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NBC Gets Its Own Culinary Competition Series

I wonder: is it really news nowadays when NBC buys yet another international format?

Regardless of that fact, I was at least intrigued by NBC's latest reality order for The Chopping Block, based on an Australian format to be executive produced by David Barbour and Julian Cress that sounds completely similiar to BBC America's Last Restaurant Standing (or, as it was known in the UK, The Restaurant).

In this case, the Peacock has cast, er, highly eccentric retired chef Marco Pierre White (who trained Gordon Ramsay... and then replaced Ramsay on the UK version of Hell's Kitchen) in the Raymond Blanc taskmaster role. White was last glimpsed on these fine shores in the recent Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations episode when he traveled to England.

The series will follow eight couples as they compete for their own restaurant. However, unlike Last Restaurant Standing, the couples will be split into two teams that will compete head-to-head in adjoining restaurants in Manhattan.

The result is like crossing Top Chef's Restaurant Wars challenge with Hell's Kitchen and LRS, with the teams participating in typical reality challenge fodder like designing their eateries. launching marketing campaigns, and drumming up business for their new ventures... all while working together a la The Apprentice. Their success will be monitored by a group of professional food critics who will act as judges and review the restaurants.

I'll likely check out The Chopping Block when it launches next season--especially if they wisely schedule it when Top Chef is out of season--but this Last Restaurant Standing addict can't help but be stung by the lack of recognition for that BBC2 format, especially as NBC thinks that they are being original by having their teams made up of couples. ("The real novel twist is having couples," said NBC reality chief Craig Plestis. "That's where you're going to see all the drama.")

Paging Raymond Blanc, perhaps?

Still, if you can't take the heat, then chances are you shouldn't be in the kitchen at all.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Biggest Loser (NBC; 8-10 pm); Beauty and the Geek (CW); It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown/Just for Laughs (ABC); American Idol (FOX; 8-10 pm)

9 pm: Big Brother 9 (CBS); One Tree Hill (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC; 9-10:30 pm)

10 pm: Jericho (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Miss/Guided (ABC; 10:30-11 pm)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Beauty and the Geek.

I'm tempted to tune out altogether after the latest disastrous "game-changing twist," but it gets one more shot before I give up on this series. On tonight's episode ("Raps, Rhymes, and Geeks"), the geeks compete against the beauties in a talent show (gee, I wonder who wins), while one of the beauties proves that she'll do anything to stay in the house.

9 pm: Last Restaurant Standing on BBC America.

On the seventh episode of this addictive British import, it's a gruesomely fantastic episode as the remaining teams must motivate and train their staffs with sales techniques but Raymond has a trick up his sleeve and announces that they will have to include a mystery ingredient in their menus and promptly sends each restaurant a batch of live eels, which they must kill and serve to their guests that evening. Will the teams rise to the occasion? Or will they be at each other's throats? Find out tonight.

10 pm: The Riches on FX.

It's the second season opener of a Televisionary fave, The Riches, tonight ("The Last Temptation of Wayne"), Dahlia, the kids, and Cherien's mother hit the road while Wayne remains behind in Edenfalls to deal with Pete and gets an offer from Hugh that may be too good to pass up.

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