TV Binge: Skate Into Love (冰糖炖雪梨, 2020)

Skate Into Love (冰糖炖雪梨, 2020)

Skate into Love

Director: Yui Bun Chu

Cast: Steven Zhang, Janice Wu, Lijie Zhou, Vincent Wei, Jiunuo Han, Lei Zhang, Ziling Ding, Bo Cao, Tianyu Qin, Xuanlin He, Yue Chu, Eman Zhang,

A speed skating girl crosses paths with the ice hockey god of their school. Despite starting off on the wrong foot, they start on a journey to chase after their dreams. – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Youtube

STORY

Skate Into Love is the second series in the Honey Trilogy adapted from novel of the same name by Jiu Xiaoqi (the first was Ashes of Love. You can see my review HERE). Its essentially a sports and romance drama about a bunch of youths chasing after their ice sports dreams and trying to beat the impossible and get into the next Olympics in speed skating, hockey and figure skating. Chinese Olympians and professional athletes were hired in the production to choreograph the moves to keep it realistic as well as the cast had to take lessons to perform their own skating. Some things a tad over exaggerated like the scene above where if an arena’s partitions could break and shatter with a player checking another one. That’s just nitpicking obviously.

Its a breath of fresh air every once in a while to see series that is about something other than solely romance. In this one, its about chasing dreams while also showcasing the different successes ice sports have achieved over the years since they did cast some Olympians into the show as cameo roles and they had consultation to keep the series grounded and realistic. Chasing dreams and perseverance is a big backdrop here even if the characters do have their own little family dramas and complicated friendships and other competitions. There are love triangles and different romantic connections as well but it never loses focus that the premise revolves are these charming characters finding strength in each other whether as teammates in a hockey team or competing against each other as an anchor to be better or even finding the inner confidence to rekindle the love with a sport and balancing its importance and other elements in life.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 40
Length of episodes: 35 mins

For 40 episodes, Skate Into Love manages to have a great pacing. It sets up where these athletes are at when the story starts especially with a focus on female main character Tang Xue and her speed skating dream that she had to give up because of an injury in high school and because of this, her family’s opposition to her choosing this career for something more steady career path. As she meets again her elementary school friend and current university hockey team leader Li Yu Bing and work through their past issues and gradually become friends and have romantic feelings for each other, she also encounters figure skating university athlete Yu Yan who she treats like a brother and defends him because of his more timid and introvert personality and breaks him out of his protected environment to show him the world that he is missing which leads him to be a love interest.

The story focuses on Tang Xue but as her friendships and teammates expands into those characters friends and dreams, it builds up on each of the tangent to help build up these characters properly along with the things that are important to them and the sacrifices they will do for their dream and for each other. Its about relationships, dreams and friendship. Like most dramas, life isn’t fair and is rather complicated and yet while staying in the realm of the focus of this story, it doesn’t forget to also create great moments between each of these characters and how they help each other to move forward and the struggles they have to work through their own inner struggles of being an athlete as well as the difficulties they face from outside influences. Each issue and success in the development is timed well and each character development and relationship build-up also blends well with the flow of the story to make these characters more likable. There are sweet and happy moments and there are sad and nerve-wrecking challenges, just like how life normally is.

The deal is that the show works through each of these three leads and their own ice sports focus and the path they need to take. The structure is set up very clearly and that’s why the pacing also works smooth.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Li Yu Bing (Steven Zhang) & Tang Xue (Janice Wu) & Yu Yan (LiJie Zhou)

I have to say that Janice Wu is one of my favorite Chinese actresses. Her acting skills is able to embody this strength in each of her character whether its the stubbornness or perseverance and also manages to give quite a bit of depth, just like layers that they peel back to see her character having a tough side but also a rather sweet and shy side when in love. There’s also this loyalty to her friends. That’s the charm of the character of Tang Xue that she portrays. Paired up with each of these male leads, it has a different dynamic. The difference in this story is that her love trajectory, other than her high school crush that shows up again to try to break up her and Li Yu Bing all the time out of jealousy (which I will talk about in a later section), her heart is loyal to her current love Li Yu Bing that starts like most dramas on an “enemy” stance which she never quite understands how it happens. When the childhood friendship blends with her present, it shows another side of her character. Steven Zhang and Janice Wu gradually starts off in a more comedic pranking each other sort of manner and eventually, their chemistry also grows throughout the series from sweet moments to a couple that you can root for because both of these characters may be flawed but have great characteristics that make them incredibly likable plus together they make each other better.

