Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Stephanie Edwards is watching Top Chef, John Bernardy is listening to The Writers Panel with Ben Blacker, Vincent Greene recommends the work of Deformed Lunchbox, and Hawk Ripjaw encourages you to watch Metalocalypse on Adult Swim.
Top Chef: All Stars LA
Stephanie: One of the main staples necessary for me to survive self-isolation is some good old reality television. Luckily for me, one of my favourite reality competition shows has recently returned and is keeping me full of hearty content each and every Thursday night. Top Chef: All Stars LA started its season on March 19 and is only the second ever all stars season in the show’s 14-year run. Richard Blais, the winner of the first iteration of Top Chef: All Stars, is now a massive culinary star, so the new all-stars crew has pretty big shoes to fill.
As a huge fan of Top Chef, I was extremely excited to hear that the show would be doing another all stars season. Many reality TV shows, from Survivor to Drag Race, seem to bring back contestants and have all stars seasons almost too often, to the point where you long for the days of exciting, new faces. Top Chef, however, has taken its time before ushering in a fresh batch of returning contestants, which makes this season all that more exciting.
Contestants on All Stars LA go as far back as Season 3’s Brian Malarkey and as recent as last season’s Eric Adjepong. This season is especially tasty for me as it brought back three of the top four from my all-time favourite season of Top Chef, Top Chef: Las Vegas. From the Vegas season, we have one of the trailblazing female contestants, Jennifer Carroll, finalist Kevin Gillespie, who recently won his battle with cancer, and runner-up Bryan Voltaggio (my pick to win it all), whose brother Michael Voltaggio took the crown in Season 6. For fans who maybe don’t remember all the way back to Las Vegas like I do, there are still some heavy-hitting crowd pleasers in the bunch that will be sure to awaken your palate.
Top Chef never takes it easy on challenges and we’ve already had some wild rides so far. From having to represent entire artistic movements on a single, visually stunning plate to having their loved ones steer their cooking like Remy in Ratatouille, this season’s contestants will not have an easy path to the cool $250,000 prize, the biggest in the show’s history. I know I am looking forward to seeing what these chefs get up to in the coming weeks and critiquing their complex dishes like I don’t eat Kraft Dinner three nights a week. Top Chef: All Stars LA airs every Thursday night at 10pm on Food Network. And don’t forget to catch Last Chance Kitchen immediately after each episode on foodnetwork.ca to keep up with what eliminated contestant might win their chance back into the competition!
Deformed Lunchbox: Old School Horror with a New Age Twist
Vincent: Deformed Lunchbox is an independent Canadian film studio/online platform. Their independent shorts vary in tone greatly from project to project. Their passion for horror is clearly evident, the influences from past masters are visible in each outing in its own way. They are brave filmmakers that are never afraid to take a risk or push the envelope, whether it comes to story content, gore or just the sometimes outlandish, almost satirical style they have.
Even though it is obvious how serious they are about their craft, they never take themselves too seriously. Most of the content is written and directed by Denman Hatch, and it is clear that he is comfortable enough in his burgeoning skills as a filmmaker that he is not afraid to try out different and exciting new twists and story arcs. The Canadian writer/director is not one to allow himself to be pigeon-holed even in this early stage of his career.
Whereas their primary focus right now is writing, editing and directing their own original shorts, they also make mash-up movies from existing properties. Their shorts include some wildly original pairings, such as Harry Potter vs Freddie Krueger in Harry Potter and the Nightmare at Hogwarts and Indiana Jones vs Pinhead in Indiana Jones and the Curse of Hellraiser. The way these mash-ups are pieced together is extremely well done and shows how the team over at Deformed Lunchbox is testing out their skills for future bigger projects, with one eye being on the future goal of making independent feature films.
As their experience grows so does the length and breadth of their work. The crew over at the studio are now also releasing bite-sized mirco-horrors. Each clip is less than a minute but packed with some really creepy stuff. Deformed Lunchbox does not keep anything in the pail—they want to play on the fears you didn’t even know you had to begin with. Being ardent horror fans themselves they know what makes a good horror but they also know how to avoid too many of the well-known tropes, instead favoring experimental content.
This love for the experimental is the reason for the deformed in their studio name. They love to target anything unique, whether that be kookie black comedies, deranged dramas or strange suspense thrillers. The indy studio is the little engine that could and they are barrelling down the track not afraid to plough through any narrative obstacle along the way.
