Christmas 2018 & TV Binge: Nailed It! Holiday! (Mini-series, 2018)

You can see reviews for the main seasons here:

Season 1
Season 2

Nailed It! Holiday! (2018)

nailed it holiday

Host: Nicole Byer & Jacques Torres

There are shows that talk about refined baking competitions and such but there is also a great joy in watching amateurs bake because its a learning curve and everyone has to start somewhere. Nailed It! has taken that concept and really excelled with it. Sure, Season 2 had its odd moments where it forgot what it was trying to do but overall, it still brought a lot of joy and laughter to some of the odd baking things that came out of some of these episodes. With that said, I was excited to see that Nailed It Holiday is now a thing. It keeps the same format, very much like the first one which focuses its first round on Baker’s Choice and its making smaller baking things like cookies, cake pops and cupcakes while its second round is the money maker, literally, because you can win $10,000 with  making a cake creation. This time we also see a hint of what might be potential new extension or a new direction for the show in the 7th episode as it escapes the baking realm and jumps into the DIY crafts realm. I’ll talk about that a little later as a final wrap-up discussion point.

Nailed It Holiday

Nailed It! Holiday! definitely did do exactly that. Its hilarious and a ton of fun. It themes itself around the different holidays during this winter season from a good few Christmas to simply winter themes to Hanukkah and takes us straight to a countdown to New Year’s. I’m guessing if you do watch this one or two episodes a week, you might actually reach New Year’s Eve to watch the countdown. The creations themselves are super nice. Its still very much difficulty but its always the how the choice of candidates in the competition that brings a lot of fun because of just how ridiculous some times these things turn out to be. At the same time, they add on a different special button in each one episode themed also around the holidays from unwrapping presents or untangling lights which also makes it fair because if they finish it during the 3 minutes, they can get back to their baking right away. Its a nice twist to the freeze button in the second round.

Nailed It Holiday

Nailed It has always seemed to want to divert away from its baking competition formula. And doing the DIY crafts route is a good one for sure. It might eventually also run out of topics at some point but it has its potential also. The one episode we had was definitely just a taste or maybe a market test in their own right to see how well received it is. I thought it was a fairly fun episode. I like to do DIY crafts as well so this was right up my alley. Crafts have the potential to go horribly wrong and they can also be pretty entertaining to watch as well. I would be down to see if they do a season of this especially of Nicole Byer continues to host.

Talking about that, the reason that Nailed It works despite whatever content they have is in part all the good creative things they do and finding the right type of participants and having a good angle, like this Holiday theme mini series. But the biggest reason is Nicole Byer. She is just the heart and life of this show. While Jacques Torres is a fun match for her, the crafts episode proves that she really can have the same dynamic with another host as well. Its her personality that makes it so fun to watch. Nailed It Holiday is a really fun season and I hope that they continue with this show, whether it be in baking (which I probably would prefer as it works well) or even if they expand to crafts.

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TV Binge: The Final Table (Season 1, 2018)

The Final Table (Season 1, 2018)

The Final Table

Host: Andrew Knowlton

Global competitions should be the hook for Netflix in all kinds of competition simply because they have the opportunity and the resource to make them. It is why I was so excited to stary watching The Final Table. Well, and because I’m a foodie and love watching food related shows (which reminds me that I need to get back to Chef’s Table). The Final Table is just the debut season so there are some imperfections in execution overall but the concept itself is a good one. If there is enough popularity, it would be interesting to see how they can make certain changes to make it more polished to watch. Since I probably won’t find another place to write this, I think the host Andrew Knowlton does a great job and is a good fit for the show because he has the knowledge for it and the charisma to carry the show.

Just for a little basics, The Final Table starts off with teams of two cooks paired up by the chefs own choosing. They are all professional chefs in their own specialities and their different origins and backgrounds. Each episode is themed around one country. The first round consists of a national dish from said country set by the three ambassador judges, which usually includes two celebrities/public figures and one known critic from the specific country. The bottom three teams (until they reach the ending episodes) go into a final dish round where a legendary chef from the specified country will choose an ingredient known in that country to be the star of their next dish and the team considered the less refined for whatever reason will depart the competition. In the last finale, the Top 2 teams break up into individual competition again and the 4 competitors go head to head for the two rounds for the big finale.