Add in the equation of Yu Yan, his character lives in a closed world that expands because he meets Tang Xue. Lijie Zhou does a good job also in taking on this role. His character has the cute and timid title of a “little sheep” because he is rather naive and doesn’t know much about the world around him, lacks decisiveness and is controlled by his mother in order to push him to be a successful figure skater. As his character grows, he loses his focus and ends up struggling through an inner battle and things spiral out of control. His story is one that focuses on friendship and support network in a sport that is a very lonely fight that maybe doesn’t need to be that lonely. A solid second male lead that I enjoyed watching. He wasn’t frustrating but at the same time, he was a naive character to say the least that went through a phase of growing up from experiencing a lot of first times that “normal” young adults at his age would have if his world wasn’t revolving around strict training.

The dynamic between these three character is also a huge anchor in Skate Into Love and it works well together.

Sports Team and Teammates

With sports series, its important to talk about teams and teammates dynamic. Coming from Montreal, hockey is in the blood of everyone here so Skate Into Love having a focus on a university hockey team is a big part of the attraction to the series alone. The team here is actually focused heavily on three of the characters: Li Yu Bing who plays the captain, his best buddies and roommates, Jiang Shi Jia (Bo Cao) and goalie Deng Jian Guo (Zihe Jin). The hockey team dynamic is actually rather fun since they go through the phase of transition between leaving university team to moving to a professional team and contemplating their future.

Speed skating team where Tang Xue is also shares a huge focus on dynamic. The other character that hasn’t been mentioned yet would be a girl who has a crush and great friends with Li Yu Bing who is the champion speed skater in their team that she chooses to pick as the goal to beat in order to boost her own time in order to stay on the team. Its a group effort of working together even if speed skating is a solo sport. They find a different friendship dynamic which progresses throughout the series.

Teammates and sport shows heavily focuses on sportmanship and thats the great dynamic that these characters are able to show. Its a different kind of chemistry between these friends and teammates.

Liao Zhenyu (Tianyu Qin) & Xia Menghuan (Xuanlin He)

The happy fountain goes to the supporting roles of Tang Xue’s best friends. One from high school who ends up sharing the information of Tang Xue’s loyalty and personality and the other is her university roommate. These two get together fairly quickly as a couple. They act both as friends support system as well as the comedy and happy elements in this series. Their relationship and how these two interact is very sweet and cute. At the same time, these two characters do stand out since it helps sooth over some of the more dramatic parts.

Bian Cheng (Vincent Wei) & Zhou Ran (Yue Chu)

Love interests and characters that get more and more extreme in their negative emotions are usually the frustrating elements of any TV series. I do say that some of this does occur. Bian Cheng and Zhou Ran both have their own revelations to get through and they bond because of their own warped desires that end up showing their selfish natures instead of truly loving the people they are trying to get while setting up situations to break up Tang Xue and Li Yu Bing. These two go through quite the vengeful trail that becomes frustrating because its stemmed from a lot of unnecessary emotions that they just get stuck in most of the time and they don’t see losing themselves in the process and losing sight of their value, making themselves having some unpleasant consequences in the end. Definitely not my favorite characters but they are necessary to create friction in a series that is fairly fun to watch in general.

OVERALL

Skate Into Love is an outstanding Chinese drama. Its not only because it focuses on youths chasing their dreams and making their own sacrifices and trials and tribulations and all the sweat and fatigue that goes into being a professional athlete. In any series, its about balance and Skate Into Love has a good view of this. It has a lot to do with director Yui Bun Chu who really has a great eye of how each scene is portrayed. Moving away from Ashes of Love which is a more dramatic and fantasy love story and taking on the second separate story which is more sweet and light-hearted but with a very meaningful sport series element, its executed very well. Whether its the characters and dialogue or balancing between drama, comedy and sweet romance, everything is very on point. Its a ton of fun to watch and one that is incredibly bingeworthy.

With that said, Yui Bun Chu is also helming the final series in this Honey trilogy which seems like it will group back all four leads of Ashes of Love and Skate Into Love to create another story set more in the fantasy realm again. Its one to look forward to for sure.

MAIN THEME

TV Binge: Sugar Rush:Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020) & Sugar High (2020)

Sugar Rush: Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020)

sugar rush extra sweet

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo
Guest Judges: Fortune Feimster, Naya Rivera, Justin Willman, Tyler Posey, Garcelle Beauvais, Ron Ben-Israel

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 3 of Sugar Rush is pretty much the same as the previous seasons. They run in the general same structure of having 4 teams and 3 rounds which leads to two rounds of elimination and 2 final teams battling it out in the final round and saving up time for their final rounds. Season 3 is titled Extra Sweet. This adds in the new element of ingredients requirement matching with the theme of the episode. For each rounds, there is a different shelf of certain items that have a minimum required of items to incorporate into the dessert to elevate the theme that that round whether its cupcake, confection or cake.

