This is the story of two men.
The first guy travels the country. He unearths culinary treasures, shedding light on overlooked food joints in the nooks and crannies of America. He spouts off quirky and energetic instant-reviews. And as you might expect, he’s slightly overweight.
The second guy… well, he also travels the country. He also unearths culinary treasures, shedding light on overlooked food joints in the nooks and crannies of America. He also spouts off quirky and energetic instant-reviews. And yep, he’s a little chubby.
As you probably guessed. The first guy is Guy Fieri from “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network.
And the second is, of course, Adam Richman from “Man vs. Food” on the Travel Channel.
So yes, this is the story of two men.
But really, this is journey to the heart of this question:
Why is it so enjoyable to watch too hefty dudes grub extremely unhealthy (and greasy) comfort food?
Yes. You probably know the premise of each show. “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” (which premiered in 2007)
features stars Fieri in a one-man roadtrip to find America’s best (well) diners, drive-ins and dives.
He “traverses” the country in a Chevy Camaro convertible, searching for places that serve American classics (hamburgers, hot dogs, fried food, etc.) He finds places with unbelievable dishes and menus, a hole-in-the-wall place that combined Chinese and Mexican food comes to mind. He finds regional specialties and eclectic restauranteurs and, somehow, we get a little slice of Americana along the way.
But there’s a method to his quest. The food must be gourmet… and from scratch.
And that’s where the show finds its voice.
Fieri will watch the chefs, cooks and restaurant proprietors prepare their best dishes. He will watch them throw flour and salt and garlic powder into the pot. He will watch them fry hot dogs. He will watch them craft together the best chili recipe a person could imagine.
This is the part of the show that sucks you in*. And this is where we will begin to answer the question. I first saw Triple D (its nickname) when I was a senior in college. I would sit on the couch, mesmerized by the combinations, my mouth watering at the high-definition images of fatty goodness. Why is this show so entertaining? My roommates would wonder the same thing. Perhaps the answer is simple. At least, it could be. Because if you’ve ever watched the show, you know what I’m talking about. There’s really only one reaction you can have, and it’s usually some derivative of this:
“Dude, that’s looks SO GOOD…”
Of course, Fieri will sample the food, and throw in some (presumably) canned review.*
*He generally goes with these old staples. If somebody is cooking something
on in a boiling pot, every ingredient is getting “tossed into the pool. If the dish is getting a little spicy, you’ll hear, “Oh, brother, we’re going to flavor town.” And otherwise, most dishes are considered “money.”
Some other classic Guy quotes: 1. “Holy Moly, Stromboli.” 2. “This is bananas, and bananas is good.”
So yes, perhaps this subject is not worthy of such nuanced thinking. Food is good. Deece restaurant food is ever better. People love food. Thus, people love watching the food being made.
But this is the part where we get to the story of the second guy.
I can remember when I saw the first commercial promo for “Man vs. Food”. The premise was simple. Adam Richman* travels the country, seeking out the country’s toughest eating challenges.
*So just who is Adam Richman? Well, if you listen to the show’s opening you know this:
“He’s no competive eater. Just a regular guy with a serious appetite.”
Turns out Richman is really an actor who has appeared in such shows as “Guiding Light” and “Joan of Arcadia”. He actually graduated from Yale’s drama school – so there’s that.
Right now, as I’m writing this, Richman is eating a 190-pound cheeseburger. Yea. 190 pounds! Yea. Not sure what the point is. But they also added 10 pounds of cheese. Four pounds of bacon. Three heads of lettuce. About 25 tomatoes. And about 100 pickle slices. He’s not eating it by himself, of course. There’s a group of like 40 people — including members of the band KISS, a group of high school football players and a bunch of construction workers — and even they couldn’t take it down. You know the first thought that popped into my head? America.
So yes, I always associated “Man vs. Food” with “Triple D”. And I’ve always associated Guy with Adam.
There are differences, of course. I could be wrong, but it did seem like the first few episodes of “Man vs. Food” were centered around the Eating Challenges. They paid little attention to how the food was prepared. The show still had great ratings.
But it seemed to lack the voice that carried “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. Of course, it is interesting to watch Richman attempt to eat truckloads of food. But it’s safe to say that the novelty could wear off fast.
Thus, Richman began to mimic Fieri, and the show basically became a copy of Triple D — with a food challenge at the end.
And yet, it works… and it’s still entertaining.
So here’s the question again. Why do we love Richman? Why do we feel the need to watch Fieri do the same thing every week? Does it say something about America’s relationship with food? Does it provide a subtext into the discussion of Obesity? Am I just filibustering by throwing out unanswerable questions because I have no answers?
But you know what? The food looks SO GOOD.