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BRONX - This was supposed to be an interview with world famous chef Marco Pierre White. Ever since NBC announced he was hosting Chopping Block, the Party Favors staff was in overdrive sucking up to the network publicity people to spend precious minutes with White. The guy is a culinary god and readers want to know why black rice is so forbidden.

After a bout of begging that is reserved for getting off death row, the network told us that there would be no interview. After watching the premiere of Chopping Block, it quickly became apparent why Marco Pierre White wasn’t eager to spend hours working the phone to hype the show. It was a lame disaster. Instead of making Marco a household personality like Gordon Ramsay’s various shows, Chopping Block made Marco look like a massive douchebag who dressed like a villain on Miami Vice played by Joe Cocker..

Versions of the series worked around the globe. They put together 8 couples to run two rival restaurants. The last couple standing get their restaurant dream fulfilled. How could the American take of the series be such an utter failure? Ultimately there’s three reasons why a reality show goes bust: Casting, Casting and Casting.

There’s two types of people that you cast on a cooking show. The first are people who are extremely talented. They are magicians in the kitchen. Even with the inability to smell or taste their food, a viewer gets hungry. These wizards end up on Top Chef and Iron Chef. The second group of people that get cast are complete morons who swear they’d be an Iron Chef if Bobby Flay hadn’t been scared of their mac and cheese. These folks can barely run a soft serve ice cream machine. But they view themselves as God’s gift to culinary skills. They don’t handle criticism well because anyone who disagrees is a jealous bitch. These people end up on Hell’s Kitchen.

Unfortunately neither of these two groups were cast on Chopping Block. We were given eight couples who had no business running a hotdog cart let alone a fine dining establishment in Manhattan. Under no circumstances did you copy their recipes let alone pay top dollar for their meals. What makes the show completely horrible is that they are timid and meek. They quiver when Marco Pierre White enters the room. Nobody is cocky enough to say, “This is how we do it in America, soccer boy!” These are not compelling people working the pots and pans. There’s one old guy who looks like Bruce Dern if he’d work at the post office. They are forgettable in words, action and attitude.

The producers needed to cast people who had run restaurants that had received praise from major foodie publication, but had closed for various reasons. These people would been excited with a chance to get in the game. They know the price and they’re willing to pay twice as much. They’ll also get nasty because they won’t let some other jerk derail them with a bloody chicken breast. The people on Chopping Block were hobbyists and not chefs. They won’t break out in tears and beg Marco Pierre White to send them home cause they haven’t the heart to work the line.

At least the embarrassment for Marco Pierre White has been cut short. After only three episodes of what should be a 7 show run, NBC yanked Chopping Block off the schedule. Not much of a surprise although the network did burn all the episodes of Kath and Kim. How did this show with so many lame issues even get an airdate? NBC’s cable channel Bravo would have never cast these people for their competition shows. Why did the mother network approve? They should have picked diamond personalities for the major leagues. They could have retread a few folks from Top Chef.

Who could have approved this project and put it on the schedule? Perhaps it would be a man who says, “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say, ‘NBC is No. 1 in prime time.’” That debbie downer would be Jeff Zucker, the head of NBC-Universal. Did you know that when he graduated from his job at the Today Show, Zucker was running the #1 network in primetime? And what has he done since those early years in 2000 when he was given the keys to the Rolls Royce? He’s refused to check the oil. He allowed the network to become a laughing stock with revivals of The Bionic Woman and Knight Rider.. He got a minor hit off Deal or No Deal and overloaded the slate with more arena gameshows. On many nights, the network is #5 behind Univision. The USA channel (part of NBC-U) garners higher ratings than many NBC shows.

Why can’t this man get NBC back to #1 in the ratings? It doesn’t take that much effort. This is not like a community college football coach accepting the reality that his flag football team won’t be playing in the BCS Championship game against Florida. There’s only three other networks. It’s musical chairs except you can’t win if you’re crying in a bathroom stall while the music plays. Any other big cheese would have his ass thrown out the door for admitting defeat and not even making an effort to turn around the network’s fortunes. All Zucker can do is expand The Today Show and slide Leno into primetime. Has this peacock any pride?

What’s interesting is that NBC’s family of cable channels are doing great. Why? Perhaps less Zucker is best Zucker when it comes to success. The star of Fat Actress was asked about the suits in charge of the non-network programming. “If these channels weren’t as successful as they are, I’d have to get involved more. But I’d be stupid if I spent my time telling them what they’re doing wrong, because they’re not doing much wrong.” Because having Zucker more involved has done wonders for NBC. Does the board of directors not notice that the most successful division is the one he doesn’t touch? People are getting fired every day in this recession. Why is working?