Its nice to see that Sugar Rush is changing up its formula a little. Sugar Rush has a decent concept and it runs at only six episodes a season, which makes it fairly binge-able as long as you are into this type of baking reality competition series. Its a serious and professional baking competition so its good in smaller doses (I usually watch an episode or two and stop). They find some fairly good guest judges. In this case, they had a few judges that was previously on Nailed It!, I believe and then also adds (sadly) the last reality show appearance for Naya Rivera. They all are rather fun and give some decent feedback for the most part about the desserts. The “Extra Sweet” addition to this season does add a little challenge and it usually can see how daring the teams are and their creativity.

Sugar Rush is at its third season. If baking reality competition series are your thing, this one is pretty good. I don’t think its quite as bingeable because its a lot more of a serious baking competition but I do enjoy the interaction of the judges, Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo as well as most of the guest judges here. They had some nice fancy baked creations that was quite fun to watch. The time element feels like the tension from the first few seasons has worn itself down where that’s no longer something that feels like its not doable. All the competitors just make it work 100% of the time and things that happen is more technical issues that they run out of time to fix. Its still fairly entertaining to watch overall.

Sugar High (2020)

sugar high 2020

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Jackie Sorkin, Rebecca DeAngelis, Stéphane Tréand

Contestants compete in two rounds of sugar sculpting challenges for a prize of $10,000. – IMDB

Sugar High is a one episode spin-off of Sugar Rush except with a focus on sugar sculptures and sugar confections. With that said, other than the host Hunter March remaining the same, the judges have all changed who are knowledgeable about this area of expertise.

Sugar High is separated into two rounds. The first round is about making confections to fit the criteria set out. Its meant to be a feast for the mouth and the eyes in many ways. The second round is about making these beautiful sculptures that also fit another set of criteria. In this case, it was the height, which is a challenge for desserts as we know from Sugar Rush challenges but with sugar sculptures, its even more fragile.

Its only one episode. I’m not sure whether this is just testing the waters to see how many people will be interested and the feedback or just a one off deal to add some variety to show off sugar work. I honestly think its like watching an art work come to life which is a nice change in pace. Sugar work is something that doesn’t seem to have that much emphasis but from this one episode, it seems like there’s quite a bit to discover and learn. Different way to work with sugar and the challenges that comes with working with something that sensitive to heat and craftsmanship. One episode isn’t enough to say much but I’d be down to at least watch a few more episodes of this.

TV Binge: Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

Unrequited Love (橘生淮南·暗恋, 2019)

unrequited love2019

Cast: Zhao Shun Ran, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhang Yi Chi, Rain Shen, Chen Meng Qin, Zhang Zhe Hao, Yuan Bai Zi Hui, Esther Chen, He Mei Xuan, Huang Shi Chao, Li Jin Zhe

A story revolving around two students, Huai Nan and Luo Zhi, who immediately hit it off when they meet in university, but a message from an ex complicates things. Furthermore, Huai Nan discovers that Luo Zhi has been harboring a secret crush on him since their younger days. Luo Zhi has been caught in a one-sided love with Huai Nan for over ten years as she acts in a monodrama of her own creation. Her feelings towards Huai Nan are complicated, fueled by an honest admiration for his excellence but also tainted with jealousy and hatred. While following Sheng Huai Nan, Luo Zhi is also admitted to the best university. Her one-sided love finally gets a new chapter when the two start getting close to each other, but reality hits hard and they undergo many trials. Will they finally be together? Who took Luo Zhi’s diary? Which one will prevail – love or family? – MyDramaList

Where to Watch: Netflix

STORY

Unrequited love 1

Unrequited Love is a story about secret high school crush by a introvert student who then becomes friends with her crush in university. She has to decide how to approach this to catch his attention through her knowledge of him. Unrequited Love has a solid story that is based on novel of the same name by Bayue Changan. What makes this story standout is that both of these characters have stronger personalities. Its about misunderstanding, persistence and courage to own up to feelings and letting yourself be vulnerable.

The story is rather melodramatic since unrequited love is almost always an upward trek of unfruitful outcomes but this story gives them a chance. At the same time, the story isn’t just about them but also the friendships and family around them and the influences and choices that each of these make that may make them question their approach to love for each other. What I like about it is that its not all about them. In fact, every couple or secret admirer or relationship has their own struggles and show a different type of relationship, one-sided or not and with different basis of what draws them to each other.

LENGTH/PACING

unrequited love 3

Episodes: 24
Length of episode: 35 mins (approx.)

