Television Without Pity: Why, Yes, I Invented the Word "Cheftestant"
By grubreport on May 03, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
There are three -- possibly four -- shows that defined my Television Without Pity experience. As I mentioned in a previous post, my first assignment was the Party of Five spinoff, Time of Your Life. That cringetastic little show lasted only one season, but it's significant because it was my first. And you always remember your first. Every week, Jennifer Love Hewitt perfected her sweater cuff clutching, and every week I tried to come up with more nicknames for her. (Spewitt stuck for awhile, and I don't even think it was my creation.)
After TOYL's cancellation, I embarked on several bad-decision series, and more than a few of them were self-inflicted. When TOYL folded, I was worried I wouldn't get a new assignment. I had tasted of the nectar of recapping, and it was too sweet to do without, so in order to make sure my editors remembered I was sitting around waiting for more bad TV to come my way, I bugged them with pitches and took anything they offered. This meant I got to "experience" D.C. (lasted 4 episodes), The Fugitive relaunch (11 episodes, half of which I recapped; the rest went to another recapper, Manimal), and First Years (three episodes).
If you haven't heard of any or all of those, count yourself lucky. They were not good shows, but they were gigs, and I tackled them happily. I was also just as happy when the site decided to pull the plug on them -- often right before the networks did the same -- because of lack of general interest and an abundance of general suckiness.
Finally, I landed a show that was sure to keep me employed with Television Without Pity for awhile. Even before I accepted this plum assignment, my editor gave me a warning along the lines of, "Remember all the other series lasted seven years, so you might be in this for the long haul." They were giving me a franchise. They were giving me Star Trek.
Enterprise -- the prequel series where warp drive was a new invention and no one was transporting anywhere -- didn't last seven years. In fact, it barely eked out four seasons. The major problem was that the Enterprise concept was a good idea with so much unexplored potential. Talk about having a love-hate relationship with a show. As a Trekkie, I definitely had a lot of issues with the show and found plenty of snark-worthy material.
Around about season three, I hit a difficult patch. The show was bad, and I was getting tired of it. With each episode, it was getting harder and harder to find The Funny. Because it's a lot of pressure, you know? Making people laugh is damn difficult, and I worked really hard at it, which wasn't always the best way to find The Funny, either. In fact, taking a mental chill pill works better than trying to cram jokes or cracks in every paragraph. That's what my editor kept telling me. She'd cheer me on, saying I was being really hard on myself, but would also tell me to relax a bit.
When the network finally pulled the plug on Enterprise in 2005, I felt torn. On the one hand, I was ready to move on to another gig, but since season four aired a few episodes demonstrating just what that show could have been, it managed to be a bittersweet parting. The cancellation inspired me to rewrite the words to "American Pie," which was a lot of fun, actually.
In the middle of Enterprise's years on the air, I recapped three episodes of Century City. Gah. What an awful show! I totally begged for this assignment because of my massive Ioan Gruffudd crush, but the futuristic lawyer drama dressed him in silly salmon suits and took away his accent. Did any of you watch it? Bad, bad stuff.
Some years later, I took on the one and only season of The Apprentice Martha Stewart, and also did Hell's Kitchen, and Kitchen Nightmares. Being a big fan, when the site decided to retroactively recap Farscape, I got a few of those episodes under my belt, too.
Another formative gig for me, Top Chef, was fun for awhile. It slapped together my food career and my pop culture career, which was quite cool. I loved recapping the first season, but not the second, and by the time the third season finished, I realized that while I might enjoy watching reality TV, I didn't enjoy recapping reality TV. Still, I'm glad I got that gig. Hell, because if it, I managed to invent the word "cheftestant," which Bravo continues to use to this day. Sometimes, it's the little things.
Let's see, what else? Oh, yes! My incredibly brief stint with Numb3ers nearly killed my mathematician husband, who cannot abide the show's "math." In order to prep for the gig, I decided to watch every single episode of seasons one, two, and three. Alas, it wasn't to be there simply wasn't enough site interest to keep it. I got off two recaps before it was dropped, but that massive intake of previous episodes gave me meat for my "Formula for Numb3rs". Good times.
Finally, there was Jericho. This was my swan song show. It was my big dumb jock of a show that I frankly adored. I even made a mix tape (well, mix playlist) for it. After experiencing a stint of recapper burn-out, Jericho brought me back to recapping life. It made me remember what I loved about that job. It reminded me that I could like and enjoy a show and yet still find ways of making fun of it. I was experiencing a recapper renaissance! And then Jericho got cancelled. And then it was brought back from the dead by peanuts, which I parodied here. And then it got cancelled again. That magnificent bastard of a show broke my sour recapper's heart.
Now, over the years, recappers have been known to get contacted by people connected the shows they cover. Writers, directors, showrunners, etc. would reach out and let recappers know that their stuff was getting noticed. Sometimes a recapper even got a character named after them or had some other shout-out stuck into the show. That? Was thrilling.
When I worked on Enterprise, I was contacted by an assistant on the show who passed along tidbits of information. My "Trek Throat" told me that Bermaga -- my nickname for show bigwigs Rick Berman and Brannon Braga -- was being surreptitiously used on the set by a few of the actors. I still glow over that. However, it was again Jericho that went the distance for me. I got emails from two of the show's writers and executive producers and almost had a character named after my TWOP handle.
Almost, and it was a cancelled show. Sigh. Still, after all those years and all those recaps, there was no better note to go out on.
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