He ought to be arrested for what he did to Marco Pierre White’s reputation in America.

FESTIVAL TIME

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival takes place this week (April 2 -5) in Durham. Last’s years festival featured several of the eventual Oscar nominees including the winner Man on Wire.. This is my favorite of film festivals since they serve Eastern NC pork BBQ during the award ceremony. Everybody is a winner with vinegar based BBQ.

The films that I’ve been tipped to see include Bitch Academy about a school in St. Petersburg that teaches young Russian girls to be vixens. Carmen Meets Borat tells the sad story of the Romanian girl who thought she was going to be a star after appearing in Sacha Baron Cohen’s film. “Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie” explains who a guy at Woodstock became an ice cream flavor. “Yes Men Fix the World” bring back the high level pranksters that dare to shake up the corporate system. “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” is Darius Khondji’s view of the soccer great who headbutted himself out of a World Cup.

If you’re in the Durham, please drop on by. Details and screening times can be found at www.fullframefest.org. If you’re really quiet and discrete, you can watch D.A. Pennebaker holding court.

FEUD UPDATE

After last year’s tiff with Blockbuster’s CEO Jim Keyes, his stock dropped to 13 cents a share. Way to prove me that you’re a turnaround genius. It should be noted that the guy did clear $8.4 million while running a company whose stock is currently trading for less than any of the candy they sell at the register.

LAND OF THE LOSERS

I was actually looking forward to the big screen remake of Land of the Lost. The old show is still hilarious to watch at 2 a.m. with a buzz in my head. How could having Danny McBride and Will Ferrell fall down that waterfall not lead to anachronistic funny? The answer is simple. Will is not Danny’s father and the Holly character is not the daughter. The trailer gives us a film that’s all about Will’s feud with The Today Show’s Matt Lauer. The fight isn’t nearly as good as Bob Barker busting up Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore. Another major warning sign is that Brad Silerling is directing. This is man who sucked the soul from Wings of Desire when he hacked it into City of Angels.

Land of the Lost is shaping up to be this summer’s Speed Racer. They better have more Chaka in it.

WHO WAS WHERE?

Anyone else shocked and disgusted that Salman Rushdie was at Perez Hilton’s birthday party? Mr. Serious Literature was rubbing elbows with the Queen of All Media. Why? Does Salman Rushdie have any shame? Or is he in maximum media whore overdrive? Was he trying to pick up Tara Reid by pointing out he was married to Padma from Top Chef? Was he explaining how the lyrics of the Jonas Brothers rival Keats?

When the Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa on Rushdie, we supported this guy. Nobody wanted to see him die for writing The Satanic Verses. But now I wonder what was the point in protecting Rushdie if he’s going to rub shoulders with a man who draws cum and penises on celeb’s faces. Maybe Salman hopes that Perez will uncover nip slips from Padma?

IF YOU ACT NOW

Anyone else pumped up to see Billy Mays star in “Pitchman” on the Discovery channel starting April 15? I’m so thrilled that we’ll get an entire episode dedicated to Mays beard maintenance regime. The big finale will be Mays flying down to Miami to help Vince clean up his image after his hooker incident.

The best reality dating show is slated to premiere this fall when TVLand presents For the Love of Ray J Johnson Jr. It’s hilarious to see how desperate these middle aged women are to hook up with the ’70s icon. At least five times each show one of them accidentally calls him Mr. Johnson. And then the funny overwhelms us: cause you can call him Ray and you can call him J and you can…..let’s go to the old beer ad:

BLU-RAY HEAVEN

Quantum of Solace Blu-ray is the natural sequel to Casino Royale. Daniel Craig’s second outing as James Bond picks up right where the last one left off. He’s zipping down a dangerous lakeside highway being chased. This sets the tempo of the film - non-stop, unrelenting action. There’s little time for quips or jokes as Bond is out for revenge against the secret organization that messed up his relationship with Vesper Lynd. Quantum consists of powerful world leaders that manipulate the world. It’s like the Illuminati. Bond sniffs out their plan to control a Latin American country by taking over the water rights. He’s got to stop the French version of Al Gore. The only goofy named Bond girl is Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) which isn’t that bad since you can believe a Beatles fan would do that to their daughter. Jeffrey Wright returns as CIA agent Felix Leiter. He does need his own spin off film with Bond being the guest spy. The best way to watch Quantum of Solace is as the third act of Casino Royale. Make it a double feature and you’ll double your viewing pleasure. The 1080p image is stunning with the massive action scenes and breathtaking locations filling the widescreen. The bonus features aren’t quite up to the level of the classic Bond titles. “Crew Files” also the people on the credit roll to show off their skills.

