No one steps to Kitchen Stadium!

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TV

Taking over Project Runway's time slot, Top Chef has some big shoes to fill. No, I don't mean Santino's (or his friend Tony Ward's) or creepy Heidi Klum's. How in the hell does this show even think it can approximate the greatness of Iron Chef? (Not the US version — I'd sooner flay Bobby Flay than pledge allegiance to any culinary competitor other than the huggable Hiroyuki Sakai.)

Needless to say, there is no one as funny or smart as culinary critic Asako Kishi (or master filmmaker and onetime Iron Chef judge Nagisa Oshima) among Top Chef's decision makers. "Where is Chairman Kaga?!" I demand, as I bite into a vegetable and grin maniacally à la Kaga.

What Bravo's latest prize battle does have so far, unsurprisingly, is a villain: Stephen, the flush-faced blond so snotty he'd serve wine to children and expect them to react like connoisseurs. Since aged Marianne Faithfull type Cynthia has already left in a blizzard of Kleenex, it's hard to say how much character is left. Mostly, I see brownnosers and grumps — and blink-and-miss shots of San Francisco. Last week's episode hyped Aqua. (Johnny Ray Huston)

Not that Carrington woman

TV

Just typing the name Pumkin fills me with a kind of flesh-crawling dread that even a thousand soapy baths couldn't wash clean. Yes, the fact that the Flavor of Love finale was VH1's highest-rated show of all time does register as the one million and third piece of evidence that this country is headed toward a pit somewhere just a little below the fire-flurries of hell. Thank somebody, anybody, that Alexis Arquette has arrived. Yes, she's trapped on the beyond-wack Surreal Life, but in a wonderful turnabout from her Last Exit to Brooklyn screen debut, Rosanna and Patricia's sister is more than ready to kick frat- and straight-boy ass on behalf of trannies everywhere. She'll probably prove she's the second funniest queen (after Vaginal Davis) in LA as well. (Huston)

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