The team over at Deformed Lunchbox consists of Peter H., Brandon Z., Brandon M., Matt H., Kenny M., James M., James T., and the aforementioned writer/director Denman Hatch. Go to their YouTube page, you will see them all their, pay them a visit. It might be your first time seeing them but I bet it won’t be your last. Just sit back and enjoy the weird and wonderous orchestra that Denman Hatch has assembled over there. Open your mind because things are about to get real weird, real quick.
The Writers Panel With Ben Blacker
John: The Writers Panel With Ben Blacker is a weekly podcast of in-studio conversations between writers, producers, and showrunners about the craft of making television. This week’s conversation included Dahvi Walker, showrunner of Mrs. America, and Julia Yorks, who is transitioning from working in children’s animation into dramas. The main takeaway is that I now want to be a writer’s assistant.
The show has had amazing conversations in the past—including one between Pose’s Steven Canals and Twin Peaks’ Mark Frost and Harley Peyton—but this week’s seemed to be more focused on the ins and outs of a writers’ room than the standard episode. And I loved every one of the 45 minutes.
The conversation moved organically through topics such as the craft of TV writing, how the rooms are special regardless of the luck of whether a show is successful, and helpful hints of how to be a good member of a room. Helping everyone succeed will make others want to help you succeed, and that’s how they describe networking in this environment. Then they talked about how TV writers really see themselves as a community rather than a bunch of competitors. There were tips for how to vet writers and how make sure the combination of writers will mesh well. We learn how to spot a narcissist, how snacks figure in, and what makes a writers’ room productive and not productive.
There was not much said about Mrs. America, but I feel like I’ve experienced the process that got the show to the point where a Pilot could be shot. And now I really want to be a part of that system. If you’ve ever been curious about how shows work from the inside, give this one a go.
The definitive insider’s guide to our current golden age of television, Ben Blacker’s The Writers Panel is an ever expanding anthology of live convention panels and intimate in-studio interviews with the writers, producers, and show runners responsible for the shows you can’t stop watching.
Hawk: As we do good for our fellow man by self-isolating, Adult Swim has alleviated the cabin fever somewhat by deciding to release their classic show Metalocalypse in its entirety on their website.
Debuting in 2006 and created by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, the animated show follows the metal band Dethklok, composed of guitarists Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth, bassist William Murderface, Pickles the Drummer, and vocalist Nathan Explosion. Deathklok is one of the largest industries on the planet, with the global economy at the mercy of a new album release.
Right from the start, Metalocalypse establishes an air of graphic violence and macabre humor. In the opening scene, their performing stage is airlifted, and upon dropping, promptly misses its target and crushes a good chunk of the audience, with several more when its doors slam open. This is, as many characters will attest, “metal.” If it is violent or horrifying, it is metal. The crowds even applaud and welcome physical trauma and death. Fans sign waivers before entering the arena because death is such a frequent occurrence.
The shock of sudden violence is one of the main humor tentpoles of Metalocalypse, with the other being the profound, massive level of stupidity and privileged ignorance of the band. Some of the best episodes of the show revolve around the band having to suddenly think and act for themselves. In what might be my favorite episode, Dethklok finally almost gets killed by a concert mishap, causing an existential crisis for the band. Murderface and Nathan Explosion, uncomfortable with the term “death” and its variants, demand that the term never be used again and instead be replaced by something more pleasant: “Hamburger Time.” In order to avoid “Hamburger Time,” Nathan reasons that because bleach is mostly water and humans are also mostly water, they can get healthier by drinking bleach. The result is what you might expect.
There’s something oddly lovable about the band’s stupidity, which largely is due to the voice acting: Brendon Small, Tommy Blacha and Mark Hamill provide the majority of the voices, with a massive rotation of others, often musicians, filling in guest roles: James Hetfield, Devin Townsend, Mike Patton, King Diamond and several more show up to provide their voices. Every character has a distinct and loud personality.
Awesome phantasmagorical imagery accompanies the music, the visual style often drawing heavy inspiration from album art and lore from the ’80s and ’90s. Brendon Small is himself a multi-instrumental and is responsible for writing and performing the music of Dethklok, which is legitimately and unironically solid metal music and has been released in the form of actual albums. It’s more than just music on the show and totally stands on its own.
It’s also mildly procedural, with nearly every episode opening with a tribunal of sorts discussing the latest exploits of Dethklok. Ostensibly, this organization, called the Revengencers, seeks to either eliminate or utilize Dethklok, and their presence looms menacingly as the members of Dethklok remain blissfully oblivious. By the fourth and final season, events come to a head.
Sadly, Adult Swim cancelled the show before it could come to a true conclusion, despite Small’s best efforts to pitch something to AS and even start a campaign for its revival. Despite the fact that we’ll likely not see any more Dethklok, the show is still as entertaining as it ever was.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!