Never Say Never Again Blu-ray reminds us that Sean Connery gave flesh to the role.. After over a decade since Diamonds Are Forever, Connery returned to the tuxedo in this non-EON produced adventure. The film is basically a remake of Thunderball with Bond out to recover nuclear warheads from SPECTRE. Connery plays Bond a little bit older. He’s not passing himself off as a spring chicken as he tracks down Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer). Even with a little bit of grey, he’s still a stud with the ladies. He’s seducing Kim Basinger while nearly getting killed by Barbara Carrera. After years of being the bastard of Bond titles, Never Say Never Again is finally given a chance to shine. The Hi-Def transfer is cherry. You’ll want to project this big. The bonus features allow us to learn about how EON was doing its best to shut down the film in the middle of production. Who knew that Sean Connery’s biggest antagonist would be Cubby Broccoli.

James Bond Blu-Ray Volume Three provides three upgrades for the 007 fanatic. This pack includes Goldfinger, Moonraker and The World Is Not Enough. There are few third films in a series as worthy as Goldfinger. Sean Connery is completely at ease as 007. Super villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) is obsessed with the metal. He can’t have enough of it. He prove it’s a very versatile metal when he candy coats a woman to kill her. Bond has to find out Goldfinger’s plot to dominate the gold market. Getting in his way is the henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and the pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Moonraker is Roger Moore at his goofiest. He’s got to stop a diabolical madman who wants to colonize space so that he can destroy the earth and rebuild it properly. There’s plenty of intrigue with stolen Space Shuttles. They bring back Jaws (Richard Kiel) and find him a woman. There’s more laughs than scares during the epic outer space battles. The film was Bernard Lee’s last as M. The World Is Not Enough was Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond. This is the film that demanded we believe Denise Richards (It’s Complicated) is smart enough to be a research scientist called Christmas Jones. That’s complicated. Bond gets tied into an evil plot to disrupt an oil empire controlled by Sophie Marceau. Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) is the psychotic killer who wants to put an end to Bond and Richards. The guy wasn’t half bad in his intent. The films are packed with the bonus features that were on the Bond Ultimate Editions. The 1080p transfers are impeccable. The Technicolor on Goldfinger dazzles. This is our Raymond J. Regis memorial pick of the month!

DVD SHELF

The Girls Next Door: Season Four makes for fun awkward viewing. It was during this batch of episodes that rumors swirled that Hugh Hefner’s trio of girlfriends weren’t still sleeping in his Playboy Mansion bed. People watched the show not for the pleasure, but to be divorce detectives. Holly Madison still thinks she’s going to marry Hef and pop out his puppies. Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt are merely out to enjoy the ride. This is the season when the girls went to Alaska, Monte Carlo and Jamaica They even throw in what’s considered the first four episodes of season five. Thrill to the making of House Bunny at the Mansion with Anna Faris (Smiley Face). Bridget gets to produce her first horror film thus showing she can work a career that doesn’t involve Viagra. The best thing about watching the show on DVD is the nudity isn’t fuzzed out and there’s no commercial breaks featuring Ryan Seacrest. You’ll finally get to see Kendra’s smartest investment in motion.

Dynasty: The Fourth Season, Volume One contains another 14 episodes of the Carrington saga. Blake (John Forsythe) and Krystle (Linda Evans) finally get married. Alexis (Joan Collins) continues to be a skank when she hooks up with Dex Dexter (Michael Nader). They’re a toxic delight. One of the family bites the dust so there’s plenty of tension. The show lasted nine seasons so we’re not even halfway done yet.

Beverly Hills 90210: The Seventh Season is historic for only one reason - finally, after an act of Congress, Donna (Tori Spelling) finally loses her virginity. How shocking. America’s long national nightmare ended on that night. Even Mindy Cohn wanted Donna to just get it over and put out. However there is a serious nature to TV sex when Kelly (Jennie Garth) gets knocked up. Brandon (Jason Priestley) gets knocked loopy during a hockey fight. The kids are about to finally graduate from college this season. What will they do? Perhaps they have a graduate school at C.U.? Although it does look like Donna’s going to flunk. That’s what happens to bad girls. Only three more seasons before the entire Beverly Hills 90210 saga is on DVD.

