Discovery Channel // 2010 // 461 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // April 6th, 2011
It's all about mia famiglia.
Cake Boss: Season 3 has Buddy and the gang at Carlo's Bakery return for yet another season of opulent cake crafting. TLC dirty ices eighteen episodes across two discs:
* "Governor, Giant Lisa and Goodbye Mama"
* "Roses, Romance, and a Romeo"
* "Peppermint and a Polar Bear Plunge"
* "Hieroglyphics, Hearse and Happy Parents"
* "Tournament of Knights and a Tasty Tiramisu"
* "Magazines, a Mega Screen and Maurizio"
* "Six-foot Sub Sandwich, Zeppoles and a Sick Mauro"
* "Barbers and Bulls"
* "Helmet Cake, Healthy Mauro, and Huge Train Cake"
* "Strawberries, Sinatra, and Sick Ovens"
* "Sandals, Sandwiches and Shelves"
* "Pipes, a Phoenix and a Problematic Kitchen"
* "Snooki, Super Anthony and a Ship"
* "Sweet Sixteen, Stars and a Saber Sword"
* "Crazy Chocolate Cake and Carlo's Centennial Celebration"
* "Santa, Sunrise and Snowmen Cupcakes"
Cake Boss is such an utterly ridiculous show. It's great fun to watch the titular boss Buddy Valastro tackle crazy-ass gourmet cakes each week. He's a guy who clearly loves what he does for a living, and while the cakes sometimes take a dive in the looks department (his cake for Jersey Shore's Snooki borders on inducing blindness), the guy brings a level of craft and artistry that elevates the show above trash TV. Just barely.
Where I get hung up is on the show's narrative content. Every episode is pretty much the same, formulaically (with few exceptions). To illustrate my love/hate attitude toward the show's reality TV aspects, I have decided to present to you, the reader, an outline for my own Cake Boss spec script (and if this show isn't scripted, then Robocop is my favorite documentary).
Episode Title: "Danny Devito and Descents Into Madness"
By Judge Ike Oden
As the show begins, Buddy meets with a quirky customer who requests a cake that resembles Danny DeVito's left arm. Buddy has a mild rant that probably reads something like: "This person is coming to me asking for a cake that looks like Danny DeVito forearm, I'm not sure how we're gonna pull this one off. I'm a baker from Hoboken, not Rhea Perlmen!"
Smash cut to Buddy laying out detailed blue-prints as to how the Danny Devito forearm cake will look, crafted from rice crispy treats and pound cake with added extra touches -- arm-hair made out of sprinkles and edible lobby cards from Throw Mama From A Train -- all over the cake. Then he goes about making it, but not before...
Another customer asks for an equally ridiculous cake, something they keep referring to as an "Anti-Cake." Buddy does his rant again: How am I supposed to make a cake that isn't a cake, that defies the very fundamental concept of the cake to the point where if the two touched, the very universe would collapse on itself? I'm a baker from Hoboken, not Stephen Hawking!"
Smash-cut to Buddy laying out detailed blue-prints as to how the Anti-Cake will look: a big hodgepodge of different pies covered in fondant, sculpted in such a way it resembles a terrifying black monolith.
Next, Buddy and his crew of bakers, sculptors, and assistants go to work on the assignments, all while dealing with wacky personal issues (Buddy's brother-in-law and top baker Mauro is driven to the brink of insanity as he sculpts the Anti-Cake) and wacky screw-ups (Anthony, Buddy's slacker nephew/apprentice, accidentally sculpts Daniel Stern's forearm instead of Danny DeVito's!).
Insert one or two appearances from Buddy's nagging sisters and/or abrasive mother, who stir the pot by telling Mauro he was crazy even before he started work on the Anti-Cake. Mauro starts to freak out and attempts to suffocate himself in the black fondant. Buddy sends his mother/sisters away. Then they put the finishing touches on the cake! Buddy ices sunshine, taxis and train patterns all around the DeVito cake, referencing the actor's most famous work (though Anthony criticizes him for leaving out fondant screws representing the movie Screwed). Meanwhile, Buddy drips the Anti-Cake pie monolith in liquid black forest chocolate, emphasizing the dessert's void of cake.
Next, they pack the cakes up and deliver them. If we have some extra time, maybe Anthony drops the Anti-Cake, forcing Mauro to relive the horrors of the dessert by having to fix it at the last minute. Buddy delivers each cake. The DeVito party is happy with their cake. The Anti-Cake party is happy with their cake. Buddy delivers a speech at one of these deliveries that works in his deceased father's love of Danny DeVito and/or cake without cake. Everyone gets teary eyed. The episode ends on a happy note. Mauro gets over temporary insanity by cutting the Anti-Cake. Anthony is made fun of by the actual Danny DeVito in a quick cameo. Buddy says "It's all about mia famiglia!"
That's pretty much every episode of the Cake Boss ever. Two crazy cakes are proposed, the cakes get planned, personal wackiness ensues, the cakes get delivered with or without catastrophe, Buddy makes a speech -- Every. Single. Episode. My episode is about a million times better, I think, mostly because anything involving Danny DeVito and pie is automatically a superior product. Even without those two crucial elements, Cake Boss manages to string together eighteen entertainingly hokey episodes. The awesome cakes certainly help things along, the highlights in Season 3 being a six-foot-long, fully detailed sub sandwich cake; a gigantic flaming Phoenix cake; a Frank Sinatra tribute cake; and a West Point Chapel cake that'll blow your freaking mind. Even when the cake designs are come off as (pardon the pun) half baked, Buddy is such a likeable, energetic guy that you can't help but go along with whatever zany concept he's kicking around. He's the star of the show, and a damn good one, at that.
I'd complain, and I often do at my television while watching the show, but Cake Boss doesn't pretend to be anything more than trashy reality TV with a bona fide cooking show spin. A good way to kill twenty minutes, preferably in the company of like-minded individuals who can make fun of it with you. And really, isn't that what TLC programming is all about?
A special note must be made with the episode "Santa, Sunrise, and Snowmen," the only one on the set to truly stray from the established formula, centering on the bakery during Christmas rush hour. As a byproduct, it comes off as the least scripted and arguably best episode on the set. As much as I dig the usual formula for the show, there's a lot to be said just watching what happens in a bakery in the oncoming days before Christmas. The gang pulls a 48 hour shift during the holidays, and the lengths at which Carlo's Bakery goes for the customers -- and each other -- legitimately sells Buddy's mia famiglia motto. This episode, above all others on the set, is more than your typical reality show bunk.
Cake Boss: Season 3 is a tad underwhelming on DVD. Picture quality is all over the place, sporting a seriously dull, grainy picture on the first disc. Things kind of clear up somewhere around the second disc, but I'd appreciate some consistency. The sound mix, thankfully, is a clear, solid affair. Extras consist of a ton of deleted scenes which, while far from substantial, are as entertaining as anything else that happens on the show.
Cake Boss fans be warned, Season 3's DVD is missing three critical episodes from the season involving the family's trip to Italy. I thought something was off when they introduced the story idea in an episode on disc one, but never followed up with it in disc two. I assume TLC is planning on putting said episodes on their Season 4 DVD, but can't help but cringe when reading the Amazon product description, which promises the viewers will "Travel with Buddy as he explores his Italian roots." Yeah, that didn't happen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 461 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site