Running at 24 episodes with normal episode lengths, Unrequited Love has a good pacing and execution as a whole. The frustration from all the melodrama is rather short in compared to if it was longer and dragged out. Every event moves through quickly from love to loss to misunderstandings to crushes, friends, school and family. Normally, dramas that take a long time to get their main characters together is somewhat of a drag, surprisingly, this one isn’t and a lot of it has to do with how these characters develop over the course of the series (but that’s further discussion in the next section). Series running at the 20+ episodes works the best because the story progresses fairly quickly. Here it starts off playing between the past and present between Luo Zhi’s observations and Huai Nan’s side of things. As the viewers, we get to see where their misunderstandings happen and start to see how as they become friends and care more for each other, their relationship and personality also changes for the better. The story is unique because of the unrequited love element but its done best because of the characters, which takes me to the next part.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

Luo Zhi & Huai Nan

unrequited love 4

As a couple, Luo Zhi and Huai Nan are quite a good pairing. They are both more along the lines of living in their own world and then using their own ways to catch each other’s attention. Essentially their story is about communication, confidence and trust. What cam be frustrating is their lack of communication which leads to them getting into arguments as they always assume or guess.

As individual characters, Luo Zhi is more of a unique female lead. She is more stubborn (its a good thing) about what she wants as we see her find her value. She also has the most development from her high school days of hiding in the backdrop and just looking from afar, her university days starts off that way but ends up giving her switch around where she stands up for herself. One of the best parts is when her high school past that she is trying to keep secret is revealed and used against her and Huai Nan doesn’t believe her or the person that he has grown to know and also insisting for Huai Nan to confirm his feelings for her and not always have him want the confirmation that she likes him. It might seem like a petty difference but its little details that give Luo Zhi her standout points.

Jiang BaiLi/ Ge Bi/ Gu ZhiYe/Chen MoHan

unrequited love4

Baili and Ge Bi are a different type of relationship and unrequited love as right from the start, its very one-sided. Baili does everything for Ge Bi but his heart just isn’t there and in the end, it lingers in the realm of questions whether its a regret or not for him. Much like the previous pairing, the entrance of the other love interest characters is what stimulates and pushes Baili to face those issues and move forward. Her character is one that balances Luo Zhi because she’s a more extrovert and caring character and one that is easy to love. There is a naivety to her personality as well as her directness. Her character finds revelation and ends up changing the outlook for Gu ZhiYe, an older guy who pursues her for ulterior motives but (of course) ends up falling for her which also has issues when all the schemes come to life. Their

Ding ShuiJing & Luo Yang

unrequited love3

Luo Zhi’s high school friend, Ding ShuiJing in some twist of events ends up meeting Luo Zhi’s cousin Luo Yang who is already in a long-term stable relationship but they connect because of their idealistic views and art. ShuiJing’s love is also another version of unrequited as she likes Luo Yang enough to move anywhere to see him but he isn’t ready to give up on his stability and the image to family and responsibility to the current relationship.  Their romance is slightly tedious to watch, just like ShuiJing’s character design which is not bad in comparison to Luo Yang’s but she also plays the part of Luo Zhi’s friend who forcibly believes that she is her best friend when the other doesn’t really admit to it and because of this, ends up creating another issue. This pairing is not the most fun to watch but they also is the sub-sub relationship so in the spectrum of the series, it doesn’t have too much effect.

Friends & Family

unrequited love 2

The best elements in Chinese drama is that they have a good focus on outside elements. In this case, Huai Nan’s is mostly with his 5 other roommates. They live in a huge dorm and each one of them, while not all equally a lot of screen time or backstory, altogether are rather entertaining. Of the five, his best friend is MingRui who is the bridge of how Luo Zhi meets Huai Nan but also goes through a lot of unrequited love of his own as timing is his worst enemy. However, much like a lot of other characters by the actor Zhang Yi Chi portraying him, he has somewhat of a comedic relief for the most part. While Luo Zhi’s friendships are a lot simpler with roommate BaiLi, high school friend ShuiJing and university friend Mingrui being her own rocks that she confides in to various levels. BaiLi being the one that has the most story and development.

Family plays a big part between Huai Nan and Luo Zhi’s relationship and that’s meant to be a twist at the end that if you watch Luo Zhi’s few interactions with her mom, its easy to see where its going fairly quickly.

OVERALL

Unrequited Love is something of a forgotten child or maybe more a neglected child in the world of Chinese drama. Its considered something of a failure which I think is rather harsh since it didn’t seem like a whole lot of promotion of given to it in the first place and then this year, we’re expected to get a second adaptation with a more popular set of cast, bumping down any traction from this one and creating a big confusion between this and the upcoming version.

