Imagine blue skies, lush greenery and a bit of eerie music. Throw in a quick montage of a dozen overachieving perfectionistas and a Joan Lunden voice-over and there you have the initial moments of this show. And of my recap, as well. But that's a quibble. Let's meet the feebles (in talent, that is). Off they go into the wilds of New England, in a fleet of limousines, one for each perfectionist.
I'd be remiss if we got to the nobodies before introducing the celebrity judges. There's:
* David Evangelista, CBS stylist to the stars. He's fresh off his talking head gig on VH1's 100 Greatest Red Carpet Moments.
*Candace Bushnell, author-muse for Sex and the City. Ahh yes, the woman responsible for inflicting Carrie and her flock of fashion mavens onto the mainstream television audience. I hate her.
*Bobby Flay, super star (Iron) chef and Food Network regular. Speaking of, whatever became of his previous co-hosts, Jack McDavid and Jacqui Malouf? I need to check the side of milk cartons for them. (Thank you CBS producers, for not hiring Rachael Ray for this job).
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
There must be lots of show to cram into a mere hour, because we are subjected to another furious flurry of snippy quotes from one contestant to another, which I don't bother noting, because it'll all be forthcoming in future episodes. You'll still be reading these missives, won't you? This all will lead to the coronation of one wicked winner, chosen from this lucky dozen. Listed by name and area of expertise are:
*Margo(Interior Design)-the 40 year old Californian is a single mother of 3 teens and makes a living as a purchasing supervisor. She wants to make a name for herself by doing something big. She's like Mrs. Huxtable if Cliff had left her.
*Heather(Fashion)-A yappy 25 year old fashion designer based in Los Angeles who endears herself (sarcasm alert) to all by believing she's universally well-liked. She's reminds me of a less pouty Molly Ringwald.
*Dawn(Party Planner)-She's a 33 year old Texan domestic superstar who moonlights as a first grade teacher. She's got a passion for home projects. Molly, meet Ally Sheedy.
*Mitch(Floral Design)-Mitch is a modest young man from Chicago, who claims to have been blessed by God with talent galore, enabling him to be a professional drape hanger, architect, and chef.
*Denise(Event Planner)-A 39 year old former ad copywriter who is a current stay at home mother, meaning she has plenty of time to plot a hostile take-over of Martha Stewart's recently abandoned conglomerate.
*Tim(Finish Carpenter)-This California-based 25 year guy's resume is slim. He's a carpenter by trade, woodworker by hobby and wisely feels he's going to have to be better, faster, and stronger.
*Kimberley(Custom Woodworking)-Hailing from Atlanta, this lady would like to "revive the art of home-keeping". Does that make any sense? I thought it was house-keeping. Regardless, she's willing to bleed or cry to win. My emphasis on the crying part.
*Mychael(Gourmet Cuisine)-Caterer and chef residing in San Francisco, this entertaining doyenne gets her jollies by competing in cook-offs and claims to be stylish, practical, and multi-faceted. She's a tad self-centered.
*Michelle(Gourmet Cakes)-Yet another Californian! This one's a 29 year old competitive pastry chef, who wants to use the show to promote her bakery.
*Tom(Conceptual Design)-From Michigan, the 41 year old plans on shattering the stereotype that only high-strung women have the market on the domestic arts. Here's a bitchy guy who can do just as well as the ladies.
*Darlene(Ornate Sewing)-If she's from New Port Richey Florida, chances are she's employed by the Home Shopping Network. The television pitchwoman is a whiz with the sewing machine, but wants to expand her horizons to include hosting great dinner parties.
*Amy(Fine Art)-What a chipper New Yorker! The only things she has to say about herself is that she smiles a lot and likes the color pink. What a way to define yourself.
I Went To A Garden Party
Cut to some tables draped in pink and white set out on a Connecticut expanse. Are Trista and Ryan renewing their wedding vows? No, it's just Joan Lunden's welcoming ceremony segment. For the next 30 days, the dueling dozen will simultaneously work together and vie against each other, with the results critiqued and judged accordingly. To the eventual winner goes the spoils:
*a book deal with Adria, a division of Simon and Schuster
(cut to random shots of contestants grinning like idiots)
*6 guaranteed appearances on The Early Show
(smile, Darlene, you're on Candid Camera!
*a TV deal with KingWorld, producers of Oprah and Dr. Phil's talk shows.
(look at Heather being perkier than Molly ever was!)
Joan promptly divides the group into two teams. Team 1 is comprised of Tim, Heather, Denise, Mychael, Amy, and Mitch. That leaves Margo, Darlene, Michelle, Kimberley, Dawn, and Tom in Team 2.
An Apple A Day
It's down to the fine print. Each week there will be a team challenge that includes individual projects, and will be judged on both. The judges will select the two lamest individual efforts and put them at the mercy of their team mates. The big smiles all melt into grimaces of pain. It's hard to determine Mychael's demeanor behind the goggle-like Jackie Onassis sunglasses she's donning.