The Final Table

Right away, the pros of this one is the country by country theme per episode. It helps people learn about other countries and their dishes and cultures as well as shows off some of their known celebrities. It seems like a pretty win win situation. At the same time, a few (if not more) of the chefs were on Chef’s Table so already associated with the show or known before so makes it more fun to watch in that regard. Some of the national dish choices are pretty surprising so its always nice for the unexpected and mystery element. That part of the structure works well and is well put together. Themed like that gives it a chance to hit a lot of other countries even after they get through all the countries associated with Netflix.

If we look at teams of two, that works pretty well also. It gives them a chance to learn from each other and encourages team work and adds the drama element. At the same time, it gives the chefs a chance to make a more elaborate dish and be strong in certain segments because of each of their different knowledge lending a hand to creating their version of the traditional dish or their knowledge of the ingredient and how to use it in their interpretation as well. If we look at the ambassadors and critics, I don’t have a lot of knowledge of a lot of foreign movies and such so obviously, I knew the USA celebrities the most and then some of them looked familiar and I knew some of the chefs because of Chef’s Table. I think that is part of the fun also as long as the judges themselves have knowledge in food and give constructive criticism.

So far, I’ve said a lot of pros of the show and it is a pretty good structure in its heart. However, I have this issue with how it changes from the teams to the individuals. Personally, if the final challenge was just the last team standing, that might be a little more reasonable. Or commit to it completely and do a half point of top 5 where we get to see the abilities of the individual chef for a few rounds to make it more engaging. At this point, its like a sudden drop to finish the show in a set amount of episodes where they drop a few teams in one shot to force a top 2 which gets siphoned into the finale which just automatically has three chefs removed. That part of the structure needs some work to see what sort of transition works better. If its too little episodes for the amount of teams, then cut 2 teams or something to make it work out. Whatever it is, that needs some work to not feel like the change comes and leaves too abruptly.

Overall, its a good idea and things work for the most part. There probably will be more polish to this if it gains its popularity. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing another season of The Final Table.

Halloween 2018: TV Binge: The Haunting of Hill House (Season 1, 2018)

We are back with the horror marathon continuation. Some of you know that I am a huge Mike Flanagan fan. I think that he has a lot of skills as a director and delivers some great atmospheric horror. When I saw that The Haunting of Hill House is created by Mike Flanagan, it went to the top of the pile right away. And here we are…

The Haunting of Hill House (Season 1, 2018)

the haunting of hill house

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Michael Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Victoria Pedretti

Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. – IMDB

The Haunting of Hill House is adapted from a book which I haven’t read before so no comparison from me on how closely or loosely adapted it is. However, as many great reviews as there are out there, there were some pacing issues here. Some scenes were drawn out but I won’t get into which to keep this spoiler free. If you disagree, you can send me an email and I will tell you which and you can tell me why I am wrong. One of my biggest comments about almost all Netflix series is pacing, it always has his first half slow development and halfway point has this turning climactic point that changes the game then the second half of the series is mindblowingly awesome. Same applies here. Pacing doesn’t equate execution completely because in terms of creepy and atmosphere, this one delivers them in great beautiful haunting degrees and while there are some jump scares, they have this lingering effect. I say this because I had one scene that startled me and I had a delay in reaction from screaming really loud because I was terrified.

the haunting of hill house

As much as I think the pacing for the first half doesn’t match the second half, I can’t exactly dismiss it either because it gave us a one on one time with each of the Crain kids and their views on Hill House but more importantly, their personality and relationship with each other. It told us a story from each of their lives and we can see the impact that their childhood at Hill House had on them as we alternated masterfully between the flashbacks to the present. Its this part that subconsciously gives the connection to the characters. Of course, some of the stories are stronger than the other ones but thinking back, it fits together with the end game. Talking about character, Hill House is a character by itself. The layout and the decor to its past and its previous inhabitants. There is a lot of mystery behind it.

the haunting of hill house

As much as I felt that I am not as excited about The Haunting of Hill House as everyone else seems to be, Mike Flanagan does deliver on the atmosphere and giving legit jumpscares that were effective and fitting. This series is in its details. The ghosts are probably more than you can see unless you observe really carefully. However, the feeling that something is lurking or something doesn’t feel right or how the ghosts appear are all done really well.