In reality, Unrequited Love does a good job and does have a good cast even if they aren’t as popular, but its rather expected as China produces a lot of TV series and also promotes a lot of new series with new young actors. Its a bit sad that this series didn’t get the amount of exposure it should have considering it did hit Netflix as a Netflix Series and isn’t available on Youtube. Its characters are designed and developed really well and in the scope of 24 episodes, the pacing is great. There are some rather dramatic parts but then, its nothing compared to some of the other series that I’ve seen. Plus, the female characters are done really well and not as typical (in my opinion).

**As an extra thought, I honestly don’t see how a new cast will breathe new life into this story especially knowing who the cast is. It might get more traction because of the male lead’s popularity. But its updated to air in September 2020 on Mango TV so that’s right around the corner so maybe it will surprise me.**

TV Binge: Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

twogether

Cast: Jasper Liu, Seung-gi Lee

Paired together for an unforgettable trip across Asia, stars Lee Seung Gi and Jasper Liu become buddies as they connect with fans and local cultures. – IMDB

For fans of Jasper Liu and Seung-Gi Lee, both stars now having their own Netflix Original series, this pair-up for the travel reality show with a little bit of challenges and games added in is a fairly fun adventure. Essentially, the concept is that these two go to different Asian countries, they land at night and choose which location to go that their fan from that country has recommended. At each location, if they beat their challenge, they get a clue which narrows down the location of where the fan lives. As they move through one location to the next, its a strategy to see where to go to maximize their time since before a certain time if they don’t find their fan, they need to catch the plane to the next location. Most of the fans don’t know that they are going to find them so its a surprise and the other surprise is that, they don’t know whose fan it is.

In the current world of when this is released, we can only find travel on Netflix. Yet again, a show that releases at a good time. To be fair, the travel element is there as a unique backdrop for the reality game show element. There is some education on the different places they visit and the landmarks in those countries from a local. However, the game show element is where the show has the most fun as the show’s structure: challenges, travel allowance budget and language barriers between the two at the beginning, plus any Asian game show viewers knows that the director/crew always has it out for the people involved to make things harder.

To be fair, I’m not a Jasper Liu or Seung-gi Lee fan mostly because I haven’t watched anything of theirs (but Jasper Liu’s Triad Princess is on my to-watch list). Call this Netflix’s big scheme to give their show some extra promotion, which it probably is but it worked for me since I definitely did bump up my priority to watch their works. Its mostly entertaining in a very Korean variety show style with the comments made in post-editing to the scene (at least from my memory since its been more than a decade that I haven’t watched Korean shows). These two get together well and they both are fairly chill people who have a lot of fun with each of their challenges. At the same time, this is a good concept to have and more places should implement it (when this whole pandemic hopefully/eventually ends) to give fans an opportunity to meet their idols. There are some moments that it is rather touching to watch. Especially with the global presence of Netflix, its great to see that shows like this has an outlet to combine these stars from different countries together and in reality, its really cross-promotion but still achieves its entertainment element while promoting some of these beautiful locations in Asia.

TV Binge: Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

unsolved mysteries

Immersive, character-driven stories are rooted in the experiences of ordinary people who have lived the unthinkable. Families, detectives and journalists hope viewers hold the clues to solving these mysteries. – IMDB

Some revivals are incredibly welcome! Unsolved Mysteries is definitely one of those. Netflix has picked up a true gem with this one. Whether people are watching this because of nostalgia of the original show and looking forward to see what they do now or just finding out about it with this show because its on Netflix, anyone who enjoys this type of cold case will be intrigued by all the six cases presented in Season 1.

There’s a good variety in its case selections. There is an international case, a more familiar mystery like UFO and then a few different intriguing cases of missing people whether its the situation or the suspect. The setup of each one goes into detail from the witnesses to the family and friends involved. Each case is pieced together in the form of a timeline after a general introduction of the case at hand which feels thorough investigation and research has been done. There’s a lot of re-evaluation from the current information, knowledge, deduction at the time. Whether its missing pieces of the puzzle to figure out what actually happened  to missing key pieces of evidence that could lead to the suspected killers, each unsolved mystery has its own element of suspense. Its one thing to watch thrillers, suspense and mystery in a movie but Unsolved Mysteries brings up the fact of all these real life mysteries that hasn’t been solved which is a rather chilling feeling.

I don’t want to put any spoilers here so I’m going to avoid going into too much detail. While all the cases have incredible discussion value and for some, its initiated its reopening of cases and a lot of tips sent in online as well as forums where people are sharing their theories and investigations online which is a great way of motivating the general public to join into this. Its a very Zodiac sort of deal where sometimes the people outside of the case might have their own views and understandings. Whether the cases eventually get cracked or not, its definitely brought a few of these into a different light. When talking about specific cases, the one that was interesting to watch but not exactly a lot of further discussion value (for myself) would be the Berkshires UFO episode. The one that definitely got me the most was the first one, Mystery on the Rooftop for its cryptic evidence and the sheer amount of unanswered questions. The international case, The House of Terror has its value and shows the power of Netflix, diving into the international content and expanding its areas of investigation. Other than these ones, its seriously a lot of mind-boggling cases that stirs up a lot of deeper thinking of its possibilities that make Unsolved Mysteries so intriguing.

