"MasterChef Junior" (
There is cuteness, inevitably, but there is also competitiveness -- sharpened by the editing, to be sure -- and just as their elders do, some contestants wear their gifts more graciously and gracefully than others. Although there are manipulated moments and obvious omissions common to all reality series, there is no doubt these kids, none older than 13, know their own way around a spatula. This is also, happily, a show in which Ramsay, a great man of food-themed television when he is not playing an insane person, behaves himself -- even in the literal heat of last week's restaurant takeover, when six little chefs cooked lunch at downtown L.A.'s Drago Centro, to the delighted, moved surprise of the customers.
Delighted and moved and surprised is how I have often felt watching the show, because these kids not only cook the darnedest things, they do it with imagination and flair and even bravery. (Witness the yucky-food "mystery box" challenge, in which they were called upon to make something out of sardines, kidneys, liver, brussel sprouts and/or octopus.) It's always a treat to behold excellence, but doubly, even magically so in the very young. Too few episodes in the season is my only complaint, apart from not wanting anyone to be sent home, ever. We are at the end now, but interested latecomers can find earlier episodes online.
“Behind the Mask” (
In the modern mode, the pace is too fast for conversation or contemplation -- the narrative is driven by quick-cut pictures, voice-overs and talking heads -- but manages to make its points and create both memorable characters and a sense of place. It's a life-sized superhero story, in which apparently ordinary folks gain new powers when they put on the costume.
Vandervolk, an NBA Mascot of the Year, is a daredevil acrobat and self-described adrenaline addict -- "the
"Serious Jibber Jabber" with
Of all the many Brooks interviews I've watched or listened to, on TV, on the Web or in person over the last many months, this is easily the best; even when he hauls out stock material (the oft-repeated story of his calamitous Catskills stage debut, for instance, as a 14-year-old in a gray wig playing a district attorney), Brooks draws out the story with fresh dialogue and details. "If I may wax," says Brooks at one point. "That's what we do here is waxing," O'Brien replies. But he also goes deeper than usual into his influences, aspirations and method (and name-checks Modigliani, James Joyce, Sean O'Casey and
"The Greatest Event in Television
Friday Night Spotlight: Screwball comedies (TCM, Fridays in November). Turner Classic Movies offers you the education you should have had, and would have had if you grew up when local television lived on old talking pictures, or, indeed, were around when they first ran in theaters.
On Friday nights in November the network will mount a course in screwball comedy -- the rom-coms of the 1930s and 1940s, for the young and ignorant -- that all English-speaking sentient beings ought to take, whether freshly or as a refresher. We could argue omissions forever but (with maybe one exception) what's here is choice. The opening salvo (a newspaper theme runs through it) begins where it all began, with
Future Fridays bring "The Awful Truth," "My Favorite Wife," "Love Crazy," "Theodora Goes
The last class, on Nov. 29, is all Sturges, and therefore essential: "The Lady Eve" (nerdy millionaire Henry Fonda meets grifter Barbara Stanwyck); "Christmas in July" ("If you can't sleep, it isn't the beans, it's the bunk"), and "The Palm Beach Story," whose weirdness time has not dimmed.