Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'Cake' is tasty, but not filling

 TLC series 'Cake Boss' returns Monday night for its second season. TLC series 'Cake Boss' returns Monday night for its second season.

Monday night at 10, TLC

"Cake Boss" makes you hungry for something sweet, which is good.

It also can make you hungry for something with a little more TV substance.

Buddy Valastro and his posse are all back Monday night to launch season two of "Cake Boss," a reality show centered on the fun that apparently never stops at Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken.

Valastro and his extended, often quirky Italian family rarely allow a dull moment. They're an animated bunch, not reluctant to speak up. They also work overtime to convince us Carlo's is not one of those bakeries whose daily production is rolls, bread, pastries and a couple of personalized birthday cakes.

Valastro has a client who wants to propose to his girlfriend in Carlo's. This client also wants Valastro to bake him a cake that replicates an engagement ring box, and put the actual ring inside. So he does, and it looks great. Problem is, this isn't like when your mom made a cake and you felt involved because you could lick the bowl. This is more abstract, like watching the construction of a house.

At another point, Valastro and his team assemble a cake for a Brooklyn botanical event whose theme is "Wicked Plants." Valastro's cake replicates a Venus flytrap, with a long winding stem that resembles an uncoiling cobra. The combination of flour, sugar and eggs doesn't bind strongly enough to support that kind of stem, so he makes it from PVC pipe.

The end result is impressive.

But again, here, the creation process feels more like an engineering lesson than Willie Wonka.

Since TV interactivity has not reached the point where we can actually taste the cake, the livelier part of "Cake Boss" is the interaction of the family - and, tellingly, the highlight of Monday night's episode is a moment that feels wholly staged for the camera.

We won't spoil it here, but it goes back to last season's infamous "Cake Drop" episode. Anthony and Danny were carrying a tall Sweet 16 cake down a flight of stairs when they lost their grip and the cake went down the stairs without them.

Fans have argued whether it was more Anthony's or Danny's fault. Monday night, we find out where Valastro comes down on that one. It's an amusing enough scene. It just feels like it was dreamed up for the TV camera.

"Cake Boss" has engaging passages. Too often it feels like cotton candy.

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