There’s so much to love about the revival of Unsolved Mysteries. Its executed well and Netflix has the international streaming platform and reach that can expand the possibilities and variety of cold case to investigate. I’m definitely looking forward to another season.

 

TV Binge: Crazy Delicious (Season 1, 2020)

Crazy Delicious (Season 1, 2020)

crazy delicious s1

Host: Jayde Adams

Judge: Heston Blumenthal, Carla Hall, Niklas Ekstedt

Carla Hall, Niklas Ekstedt and Heston Blumenthal will judge as three cooks will battle it out to create the best feast.The set will be entirely edible and will contain edible blossom, chocolate soil, and a drinkable babbling brook. – IMDB

Joining the Netflix competition series in June was Crazy Delicious, a British cooking competition hosted by Jayde Adams and judged by three “gods”, Carla Hall, Heston Blumenthal and Niklas Ekstedt. The structure of the competition works with 3 new contestants every episode. Each episode is separated into 3 challenges. The first challenge is called The Magic Ingredient where each contestant has to make that ingredient (mostly everyday things) into some hopefully crazy and delicious and highlights its flavors. The winner of the first challenge wins 10 minutes head start in the second challenge. The second challenge is The Reinvention where the contestants need to reinvent a popular food like burgers and pizza for example. The one of comes up last in after the first two challenges will be eliminated. The next two battle it out in the third challenge called The Final Feast where its themed like brunch. Being the final challenge, whoever wins this one (evaluating overall performance usually) will win for that episode/round.

The structure itself is pretty solid. Its a good set of parameters and usually the everyday things that we encounter are good because its so familiar and yet, its hard for most to think out of the box. Of course, the show proves that tons of people do think out of the box. The reinvention is probably the best part of episode as it still maintains the three contestants and usually has some rather wild meals prepared. The structure does work and keeps it very fun. Different from other cooking competition, this one is a new batch of contestants (just like the expert cooking version of the amateur baking show Nailed it, right?). The food and cooking is much more sophisticated and its about being creative and different so its rather interesting to see all these concepts and ideas come to life (or at least partially in some cases).

As much as we can talk about the rather charming host Jayde Adams, the judges are pretty good. They are well-rounded as the different places they are from form their different areas of expertise. They are fairly entertaining although I’m not quite sure why they had to call them “gods” and then do some lame lightning and thunder when they descended to give the final winner. Its a bit odd on both of those choices but I guess its for the entertainment value. However, aside from those elements, the truly enchanting part of this competition might be the edible garden that its set up in where the contestants can walk around the forage whatever they need. Its a unique way to approach looking for ingredients.

Overall, Crazy Delicious has a lot of elements that work in the realm of whats it trying to achieve. It has a common structure that works for its cooking competition format. The judges themselves are fairly good and have some rather dynamic moments. Jayde Adams is pretty fun to watch especially the silly segments in the opening when she introduces the show and takes a bite into the different props, setting the show up for a quirky adventure. Its definitely quirky from its variety of contestants and the different angles they take. But there’s this element of this Crazy Delicious that feels like its missing a spark somewhere, maybe its all a very common route to take and doesn’t have that unique twist that makes it stand out more than an edible garden that lowers the rewatchability of the show and even the bingeworthiness of the show (although its only 6 episodes, so its easy to get through).

What’s Up 2020: Week 27

Another week has flown by. We passed the half of the year of 2020 point and head into July which as usual, its pretty much another heat wave.

READING

The Memories We Bury

  • The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel (Review)

As I’ve been reading on rush mode for the last little while, I finished up The Memories We Bury and took a few days off to catch up. The review for The Memories We Bury is already up for the blog tour last week. You can go check out the review. H. A. Leuschel has a really nice angle whenever she writes her thrillers especially in crafting her characters.

PLAYING

gorogoa

Currently playing: Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions, Gorogoa

I’m still working on the Glass Masquerade 2 game. However, I needed a little change in pace so started another puzzle game with a little more story line. Gorogoa has been on my to-play list since its release. I’ve played 2 chapters of the game so far and its been impressive. Its all about moving the pieces around to create doorways and other interactions to move the story forward and move the character to its next area. Its incredibly clever.