Halloween 2018 TV Binge: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (Season 1, 2018)

Moving onto another spontaneous TV Binge. I’m starting to divert away from inital plans (as I had foresaw), however, this new Netflix series which I know nothing about before is right up my alley so I gave it a go. Plus, its pretty dark and has some bizarre creepy Halloween elements so it fit well with the half-baked Halloween marathon that I’ve been having this month.

Let’s check out The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell!

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (Season 1, 2018)

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Cast: Christine McConnell, Colleen Smith, Michael Oosterom, Mick Ignis, Adam Mayfield, Dita Von Teese

Part cooking show, part sitcom in the vein of the Addams Family and the Muppet Show set inside the enchanted home of Christine McConnell, who has attracted hundreds of thousands of social media followers with her creepy edible creations. – IMDB

I watch a lot of the cooking and/or food related shows on Netflix. I haven’t heard of Christine McConnell before this show despite her Instagram fame. Now that I have that out of the way, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is a neat concept. She is definitely talented. Her creations are weird but detailed and definitely requires a lot of skill and artistic talent to do. The concept of using a crossover with puppets like The Muppets Show also adds a different vibe to the overall show. However, this isn’t a show for children at all. As the show moves along, it gets dark over its six episodes currently available in the first season.

With that said, I like weird but the overload of oddity and strangeness made it a little hard to find where it wanted to set its tone. I didn’t find the sitcom aspect worked for myself but it all comes down to humor being very subjective. Even with six episodes, it felt a little bit of a chore to get through. There is no doubt there is something to take away from her creations, be it a skill or two about how to assemble something with that amount of grandeur and over the top. It also has a wide variety of things to teach with some crafts and both dinner, appetizers and dessert creations. Its all about the construction which is where this falls apart a little. As pretty as it is, its not really a cooking show if I look at something and admire its craftsmanship but think to myself, for example, when will I have time to craft a chicken pastry for a chicken pot pie… With that said, the second half of the show that settles into the odd world does work better than the first half. Maybe its getting used to the humor or the tone or the characters but whatever the reason, it felt more compelling to watch with also a constrained direction for each episode which works. The 20 plus minute episode is its saving grace as it keeps things paced well.

Overall, its a hit and miss for me. I like the concept and the creativity behind each of her ideas and acknowledge the skill and appreciate being able to learn some decorating skills and craft skills, there is too much of a mixed world of weirdness that surpasses my limit. The humor sitcom part also doesn’t quite land well for myself. However, its not a long first season with 6 episodes of 20 plus minutes long which makes it a series that even if you were to try because you like the style and odd things, it won’t take up too much of your time. The creations alone (even if not a lot of people, I suppose, really has time to do about 90% of her stuff) are worth looking at, which is great because this is called The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell so it delivers on its title which is always a good thing. Plus, Christine McConnell has a fantastic wardrobe and the house its set in also is so very pretty.

TV Binge: The Chamber of Secrets Escape 密室逃脱:暗夜古宅 (Season 1, 2018)

Moving away from movies for today, we’re taking a look at a Chinese TV game show called The Chamber of Secrets Escape.

Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxeBkIJb4qE&list=PLUM8x224JrX9wa0S9MatA4vQ-6v8Qm_x6&index=10

The Chamber of Secrets Escape (Season 1, 2018)

the chamber of secrets escape

Host: Ma Ke

Cast/Guests: Danson Tang, You Ming Huang, Yi Xuan Zhou, Zhi Yuan Xia, Xi Yue Cao, Xiao Yu Lu, Wen Han Li, Mei Ren Wang, Han Yu Gao, Amelie Xu, Bo Wen Wang

This is an ancient style chamber escaping reality show which the celebrity guests are to use their wits to pass each checkpoint and also whether they show good teamwork or working together against the opposing team. – My Drama List

***I’m going to say sorry in advance that the show is only in Chinese. I have the urge to use the Youtube translate thing and do it but I currently don’t have the time to commit to that yet. ***

With a total of 10 episodes, this season is a quick and fast one to go through. The Chamber of Secrets Escape : The Dark Night is all about pitching a group of people into different elaborately built puzzles with different back stories and different goals and twists in the escape room game. The eliminated participants have to go run this corridor of darkness which literally is a 100 metre corridor where you are being chased by a dog. Its a race between getting to the ladder at the end to salvation. The winners of the show have a donation made in their names to a pre-selected school in the country.

The Chamber of Secrets Escape

The host himself is Ma Ke who does a nice sinister feeling as he welcomes the participants and leads them on the journey as a behind the scenes sort of puppet master. I think that was the feeling this started as and even in the first or second episode, it felt that way on how the game set the tone of how it was more about the psychological aspect of it as it talks about how when people are faced with dangerous situation how their human nature would react. Granted these are actors and celebrities, I do wonder whether there is some aspect of it staged beforehand and the environments are controlled as well but they do give them leeway to be fairly exciting. Its one of the reasons that makes this so much fun to dive into.

The Chamber of Secrets Escape

The puzzles here can be fairly hard to put together. At the same time, the show has a definite focus on the game show human nature and opposing and teamwork and trust emphasis that the viewers only get glimpses of the puzzles so it isn’t one to sit down and have time to figure out. However, this is a game show so the human relationships here are put as priority to add in drama and suspense. I do love how the show defines some of its main participants like Danson Tang and You Ming Huang, who are there for 9 of the 10 since the 10th episode changed all the familiar faces from before. The dynamic of three of the most frequent participants definitely breathed life into the show.

Overall, its a fun experience. As with some of the other game shows on this channel in the same family, its one that makes me want to participate in real life in some of these maps. Maybe not the zombie ones because even if I knew it was fake, it would still be creepy. The budget behind these sets and stories and puzzles look so great and its what brings these stories to life and creates the atmosphere.

Ultimate Beastermaster: Survival of the Fittest (Season 3, 2018)

Ultimate Beastmaster: Survival of the Fittest
(Season 3, 2018)

Countries: USA, South Korea, Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Australia

Hosts:

USA: Tiki Barber, CM Punk
South Korea: Seo Kyung Suk, Park Kyeong Rim
Great Britain: Kate Abdo, Stu Bennett
France: Gilles Marini, Sandy Heribert
Germany: Micky Beisenherz, Jeannine Michaelsen
Mexico: Luis Ernesto Franco, Ines Sainz
Brazil: Rafinha Bastos, Anderson Silva
Australia: Dannii Minogue, Nick Cummins

Season 3 of The Ultimate Beastmaster is definitely a survival of the fittest. After last year, it seems they’ve spent those extra months to revamp the Beast. The show itself which felt more like the Ninja Warrior game show style is definitely feeling much more like a legitimate competition with a slight revamp in point system, modified obstacles and a new structure to the competition itself. There are more countries, less athletes, more possibilities to gain extra points based on speed and the show adds in a semifinals portion. For mega fans like myself who can’t help to binge the entire show over the weekend of the launch, its a lot to process whether all those changes made the show more competition or did it create an imbalance to the athletes in each round making it to the semifinals and then to the finals. However, I have to say, by the time I reached the finals, I was sold through and through on this new set-up for Ultimate Beastmaster.

Season 3 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and that makes it so exciting because it gives this Netflix reality show not only an international twist but also has the perk of having the countries involved be hosted with their own languages. It is something I’ve appreciated from the first season and highlights some fantastic athletes. This season’s athletes are simply incredible. A lot of them that made it through really showed resilience, perseverance, motivation and even packed in some incredibly inspiring stories from different backgrounds. I might never train to conquer the Beast, it feels a little late but it did give me such an appreciation of the obstacles and respect for these fantastic athletes.