Joan makes haste and comes up with the ground rules of Part 1 of the team challenge: Both teams have half an hour to pick apples like nobody's business.
And they're off! Both groups dash about, stripping tablecloths off furniture and dragging along ladders before heading off into the orchard. Mitch doesn't care what sort of apple gets collected, leading Mychael to brag about her favorite topic, Mychael. She's not worried about what strain of apple since she can work with any kind of fruit known to man. Or woman.
It's near the 15 minute mark when things start to get ugly and desperate in the orchard. I can only mean Darlene, who is seen shaking and throttling a hapless tree in an attempt to mug it of some fruit. Mychael drops plenty of apples along the way, which she probably is thinking she can hide in some cobbler. Kimberley describes one apple variety as "sweet and chalky", perfect for pies. Remember this, gentle readers-it's a heaping plateful of foreshadowing. As time winds down, it looks like Team 1 has a few more apples in their bin.
House On Haunted Hill
Everyone gets a chance to catch their breath and clean up. That evening the perfectionists reconvene with Joan, who's got on some sort of black cape, always suitable attire in which to laud the charms of a mansion abode. Nothing says home like turrets and a crocodile-filled moat. Additionally, the 10-acre estate has a 19th century carriage house that the competitors will use as a design salon.
Even though the estate boasts 20,000 square feet of living space, they have to share rooms. The women mostly flop around on their beds like girls at a sleep over, while Tim goes off on some Knights of the Round Table soliloquy at the sight of a massive dining room set. Mitch from Team 1 immediately lays claim to the equipment in the design salon, excusing his boorishness by admitting to being a bit bossy. It's all part of his plan to win.
All About The Teamwork
Day 2 and it's a sunshine day at the manse. Time for these teams to have some real monikers. Cue the trumpets! Meet Team Crafty Beavers. I don't get it. Is it a pornographic reference? Are they making fun of Amy's toothy smile? It must be because Tim's a carpenter, right? Eh...I shall hereby call this team CB. Team 2 is now Team Artisan. How droll, compared to the gem the other six came up with.
Joan tells them that both teams managed to collect over 3,000 apples each. Now it's up to them to come up with the most innovative design display, some of which has to be edible. Joan struggles to be heard over the groans of ecstasy. All the fruit is to be used. Any neglected apples will only count against their final score. Amid this flurry of creation, each person has to make time to work on their own individual fruity project. They will be judged on creativity, ingenuity, presentation, and overall style. They have 24 hours and $1,500 come up with their apple extravaganza.
In honor of Iron Chef Flay, any segment dealing with food must include cheesy Iron Chef references. Call it an homage, if you will. Since Joan is very Chairman Kaga-like in her cloak, I'm relegated to being the commentator. Bang a gong, it is on!
CB member Mitch cuts to the chase by busily and bossily sketching out some diagrams in the salon, planning some half-apple encrusted structure while the rest of the team look on helplessly. Tim states the obvious, that they are under a dictatorship. Mitch puts Mychael on kitchen duty, and she goes on and on about her plans for apple sausages and potato-apple pancakes. Maybe Miss Chef is actually a short order cook at Denny's, what with all this talk of flapjacks and sausages. Now I'm hungry.
Meanwhile at Team Artisans, another man's in charge. Tom's busy doodling away, mapping out some archway. Margo takes her life into her own hands by daring to brandish her own marker to draw in her contribution, some sort of table.
Queens For A Day
Tom grandly decides that the ladies will now be known as "fabric queens". Pot, meet kettle. Mindless of the irony in the air, he sets a few royalty to work on an armoir decorating project, and sends Dawn and Kimberley off shopping. Darlene has all her ideas shot down by Tim. It doesn't matter if it's dried apple accents or a dowdy Waldorf salad. None of it flies with Mr. Cosmopolitan, Tom. Have you ever had a Waldorf salad? Apples and mayonnaise are a bad choice for an outdoor buffet. Darlene decides to make this her own personal gender war.
Back at CB, Tim the tool man is proving to be not so crafty. He's needing Mitch to explain the basics of building frames to him. Having a florist school a carpenter on all this is not a good thing.
Back with the other crew, Darlene begins to fret over her individual craft. She gets busy with some buttery apple butter compote, complete with that all important side dish of Tom-snark. He believes she's not focused on the team and wheedles her, causing Darlene to stash her half finished dish up in her room. The Artisans are still down two Fabric Queens, who are shown shopping for decor material, ribbons, and fake flowers at the local Dollar General. Back at the manor, Tom is in a major snit, bemoaning that he won't be able to finish his own dish, a bisque that looks like melted peanut butter. The two shoppers return nearly 5 hours after they were sent off on their errand. All's well with the King and the minions are put to work.