WATCHING

charlie's angels

  • The Meg (2018 rewatch, Review)
  • Charlie’s Angels (2019)
  • Maniac (1980)

I took it a little easier on the movie watching element. There’s been a bit of backlog and some rentals to review before they fade from my memory. However, in all this, I had the urge to rewatch The Meg. Its still as fun as I remember it being. The movie that I’d like to highlight is one that surprised me and that’s Charlie’s Angels. I wasn’t a big fan of the old one but this one was a lot of fun and in many ways, its very Elizabeth Banks and that works for me. Its not some masterpiece but very entertaining. I’m working on a double feature soon so I’m not going to talk too much about it here.

BINGING

Chuang 2020

  • Go Fridge 6 (Season 6, 2020)
  • Produce Camp 2020

Currently binging: Twogether, Wonderful Little Forest, Viva La Romance 4, Rap Star, We Are Blazing, Woof Meow Story, We Are Young, Great Escape 2, Yes I Do 2, You Are My Destiny, Love Designer

Produce Camp 2020 (aka Chuang 2020) had Katy Perry sharing her song, Daisies for their final performance which is pretty awesome. The final episode created the 7 girl group “Bon Bon 303”. There wasn’t a huge change in the rankings in general so it wasn’t exactly surprising. I’m a bit disappointed that more people didn’t vote for one or two of the girls in lower rankings as it would have given the group a unique flare. Right now, it feels very balanced in terms of vocals and dancers but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it will stand out as much (especially in comparison to the former girl group from Tencent Rocket Girls 101).

With that said, two new shows on the list. The first is Season 2 of Mango TV’s Great Escape. Half the team of Season 1 is back (with a few that I wonder whether one or two will be back since they had a message about being in isolation) but the new members are pretty fun and they are using other actors/actresses as NPC in the escape room, which is pretty fun. The other show is Love Designer (which had another name before) and its drama with Dilraba Dilmurat and Johnny Huang. I’m about halfway through and its alright.

That’s it for this week’s What’s Up!
What have you been reading/watching/binging/playing?

TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 5, 2020)

Queer Eye (Season 5, 2020)

Queer Eye Season 5

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

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

Season 5 of Queer Eye couldn’t have been released at a better time. With the world being hit by many things including pandemic. Its not been a great 2020 and yet, Queer Eye’s message from the first season always feels like we’re not defined by our differences but our similarities and that’s why every season, we see them moving to different place in the United States as well as picking different people with varying gender, backgrounds, etc. With the latest season changing base to Philadelphia, its yet another batch of “heroes” to discover all with their own touching stories.

At the fifth season of Queer Eye, its still full steam ahead. There are some very small changes to their structure. Its not really needed since they had a pretty good balance. With each person and what they need to makeover, its more about finding that more emotional change to clear out some of that emotional baggage and burden and then balancing it with the other external elements of style, home design/organization, food, grooming. In that sense, while Karamo’s role of culture is a big one, it meshes in with some of the other Fab Five’s task.

What really does stand out in Season 5 is that this season, they picked a lot of people who on different levels related more to one of the Fab Five group and gives them their time to guide each of these people with their own personal experiences. It feels like sometimes the show does help the people they choose but at the same time, it also helps the Fab Five grow as well as there is an obvious change (in a good way) of how they are as people. One of the best parts of watching shows like this is not only seeing the nice makeovers and the shock and often gratitude of the moment but also seeing these more personal stories being told that are very well relatable on different levels. Its the positive vibes that flow in every moment and the value of being able to embrace change that gives so much life to the show itself.

At the fifth season of Queer Eye, you pretty know what to expect from the show. Its a makeover show but somehow, it brings a lot more to the table than just that. Its about everyday people and their difficulties and how to get their life back on track. I’m sure that the show works on many levels because its relatable. Sure, we’re not going to go and do some intense makeover but its a way to look at the people around us as well as even our own lives and issues in a different light and with it, whatever positive message applies to the viewer. Bingeworthy, emotional and sending out positive vibes as always.

Hopefully, we’ll be seeing the sixth season of Queer Eye sooner rather than later.

TV Binge: Floor is Lava (Season 1, 2020)

Floor is Lava (Season 1, 2020)

floor is lava

Host: Rutledge Wood

Teams compete to navigate rooms flooded with lava by leaping from chairs, hanging from curtains and swinging from chandeliers. – IMDB

Anyone hanging around this blog knows that I’m a big fan of binging these reality competition shows from Netflix so in when Floor is Lava was announced, I was really excited to see how it was going to be. In concept, Floor is Lava is a great idea as its a bit of the amateur version of Ultimate Beastmaster where its just every day people teamed together to make it to navigate the room and make it to the exit.