If you are like me, well, lets take a look at some of the changes more in depth and how I feel its improved Ultimate Beastmaster as a whole both from the entertainment value like the hosts and countries as well as the competition set-up itself. Note that there will be no spoilers. I won’t tell you who wins the season, who makes it to whichever part or mention particularly any athletes. The joy is letting their abilities and successes surprise you when you go watch it for yourself.

Ultimate Beastmaster

Contestants & Hosts

This year’s new addition is Australia and Great Britain for starters. They bring in their own rivalries along with some of the other countries also falling into their own competitions especially propelled by the hosts as they fight in their booths in past year. To be honest, the hosts themselves bring in some screen time and they are full of life. One of the features of Ultimate Beastmaster is that each country gets their show hosted by that country or the language the hosts are speaking. For me in Canada, well, we always get the US version of things which is not a bad thing. This year, Tiki Barber makes a return and CM Punk replaces last season’s co-host. I don’t know who he is but hearing Tiki Barber have the chance of calling him “Punk” all the line legitimately because its his name makes it kind of entertaining at times. There is a fair screen time for other hosts too.

In terms of contestants, this year’s is all about who they are. I like the fact that they decreased the amount of contestants making it one per country but adding 2 extra countries (I believe) to have 8 countries instead of 6 with 2 contestants to make it even more diverse and of course, the decreased amount lets us see more lengthy versions of their Beastmaster run in each level while also seeing more of their back story. In the previous seasons, it would favor over the country we were watching but in sportsmanship like manner, which makes this more of an actual competition, it gives the feeling of equal emphasis and that adds so much to the competition. Honestly, I have my more favorite contestants because we learn more about them and watch them through the levels so everyone gets to cheer for everyone or someone when we reach the semifinals or even the finals. It got me more involved. Sometimes the drama is a little heavy handed but I think in some cases, Ultimate Beastmaster also doubles as motivation that working out is a positive thing and inspiring as different outlets for different people in different country having different reasons that pushed to the sports and fitness that they choose to excel in.

Point System & Tournament Structure

In the past, from what I remember at least, the point system was accumulative over the 3 rounds and the lowest contestants like 2 or 4 or something would get eliminated. I did wonder on how I felt for the first few episodes when I saw that each round resets the points to zero and makes it structured around their successes in that round so that the contestants all get a clean slate for the next part and not have a head start on their points giving them an advantage to move on to the next round. At the same time, point thrusters are present as usual while they added something called mega point thrusters which count down and encourage the contestants to be faster to get there and maximize their points. Its good because while caution is important, the same amount of points is differentiated by their time in who comes out first. Mega thrusters also give the contestants a way to who is willing to make those risks to get ahead and sometimes, especially with one contestant this season, it cost them a lot.

What makes this more like a tournament is that every episode yields the top two to go into the semi-finals. And semi-finals are after each set of 3 episodes bringing in 6 contestants to do pretty much an endurance run of the entire obstacles as far as they can with on restart from a checkpoint. This is what makes it more like a tournament. The top few will go to the finals which now isn’t a race to the top but how far or how fast they can get to the top with any points as possible.

Obstacle Course

ultimate beastmaster s3

Finally, its impossible to not end this without talking about the obstacle courses. If you follow it like myself, you will see that some of the obstacles especially the particularly challenging ones are still around. It is nice to see that while this course is very favoring towards those with upper body strength, some of the courses are changed a little more to be a little easier but making some other parts also more challenging. Its these changes that give it a nice twist and refreshing to watch. Sometimes the little changes are all you need to round out the experience.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Ultimate Beastmaster. I love the new structure and the whole tournament style works really well. The new system and less countries and having more time to see the contestants and the obstacles in general all contribute to a better experience. Its an awesome change.  I’m hoping that it gets renewed again.

TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Nailed it Season 2 (TV Binge HERE) gave me the push I needed to start up Queer Eye on Netflix. I never saw the original on TV so I’ve only ever heard of what it is and never really knew. However, the mini special episode on Nailed It was so fun that I knew that I had to check it out.

Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Queer Eye

Hosts: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France

A new Fab Five set out to Atlanta to help the city’s straight men refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, cultural pursuits, and home décor. – IMDB

Queer Eye starts off with the opening segment with the Fab 5 talking about being a part of this team and what they say is exactly the perfect way to start it off with two key quotes:

“The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” – Tan

“My goal is to figure out how we’re similar as opposed to how different we are.” – Antoni

Queer Eye does a great job at delivering on their goals of acceptance and highlighting what makes LGBT similar. Other than when I was a child and found it odd, I’ve always been open-minded about the LGBT community so I don’t quite understand what the difference is other than the fact that they like a different gender. However, the show itself delivers more than that. For one, there’s the Fab 5. Second, we need to take a look at these makeover stories and how impactful and meaningful they are and finally, the message it wants to deliver as a whole and the overall enjoyment of the series.

Fab 5

Like I said before, I’ve never watched the original so I have no comparison (not that I think it needs to be compared). This Fab 5 is comprised of Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness. As a group, they take care of food & wine, fashion, design, culture and grooming respectively. As a group, they blend so well together on screen from how they admire each other’s work and how to approach their game plan of the overall makeover. There are some great moments as a group throughout the season because they each have their expertise. With that said, each of the Fab 5’s expertise brings a lot to the table. They each know what they are doing and it really makes the viewers feel that the knowledge they bring is educating the public. They never go extreme and stuff anything down anyone’s throats but they feel so genuine to watch because of their dedication to the cause. I’ve watched and rewatched the show a lot of times and their reactions and expressions always bring me so much joy and whatever emotions. They are all so unique in their personality that it blends so well to make it an entertaining watch.

Queer Eye

As we look at the makeover stories here, the first season was our introduction to what the Fab 5 wanted to achieve and determine what they were capable of. In that sense, the first episode set the tone perfectly with an older gentlemen who was open-minded but also fell into some misconceptions in how gay men were identified. For example when he asks who wears the pants in the relationship. However, be it the age difference or the lack of confidence of their first makeover person, it all works well to show what the Fab 5 is all about even if you’ve never seen the original. They educate not only in their own domains and its not only a physical transformation but also a mental transformation as they try to help build confidence or help them see a better version of themselves that someone will want to be. Be it this first episode called “You Can’t Fix Ugly” or the other episodes in the season, you can see the different backgrounds and the different perspectives as the Fab 5 remain open-minded and honest about the feelings and views as they also learn about the people they are dealing with to not only transform the person of the week but also take away from that experience. Its a really fantastic thing to see communication especially in the current state of the world and all the news we hear about the bad stuff going on. Season 1 followed along very strong in the candidates that were chosen in the following episodes. There were local heroes like a fireman trying to get ready to raise enough money for a fireman program, a man coming out to his family, other one dealing with opening up himself to the people in his life, a father of six trying to make it all happen in the everyday chaos then of course one of the best of the season, was the police officer. Its a lot of variety and that makes it fresh and new to watch as well as educational to see the different views people have on the different topics in the society. There’s a lot of heartstrings to be tugged here and a few times, I was looking for my box of Kleenex (and I mean, in some cases, every rewatch gets me all over again).

Queer Eye

Suffice to say that I’m a huge fan of the show. Queer Eye delivers on so many levels. The show itself and the Fab 5 have a great personality that works so well in the realm of what they are doing. In many ways, a lot of what they are saying and teaching is relatable because its not just a physical transformation. At the same time, it works well to showcase the initial statement of how its about acceptance of everyone no matter the differences but rather to see the similarities that everyone has. I think the message is a great one and because of these heartfelt stories and the makeover, its entertaining and educational and that makes for some great positive reality TV and something I totally recommend for everyone.