Chicago-set fourth season of Top Chef debuts tonight

Top Chef 4 debuts tonight on Bravo at 10 p.m. ET with a 75-minute episode. After spending its third season in Miami, the series moves to Chicago, where 16 chefs–the biggest cast so far–will compete.

Judge Ted Allen tells TV Guide that the competition is, as always, impossibly difficult, and calls the producers “evil” and “sadistic.” The chefs, he says, “don’t get big budgets and they don’t get enough time; if you could give them enough time to plan out a menu, the way they would in real life, more of them would cook successful dishes. We’re saying to them, ‘OK, you have 15 minutes to figure out what to do.'”

He adds that the environment plays a big role. “I don’t know if fans are truly aware of how hard it is: All these contestants give up their cell phones, their iPods, they can’t watch TV, they can’t read books, they can’t call their mommies. All they have is the people they’re trying to defeat — and maybe some nice bottles of wine every once in a while. You’re stuck in this pressure cooker with these people who you may or may not like. For six weeks! And on top of that, you have these evil, sadistic producers coming up with the hardest possible challenges they can think of,” he said.

Top Chef 4 [Bravo]
Top Chef’s Ted Allen Previews This Season’s Big City and Bigger Personalities [TV Guide]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.