Its definitely a fun idea and for the most part, its pretty entertaining and a lot of it is thanks to a great hosting effort from Rutledge Wood, who has moved from his car-related shows to this type of game show (although I’d really like to know whether a second season of Hyperdrive is going to happen at some point). Still, he pulls off some great background voice with some good jokes and narrating over the whole happenings of the course.

floor is lava

The rooms themselves are quite interesting to watch but as a lot of teams do work in similar fashion, some of those episodes are a little more repetitive. Luckily, these episodes run at around 30 minutes each so it keeps things pretty quick. It has that unknown factor of how many will make it to the end but at the same time, it doesn’t have that many surprises but then, this is a reality show and you can’t really control how things turn out. Lets face it, a lot of these shows work because of watching how these contestants fail or overcome those more challenging obstacles.

If there was something to comment on which makes this show a little inconsistent and feels like they are still using Season 1 to experiment on structure over the 10 episodes.  Here’s the general idea of the structure over the 10 episodes and the changes that occur so that its gives a better view of what I’m about to discuss. The show is structured in first 5 episodes are five different rooms titled Level 1 and the last 5 episodes is Level 2 of the same rooms except with some little changes like booby traps and such. However, not only do the level changes but the second half also fluctuates between some episodes having 2 teams battling it out and then 2 people teams instead of the normal 3 people team and these little changes in the norm happens for one episode here and there. Its a good and bad thing. On one hand, its good because you can see it as variety. However, on the other hand,  it felt more like an inconsistency and not sure why they chose to do it this way. Maybe it meant to feel refreshing. Its not exactly a criticism but something that I’m not sure how I actually feel about it as it didn’t feel like it added to the show as I had enjoyed the original structure of three teams going through each room per episode.

Overall, Floor is Lava is a fun concept. Its something of a silly entertainment as its not exactly serious especially the over the top sinking into the lava portions for the contestants. There are some little things I’m not quite sure about with the structure they chose throughout the season however, Rutledge Wood’s hosting is one of the standout points and some of the room designs are pretty fun and vary in difficulty level. The show has some  space for improvement and hopefully if it does get a second season, it will decide on a more solid structure. Still, its fun enough that I would watch another season.

TV Binge: The Big Flower Fight (Season 1, 2020)

The Big Flower Fight (Season 1, 2020)

The Big Flower Fight

Hosts & Resident Judge: Natasia Demetriou, Vic Reeves, Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht

Ten pairs of florists, sculptors and garden designers face off in a friendly floral fight to see who can build the biggest, boldest garden sculptures. – IMDB

Netflix comes up with a lot of reality competition shows and a lot of times, they do work for the most part and then sometimes, we have shows that make us wonder whether there is an actual market and who else is watching it? The Big Flower Fight is one of those shows where I did enjoy watching it because I’m a big fan of flowers, plants and gardening in general but then I’m wondering how many of us have that ambition to go and make some relatable garden sculptures like these 20 people are doing over 15 hours. However, what makes its fun is that competition element and the whole different themed weeks which bring in different types of flowers and plants that give it that educational element.

the big flower fight

If we take a look at the hosts Natasia Demetriou and Vic Reeves, they do have a nice humorous charm in their hosting style. There’s a lot to love about how they approach each stage. Sometimes, its a big over the top but it does feel like its in the context of giving this tense competition process some kind of relief. I think other than the hosts themselves, the judges themselves deserve some discussion. I’m not an expert at these renowned event florists and landscapers and horticulturist so none of these people mean anything to me and they could be saying anything in terms of their vision and what is being done to judge it, but if anything, it goes back to expanding our knowledge in this field. At the same time, they also share a lot of knowledge on the different plants available in the nursery that fit the theme on hand. The resident judge, Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht is also quite a fun addition because he has some charisma and character that it brightens the show and his views are rather interesting as he looks at each of these sculptures.

the big flower fight

Just like baking shows and whatnot, while this feels definitely more of a niche market, it gives a platform to a different group of people around the world who has a passion for different types of planting from urban indoor gardens to event florists to artists as their outlet and a chance to show the world their skills. For that, The Big Flower Fight does a really good job. Life’s about learning new things. Just like a fraction of anyone is going to join into Hyperdrive or Ultimate Beastmaster, the same goes for The Big Flower Fight where its mostly a learning process. In the end, garden sculptures is something of an art/exhibition piece. Everyone’s interpretation and execution as the show goes along sheds some light on how they use their plants and the whole process of giving them alive. I’m not going to go and plant a garden sculpture anytime soon (or ever) and while I question how popular this show actually is and how many people are turning this on, its a unique angle to focus on and one that I’ve had a rather fun time watching as its not only about plants but also about the engineering behind each of these structures and sculptures and the balance that it achieves. There’s quite a bit of finesse, knowledge and skills needed to do all this.

Have you seen The Big Flower Fight or at have an intention to watch it?