Mitch and Tim continue to toil on the armoir, which is slowly being covered in half-apples that are crucified on nails. In the kitchen, Mychael has made Heather her kitchen bitch, or sous-chef, as it were. She farms out the prep work so that she can handle the important steps, such as massaging pork loins. There's a great clip of the other CB'ers threading apples, just like the popcorn tinsel kids make for Christmas. Mychael decides she's worked enough, and with her food prep finished, she heads off for 6 hours of sleep while the other 5 contestants toil away. She's thoughtful enough to post a wake-up request. There goes the spirit of taking one for the team.
The Artisans keep changing concept ideas, but find a use for Dawn's tacky fake hydrangeas. Darlene comes up with one of the neatest ideas of the night, a glass topped shadowbox on legs that will showcase some apples and raffia. Her team members remain catty, though. Okay, yes she's annoying, but it's a cute craft idea. Denise comes up with candy apple invitations for her personal project. And then there's Heather and her apple peel lamp. That lampshade winds up covered in compost. Color faux-finishing isn't going to help that horror. Darlene braves a taste of Tom's apple-squash tarragon bisque, which is competing with Kimberley's dowdy apple pie. The thought of this causes the woman to burst into a freshet of tears. We have a cryer on our hands, and Bobby Flay hasn't even gotten a hold of her yet.
Apple Of My Eye
As their time comes to an end, the final touches are put in place, with minimal blood or tears shed. Off they traipse into the judging round. Joan pulls up in a nice GMC Sierra packed with judges, who she introduces to the participants. First there's style expert David Evangelista, who capers over to the crowd to much applause. Then comes the vision of trampiness that can only be Candace Bushnell. She's in a getup her character Carrie Bradshaw would envy, from the jacket trimmed in yak fur down to the fishnet stockings and boots. Does Manolo Blahnik make hooker boots? Lastly there's chef Bobby Flay. If memory serves me right, he's a man who's not afraid of kicking some Iron Chef ass or standing on a cutting board or two. He's behaving, so far.
The judges show some excitement over the apple event, going over both of the team displays, one of which includes a cheesecake that looks like it's decorated with cockroaches on the half-shell. I hope those are pecans. The CB crew can claim that particular dish. Candace is very impressed with the first teams apple mat and Bobby compliments the food, but homes in on the fact that Mychael did the lion's share of the food preparation.
At Team Artisan's setup, Candace notices the faux flowers right off the bat and questions the aesthetic sensibilities of a person who would forgo real buds and opt for bogus ones. Bobby mockingly suggests that one pillage a neighbor's rose bush before resorting to impostor poseys. David, who might have some clairvoyant powers, asks Darlene if she faced any opposition during the project. She falls handily into this trap, going off about how she was shut out of the creative process at every turn. Bad move, hon.
It's now time for deliberation. David confesses that he likes the efforts put forth by the Crafty Beavers(the team), and it's no surprise when this team wins. Smirking proudly, they await their individual critiques. The apple-chocolate concoction gets lambasted, as does the apple peel lamp. The judges all rave over the candy apple invitations and deem it the best of the projects. This means that Denise wins the GMC Sierra that Joan drove up in. Nice!
The Artisans are in for some bad news. Sorry creation #1 is the apple-squash tarragon bisque, which Tom didn't even bother to take out of the crud-crusted pot he cooked it in. The other failure is Kimberley's apple pie.
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree
Before the group decides on who to vote out, Tom decides to get his digs in at Darlene. In full bitch mode(married, with kids?) he tells Miss HSN that he will not discuss matters with her. She gets in his face as only a professional hostess can, retorting that she's tired of his dictatorship. Peasants, revolt! Tom stamps his feet and in a high falsetto leads the lemmings upstairs to discuss his master plan. Darlene sneaks along. Tom wants to know if he should play martyr and quit, so that Kimberley has a chance. How noble, and egotistical, I might add. Mitch advises against this plan, while Kimberley cries at the thought of his concern for her. Then Tom, who's just got to be suffering from PMS induced moodiness, changes his mind and asks everyone NOT to vote him out. To hell with Kimmy.
Voting takes place outside in the middle of the night. A bit odd, but it's par for the course. Kim's last words are short and sweet. The same cannot be said for Tom. He enumerates the reasons why he should stay:
1. He's got a strong work ethic.
2. The Fabric Queens need a strong MALE leader.
3. The competition likes him.
4. His aesthetic standards are as high as the judging panel.
5. Dawn and Kim have similar styles.
6. The soup foul up was because he didn't add enough squash and butter.(Yeah, right!)
And the vote is unanimous. Tom is ousted! See what happens when you don't use a soup tureen? It's a minor tragedy, and Tom leaves without much drama.
Joan sends the Fabric Queens off with a warning that they will have to step up their game. No rest for the wicked, you say? Bah! Everyone heads off for some well deserved sleep, Mychael included.
If you email me, it better include a candy apple! firstname.lastname@example.org