Wings: The Final Season wraps up life at the Nantucket airport after eight seasons. Like the previous year, the first episode opens with a house fire. “Porno for Pyros” has Roma Maffia (Nip/Tuck) investigate the inferno. But the smoldering heat is coming from Tony Shalhoub (Monk). “…Like a Neighbor Scored” has Chris Elliott move next door to Tim Daly and Crystal Bernard. They try to play nice, but he’s got his own set of weird rules. It’ is Chris Elliott after all. Jenny McCarthy gives one of her early acting with clothes roles during “Maybe It’s You.” “All About Christmas Eve” rules for one reason: Abe Vigoda. You can never have enough Fish for the holidays. Larry “Bud” Melman cameos in “Escape From New York..” “Final Approach” is a two parter that brings the series to a close. I’m not going to spoil it, but the FAA did approve of the finale.

Hannah Montana Keeping It Real has Dwayne Johnson making a guest appearance. It’s a shame he’s no longer going by the Rock. Cause the Rock would have at least used the People’s Elbow on Billy Ray Cyrus. He’d yank the blond off Hannah and expose that she’s really Miley.. Dwyane Johnson can brighten up any sitcom with a guest shot. He made me watch this. There’s power in his grin. The episodes on the DVD attempt to remind us why it’s bad to use your celebrity to snag perks. There’s plenty of preview action for the upcoming Hannah Montana movie including a movie ticket good for $7.50. This means you’ll have to go to a matinee if you want to get in for free.

Donkey Punch is the first public serve announcement warning us about this sexual practice. A trio of English girls hanging out in Spain run into a pack of guys who are working on an expensive yacht. They hit the ocean for a champagne and ecstasy free for all. Which starts out to be a good idea. When the pills kick in, the party takes over the master bedroom. There’s some good loving going on. But things go bad when one of the boys decides to test out the Donkey Punch technique.. Basically this involves punching a woman in the back of the head right before she climaxes. Is this really a fad? I’d guess the average woman would rather receive a Cleveland Steamer than a Donkey Punch. In the movie, there’s a very negative consequence to the girl who receives the head blow. It basically kills the party spirit. Things get uglier and uglier as the guys attempt to figure out how to cover this incident up. The girls fear for their survival. It’s a free for all during the long dark night. The film reminds me once more why partying on strange boats is never a good idea no matter how primo the promised drugs. Donkey Punch delivers what it promises - a seductive and scary cruise.

Shuttle is a scary film for anyone hanging out at an airport. Peyton List and Cameron Goodman are returning from a vacation in Mexico. They save a few bucks by grabbing a discount shuttle that’s going to take them into downtown Boston. As part of the get what you pay for nightmare, it turns out their shuttle driver (Tony Curran) is a psychotic. He takes everyone hostage. Nobody is quite sure what he’s really after except expressing his sadistic delight. This is perhaps the scariest trip from Logan Airport that didn’t involve my grandfather at the wheel. The man drifted lanes on bridges. Shuttle keeps pouring on the pressure. It’s a nightmare for the girls. The only letdown is that there’s no talk about Manny. How can a movie take place in Boston without someone talking about Manny? Curran maintains the proper composure for as the madman taking the wheel. He does a superb job switching between sweet guy and scary ass driver. Only guy more frightening in Boston is Scott Boras. The end of the film doesn’t compromise the tension. After watching Shuttle, you’ll always take the Silver Line when arriving in Logan.

Special: Specioprin Hydrochloride is a great performance from Michael Rapaport (War At Home). He’s a normal kinda guy who takes part in a drug study. The pills have an amazing side effect for the metermaid. He becomes a superhero like the people in the comic books he loves.. Or is he? Either way, he changes his life to do his true work for humanity.. Rapaport is in the zone as he tests out his newfound powers even if everybody around him thinks he’s nuts. Rapaport has a face that can pull off this kind of action. You’ll be quoting his delusional dialogue after one viewing.

Timecrimes is a murder mystery that gets complicated with time machine action. After a guy stumbles upon a murder scene, the killer pursues him. He seeks refuge in a lab that has a time machine of Mr. Peabody proportions. He gets sent back a few hours. The Spanish triller gets twisted when the scientist doesn’t want this guy to interfere in this past tense for fear of severally messing up the future. But naturally this doesn’t turn out to be easy to do. Instead he ends up overlapping his other self. It’s a Mobius loop of a plot that pays off in a European way.

BOOK ME, DANNO!

In order to celebrate the release of Hawaii Five-O: The Sixth Season, CBS DVD is letting 5 lucky Party Favors readers win copies of the DVD boxset. It’s a crime not to enter the contest to share in the Jack Lord. The question to help you win is name the episode that features the star of Mr. T and Tina. Send your answer along with your name, address and favorite member of the Hawaii Five-O force to mokaha@aol.com. Staff members of the Party Favors, Mr. T, and Jack Lord can not enter. Be here, aloha!

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