Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Cake Boss' looks for recipe for good TV

 'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro shows a slice of his art. 'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro shows a slice of his art.

CAKE BOSS. Monday at 9 p.m., TLC

If you think President Obama's got a lot on his plate, you gotta see the opening night of "Cake Boss."

It's exhausting just to watch.

It's also probably fattening just to watch, given that everything revolves around flour, sugar, eggs and icing.

Not that anyone at Carlo's Bakery has time to eat. Things are moving that fast for Buddy Valastro and the Valastro family, which, in just an hour tonight, has to handle two huge parties for the family and one for New Jersey's incoming governor, Chris Christie.

The Valastros are baking a cake that has to serve 2,000 people.

Buddy decides the cake will also be a celebration of New Jersey, which means the top will be decorated with sculptures of produce (the Garden State), lighthouses, New Jersey Turnpike signs and everything he or anyone else can think of.

Skip the toxic waste dump jokes, please. But there is a small sculpture of the governor, arm raised in "a little Jersey fist pump."

It takes about eight Carlo's employees to carry the cake into the Prudential Center, and when they get there, the gov loves it.

This is great promotion for the bakery, though it could have troubling implications for the show.

"Cake Boss" works because it's an engaging story about a family business and the family that runs it.

True, Carlo's provides specialty baking for unusual occasions, and that's part of the drama. But if the show becomes exclusively about catering to the stars, or politicians, it becomes a very different show than if it's about a place where ordinary people walk in wanting an extraordinary cake.

Tonight, Buddy is also working on a 30th-birthday surprise for his wife, Lisa: a life-size cake sculpted to look like her, in her precise dimensions.

One of the minidramas in this process is the all-important facial sculpture, which Buddy entrusts to a new hire, Ralph, who looks like he walked in from the set of "Guys and Dolls."

So it's fun to watch Lisa's cake double come together, though one suspects Buddy doesn't really want dozens of people to come through the door asking for similar sculptures of their own spouses.

Weird cakes are definitely part of the fun. If they become the whole show, though, that's like too much icing. It could overpower a good thing.

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