May 14, 2021

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TV Talk: Western Pa. ‘Worst Cooks’ contestant returns for all-star edition

5 min read

If you’re invited to be on an all-star edition of Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America” (9 p.m. Sunday), does that make you among the best of the worst or the worst of the worst?

“Definitely the worst of the worst,” says “Worst Cooks” contestant Sadie Manda, a Canonsburg native who lives in Slippery Rock. “It’s like being king of the losers. I’m so honored to be called an ‘all-star’ and also slightly offended.”

It’s clear Manda has a good sense of humor about her cooking skills – or lack thereof (“When you’re this bad,” she says, “there’s no defending it.”). Manda first appeared on “Worst Cooks” in the show’s 17th season in 2019 after she, with the help of her family, jokingly filled out a “Worst Cooks” online questionnaire.

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Food Network

Contestant Sadie Manda competes in “Worst Cooks in America.”

 

“It started as an inside joke that just went awry,” Manda says of her 2018 submission to the show while she was a junior at Duquesne University.

So what made Manda a viable “Worst Cooks” contestant?

“I would describe it as a general lack of common sense and also a lack of any amount of skill,” she says. “For example, I never cooked a pancake correctly. That has been really above my pay grade, which is a little upsetting. … I have a really infamous chicken salad that got two of my friends really sick.”

Manda filmed both of her seasons of “Worst Cooks” — which is essentially “Top Chef” meets “Nailed It!” – in New York. The new season debuting Sunday, “Worst Cooks in America: Best of the Worst,” filmed in October. Manda didn’t make any special effort to practice cooking in preparation for being on the show either time.

“One of the reasons I hate cooking is I don’t want to waste money and buy all these things and make something I know is going to be just deplorable,” Manda says, noting she dines out more than she should and gets by at home on Trader Joe’s frozen meals and juicing cucumbers, apples and celery in a blender.

For the new “Worst Cooks” season, host/judge Anne Burrell is joined by jovial Cleveland restauranteur Michael Symon, who also has the Bar Symon restaurant at Pittsburgh International Airport. Manda says she enjoyed a teasing rivalry with Symon and a contestant from Cleveland.

“The best part of it is I was always right,” says Manda, who works for a nonprofit mentorship program in Slippery Rock. “In life there are a few objective truths starting with the Steelers are better than the Browns and it’s not really a debate.”

After this edition of “Worst Cooks” Manda says she’s “officially retired” from reality TV.

“This is very out of my comfort zone,” she says. Cooking classes aren’t in her future either. “I feel like I put other peoples’ safety at risk. I don’t mind blowing up my own stove. I would feel very bad if there were innocent bystanders standing next to me.”

‘Rutherford Falls’

Now streaming on Peacock, there’s a “Parks and Recreation” vibe to “Rutherford Falls.” Like wonky public policy nerd Leslie Knope on “Parks,” “Rutherford Falls” has a wonky history nerd, Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms, “The Office”), as its central character. But unlike “Parks,” where Leslie was the essential glue, Nathan is the least interesting character even as he’s the nominal lead.

Created by Helms, Sierra Teller Ornelas (“Superstore”) and “Parks” co-creator Michael Schur (“The Good Place”), “Rutherford Falls” isn’t as funny as it needs to be. It’s more amusing, really, punctuated by the occasional comedic gag that really lands. This isn’t surprising: “Parks” and its predecessor, “The Office,” also had rough first seasons and “Rutherford” gets off to a better start than either of those shows did.

Nathan is the myopically-focused, history-loving operator of a museum in Rutherford Falls, N.J., dedicated to the history of the town that was founded by one of his ancestors. His best friend, Reagan Wells (Jana Schmieding), oversees a tiny cultural center inside an Indian casino that’s run by Terry Thomas (Michael Greyeyes, “I Know This Much Is True”).

Eventually an NPR reporter, Josh Carter (Dustin Milligan, significantly beardier than he was on “Schitt’s Creek”), comes to town to investigate a dust-up involving the placement of a statue of the town’s founder that’s situated in the middle of a road, frequently causing traffic accidents.

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Colleen Hayes/Peacock

Ed Helms and Jana Schmieding star in “Rutherford Falls.”

 

“In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a great time for people who love statues,” says the town mayor (Dana L. Wilson).

While the show’s early focus is on Nathan, within a few episodes it becomes clear the show is at its strongest when Reagan’s cultural idealism runs up against Terry’s unbridled capitalism, borne out of childhood poverty and discrimination.

Writer-turned-actress Schmieding, a funny and likable presence, is a striving underdog viewers will want to invest in and see win. There’s potential for Nathan’s character to become more complex and conflicted when the show reveals he’s the black sheep of his family, which runs a massive corporation.

“Rutherford Falls” has the building blocks to become a smart comedy hit. It just needs more time to build its characters’ relationships.

The first three episodes of “Rutherford Falls” are now available on the free Peacock tier; the balance of the first season is now streaming on Peacock Premium, which is included with a Comcast Xfinity subscription.

Kept/canceled/spun off

CBS renewed reality competition “Tough as Nails” for its third and fourth seasons with casting underway at toughasnailscbscasting.com/home. CBS will also bring back “NCIS” (including star Mark Harmon in some capacity), “Bull,” “Blue Bloods,” “Magnum P.I.” and “S.W.A.T.” for the 2021-22 TV season.

Netflix renewed “Ginny & Georgia” for season two.

Cinemax’s “Warrior” has been renewed for a third season and will relocate to HBO Max.

FX’s “Mr. Inbetween” will end with its third season premiering at 10 p.m. May 25.

A second movie based on the “Downton Abbey” PBS series will be in theaters Dec. 22.

Channel surfing

Season two of Apple TV+ comedy “Ted Lasso” debuts July 23. … New episodes of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” with Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack return at 9 p.m. April 29. … Free streamer Crackle can now be accessed via Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex. … Next week ABC looks back on “Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days” (8 p.m. Monday, WTAE-TV).

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at [email protected] or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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