home to this miserable episode after a delightful meal at One Market? Filled with golden lentil soup with vadouvan and deconstructed mushroom pot pies and well-paired wines? Do you see?

The Wife:

Something about the first two episodes of this season of Eli Stone just isn’t recapturing the magic of the first season. I think part of what made the first season so interesting was that a.) one vision in every episode involved singing and dancing that usually culminated in an awkward moment where only Eli himself appears to be participating in this activity, which was always smile-inducing and b.) Eli’s quest to understand his strange new gift lead him on an interesting, Bryan Fuller-esque spiritual/philosophical quest that often had extreme ramifications for those around him.

In our first two episodes, “The Path” and “Grace,” the only person who seems to really be affected by Eli’s visions anymore is Jordan Wethersby, his boss. To be fair, with Eli’s aneurism removed, the first episode had Eli’s visions (and aneurism) falling to his brother, Dr. Nate, who, like Eli, struggles to understand his new gift. In meetings with Sigourney Weaver, Eli’s imaginary therapist filling the role of God, she tells him that one person in his family always has to have the visions, so if Eli were to reject this burden, they would transfer to someone else. Eli, seeing his brother’s potential to have a normal life with Laura Benanti and her autistic son, begs Sigourney Weaver to get his visions back. So too comes the aneurism.

Why is it that therapists, lawyers and adoption counselers are the only roles this lady can get anymore?

Why is it that therapists, lawyers and adoption counselors are the only roles this lady can get anymore?

Nate was literally affected by the visions for a time, and Jordan was directly affected by Nate’s sole vision of a crane collapse at a bank in which Jordan was trapped when the event came to pass. Nate had to re-enter the vision state with Eli and Dr. Chen’s help in order to find Jordan’s location in the building to help the search and rescue team dig him out. After his recovery, Jordan commits so fully to Eli’s pro bono work that he decides to take the entire firm in a new direction, helping only those clients with whom he feels exhibit good morals, essentially. Jordan committed to Eli’s pro bono work last season, so this change of heart after Eli’s visions (by Nate proxy) actually saved him makes absolute sense.

But my issue with this new story arc of Jordan Wethersby vs. Posner and Kline is that all of the Eli-related legislation from the first season was ultimately a question of faith vs. empirical evidence, and that core dialectic spilled over often into the cases Eli lobbied himself. The clash of the titans among the WPK partners is a question of “some money gained ethically” vs. “lots of money gained the way we always gained it,” and that is a less interesting core question for me. Eli’s visions usually brought in cases that affected the people in his life (like Silver Terrace, a low income housing complex where many of his secretary’s friends lived that was going to be the epicenter of a massive earthquake) or had visions specifically about protecting them (like the Golden Gate-destroying earthquake that almost claimed the life of Julie Gonzalo’s fiancé), so a vision of Katie Holmes? What’s the deal?

like roses, only smellier.

Hot dogs: like roses, only smellier.


While I liked the idea that Eli had a vision of Grace because somehow the two are soul mates – she has a congenital heart condition that could kill her at any minute, just like his aneurism; he likes pro bono work, she likes pro bono work – I was a little dismayed that, ultimately, Eli’s vision in this episode didn’t do what his visions are primarily meant to do: help someone. I did like the fact that Nate sent Grace the Marvels’ ticket to facilitate the two of them meeting in accordance with Eli’s father’s notebook (they’re a family of prophets, you see), because I think that notebook will add an interesting aspect to Eli’s struggle to know his deceased father and add another dimension to how the visions work.

I’d really like to see Eli Stone get back its magic, because its the idea of magic and spiritualism and faith in contrast with the rhetoric of the empirical law that really makes this show work. Oh, and I certainly don’t remember the Legislation-of-the-Week from the first season being quite nearly as schlocky as the soldier story from “Grace,” so let’s tone down the schmaltz, shall we, and get back to the good stuff.

The Husband:

Eli Stone was one of the unsung champions last television season, an intelligent lawyer show with fits of whimsy, great character interactions, intriguing ruminations on spirituality and fate and a whole lot of pretty sweet song-and-dance sequences, thanks to such previous Broadway stars-turned-cast members such as Victor Garber (Godspell, Merrily We Roll Along and Sweeney Todd) and Loretta Devine (Dreamgirls). (Unfortunately, Laura Benanti, who won a Tony during summer break, didn’t get any singing time as far as I can remember.) Now, it’s struggling to extend its charm into more than the first season’s 13-episode short order. I think my wife broke it down pretty well for you guys right above as to what’s going wrong, and I couldn’t agree more.

I do have my own major gripe about this show, and it’s how it has been treating San Francisco as a setting recently. Sometimes it gets a few things right (the show’s law offices are in this crazy SoMa monstrosity that you just can’t miss) and what it got wrong I didn’t really mind (SF’s City Hall does not look anything like the SoCal architecture of the one that appears on the show, but at least it looks like California). Sure, not every show can be Journeyman (which, aside from the confusing location of the Vasser house, got a great deal of the geography and location work right, thanks to a traveling film crew and people behind-the-scenes who seemed to actually give a crap), but this most recent episode of Eli Stone really bothered me.

Seeing this much blue at The Stick is just wrong. So wrong.

Seeing this much blue at The Stick is just wrong. So wrong.

During “Grace,” Eli and his brother attend a Marvels game, the local baseball team, for their final game before the stadium is to be destroyed. It’s fine to change the name of the Giants to the Marvels (I’m the guy who has been amused for nine years about all the fake team names in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday), but it’s another thing to show a wide shot of the stadium and have it be Candlestick Park (sorry, it will never be 3Com or Monster Park to me) where the actual San Francisco Giants have not played since the year 2000. And the stadium-wrecking detail, that’s clearly meant to evoke the current demolition of Yankee Stadium. Why would they even bother going this route when there is so much wrong with what they’re saying, and the details don’t seem to have any reason to be there in the first place? San Francisco is not New York. Not in any way. It has its own very special and very unique personality, so these decisions baffle and irk me to an unreasonable degree.