Friday, August 19, 2011

Top 4 weird characteristics of reality shows

Confession: I’m a sucker for reality TV shows. I love the adventure of Survivor and Expedition Impossible; the artistry of MasterChef, Food Network Star, and HGTV Design Star; the mock value of True Beauty and America’s Most Smartest Model. I even went through a Bachelor/Bachelorette phase until Jason Whatshisface put me over the edge by proposing at the end of his season, breaking up with his new fiancée in front of a live studio audience on national TV, and then asking out the runner-up after the next commercial break. Maybe it’s the competitive aspect of these shows. Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of some (okay, nearly all) of the characters. I don’t know. But I just keep coming back for more.

As I was watching the final few episodes of MasterChef this week, I couldn’t help but notice some of the characteristic traits that are unique to reality shows, particularly in the way they’re edited and promoted. So I bring you the top 4 list of things that reality shows do that would be downright silly on a normal show:

4.  Recapping the most dramatic parts of the entire season before every single episode. True, many other shows do a quick “previously on ___” to catch the viewer up on key plot points, especially if the show is about to revive a previously-dormant plotline. But the clips are selected based on the plot elements they reveal, rather than because they involve a high concentration of yelling, fighting, crying, or bleeped-out words.

3.  Precapping the rest of the season at least once at the beginning, middle, or end of the episode’s air time. In an attempt to convince the viewers to watch the rest of the season, The Bachelor/ette parades every possible catfight scene, HGTV Design Star highlights clips of paint spills and furniture that won’t fit through the door. What if Grey’s Anatomy started flaunting all their upcoming breakthrough surgeries and one-of-a-kind patients?

2.  Coming back from a commercial break and replaying the exact same footage from the last 15 seconds of the segment before the commercial break. In case you forgot, Chef Ramsay was counting down the final seconds of the Mystery Box Challenge while the contestants hurried to complete their soufflés. This is especially great when watching the show on Hulu when the commercial breaks are usually under a minute.

1.  Previewing the most dramatic parts of the remainder of the episode before each commercial break. If normal shows followed suit, it might look something like this: “Coming up next on Law & Order: SVU . . . Benson and Stabler discover new evidence on the kidnapping case, but the ADA Cabot claims it’s not enough for a warrant. Will they find seven-year-old Tommy in time? What will happen when Elliot and Cragen go head to head? Find out. Next!”

What other reality-show-specific norms have you noticed?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tzatziki and chicken and gyros - oh my!

While grocery shopping several days ago, I spotted some containers of tzatziki and immediately became fixated on finding ways to eat it so I could justify buying a container. Of course, you can simply dip things like cucumbers, pita bread, carrots, etc., in it, but I wanted something a little more exciting. So after some “ways to eat tzatziki” Google searches, I found this recipe for chicken gyros and tzatziki. Bingo!

As is my style, I made some modifications, though the main thing I changed is that I used store-bought tzatziki rather than homemade. When you live by yourself and cook for one, there are some things that are just more cost-effective to buy prepared. I also slightly decreased the amount of chicken.

Because I am actively trying to lose weight, I wanted to keep this meal very low-calorie. If calories weren’t such a big deal, I probably would have gone with regular whole pitas and put in a little bit more filling, possibly assembling the gyros taco style rather than pocket style.

Chicken Gyros

4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large (12 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breast (with rib meat)
4 whole wheat pita salad pockets (I found them in the pita section of HEB)
Fresh cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
Fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
Fresh red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup prepared tzatziki sauce

Combine first 7 ingredients in a glass bowl. Cut the chicken breast into 4 evenly-sized strips and add to the marinade, making sure the chicken is nicely coated in marinade goodness. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Cook the chicken whatever way floats your boat. I cooked mine in the George Foreman for about 2-1/2 minutes, and they came out deliciously juicy. Let the cooked chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then slice fairly thinly.

Wrap the pitas in a slightly damp paper towel and microwave for about 15 seconds. Scoop 1/4 of the chicken into each pita salad pocket. Add cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion (I used about 1/8 of a cucumber for one gyro, and about 1/8 of a Roma tomato). Finish off each gyro with 1 Tbsp. of tzatziki, and enjoy! You may need to mix things around in the pocket with a fork to get the tzatziki integrated with the rest of the ingredients.

Yield: 4 gyros

Calories: Approximately 256 per gyro

Verdict: Absolutely delicious! I am excited about eating the other 3 servings that are waiting in my fridge, and I will definitely make this recipe again.

Changes to make next time: As far as taste goes, I wouldn’t change a thing. But for the sake of buying one fewer ingredient, I may use tzatziki, rather than plain yogurt, in the marinade.

These veggies look slightly like wax, but I assure you they are real!