Given the lack of first-run programming during the holiday season, most broadcast and cable networks assume that nobody watches TV during the last two weeks of the year. If you fall into that category, here's what you missed.
The Next Iron Chef Is...
The producers of the all-stars edition of The Next Iron Chef have made it pretty clear all along who they wanted to be the winner, and their wishes were granted in the season finale. A final head-to-head matchup between Amanda Freitag and Food Network personality Alex Guarnaschelli, judged by current Iron Chef stars Michael Symon, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, brought the personable Guarnaschelli the win.
An Awkward Dinner Party
On The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Kenya is over the moon because her longtime boyfriend Walter is going to propose to her during their stay at a resort in Anguilla. Kenya, it turns out, is seriously delusional even by the standards of these ladies. After telling everyone who will listen that Walter is going to propose during the couples' dinner party on the final night, Kenya is told -- publicly and humiliatingly -- that he had said no such thing and no, he wasn't planning on marrying her. Which honestly sounds like a win for both of them.
Ending With A New Beginning
On the series finale of Leverage, Nate (Timothy Hutton) finally pulled off the big con that the entire show has been building toward, albeit with a fakeout structure that for much of the episode made the audience believe that the rest of his crew had been killed in the attempt. In fact, the series ends with Nate and Sophie (Gina Bellman) retired and engaged, and the team's remaining members regrouping as Leverage International, with the once-feral thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) slipping into Nate's role as planner and mastermind. Her delivery of Nate's "We provide...leverage" monologue at the very end makes me wish there would be a Season 6.
Coming To A Head
The second season of British period drama The Hour hasn't had the buzz of the first, but the show feels more tightly plotted than before. This week's next to last episode features a raid on the seedy Soho nightclub El Paradis after owner Raphael Cilenti (Vincent Riotta) ordered the murder of the showgirl who was providing information on his nefarious activities. After the slow, steady build-up of the previous four episodes, the bravura cinematography and note-perfect bebop soundtrack of the raid felt like what the entire series has been leading toward. Can't wait for the fallout in the season finale.
The last several episodes of Top Chef have been increasingly focused on turmoil between high-spirited Josie and the other chefs, who find her loudmouth ways annoying. I was on her side for most of this episode, when the others took exception to her cheering at an all-female roller derby match featuring this week's clients. I mean, c'mon, it's a roller derby match, you're supposed to be screaming. But when Josie responded to their complaints later with a needlessly self-righteous, histrionic hissy fit, it only proved that they're right to be tired of her drama-queen ways.
The Hug Tweeted Round The World
Barbara Walters sat down with the President and First Lady for their first joint interview following the election. Though as is increasingly common with Walters, there were cringeworthy moments (do you really ask the most visible couple in the world how they keep the "fire" in their marriage?), an exchange about a widely-retweeted photo of Barack and Michelle hugging on Election Night spoke to the reality of their relationship. When Walters asked why the photo seemed so heartfelt, Obama responded, "'Cause I love my wife," to which Michelle added, "That's my honey giving me a hug."
We've Seen This All Before
What to do with the kids who are too old for Toddlers and Tiaras? TLC has decided that the answer is Cheer Perfection, a perhaps even more loathsome series about Arkansas stage moms chasing the glory they feel they were denied in their own childhoods. We've seen the spats between parents and obnoxiously high-strung coaches elsewhere, but at least the kids on Dance Moms or the like aren't at serious risk of injury. Because cheerleading is basically unregulated, and not recognized as a team sport, girls find themselves paralyzed or otherwise permanently disabled by increasingly dangerous cheerleading routines every year.
Bottom Of The Barrel
TLC also showed a profoundly irritating special called Wives With Beehives, which had the stench of "failed pilot" all over it. A group of Los Angeles hipster-wannabes think wearing '50s clothes brings them closer to idealized 1950s suburban "values," although it quickly becomes clear they have no idea what the 1950s were like beyond Leave it to Beaver re-runs. We should make them sit down with the collected works of John Cheever and a good documentary about the dawn of the civil rights era.
We Can't Be Rid Of Him
This season of Project Runway All-Stars seems desperate to rehabilitate the image of designer Joshua McKinley, who poisoned his initial season of the show by being quite possibly the single most shrill, self-righteous and annoying contestant they've ever had. This week, even though Joshua created a hideous Pepto-Bismol-colored cocktail dress made even more hideous by a lumpy, bunched zipper in the back, he somehow still survived. Instead, Ivy Higa's merely boring (and far too long) sundress led to her downfall.
Pot Meets Kettle
Often, the reunion special can be counted on to provide a few fun, trainwrecky moments. But the best that the underwhelming second season of Real Housewives of Miami could manage was a rehashing of the punch-up between Adriana and Joanna, in which Adriana sneered that her one-time bestie was "an alcoholic" and "a mental case." Look, you guys are on a Real Housewives series: alcoholic and mental case are, if anything, the starting points.