Thursday, March 25, 2010

Please Do NOT Let the Food Wars Begin

Category: TV Show Review

More and more, the Travel Channel is beginning to resemble Food Network 2. Series hosted by chefs Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods and Bizarre World) and Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) are long-running staples on the network. Recent food-based additions have included the Adam Richman glutton-athon known as Man V. Food (which weekly paraphrases the old country song "How Many Biscuits Can You Eat This Morning?"), the 101 Chowdown Countdown, and Best Places to Pig Out.

Add to the Channel's line-up a new series from the producers of Man V. Food, a series titled Food Wars. This is simple enough: host Camille Ford goes to cities where rival restaurants each claim they have the "best" food specialty and invites five people to a blindfolded taste test.

The problem is, Ms. Ford doesn't have it as a host: not Bourdain's profanity-laden biting observations, not Zimmern's Midwestern (via New York) charm and humor, and not Richman's bottomless stomach.

I watched both opening night shows, featuring a Chicago beef sandwich battle and arguments over Buffalo's Buffalo wings. Although the background of the restaurants (especially with the origins of food staples such as the Buffalo wings, created by the owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo) was informative, the show simply lacks the spice that gives Richman heartburn on a weekly basis. And, honestly, a 3-2 vote settles nothing, as the conclusion of each episode proves: the people who prefer Duff's over the Anchor Bar haven't been persuaded, and fans of Al's beef sandwich in Chicago conclude the show by badmouthing Mr. Beef, and vice versa (which should be a warning: talking smack about a sandwich the way people do about the Cubs or the White Sox?), totally contradicting the claim that the show will "settle the food wars, once and for all."

No doubt there will be shows about the Cincinnati chili havens (Gold Star or Skyline) and probably more "is it barbecue with a spice rub or with sauce" arguments -- all of which have been already dealt with on numerous occasions on other shows, and in a much more rewarding manner to the viewer. While the majority of the food shows on the Travel Channel are at least enjoyable and at most cannot-miss, this is not one of them.

And, honestly, enough with the food shows. I don't want Samantha Brown's next travel show to be "Samantha Brown Visits Shoney's."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm in Love, What's That Song

Category: Obituary

Listening to the signature song of the 60s group the Box Tops, "The Letter," it's hard to believe the "man" singing lead was only 16. Another big hit, "Soul Deep," makes that seem more implausible.

The boy with the full-grown voice was Alex Chilton. He died March 17th of a heart attack.

After life in the Box Tops, Chilton formed a critically acclaimed group, Big Star. In the 80s he went on to a solo career. His influence was such that the Replacements recorded a song about him on their landmark 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me. "I'm in love," they sang on "Alex Chilton, "what's that song? I'm in love with that song."

Alex Chilton was just 59.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mission: Remembering

Category: Obituary

The great Peter Graves died March 14.

Graves had two major careers: for the older people, he was Jim Phelps, the leader of a crack governmental force known as the IMF, on the series Mission: Impossible. The opening theme and title sequence (with a match lighting a fuse that burned while action scenes from the episode flashed in the background) were among the most memorable of any television show, not just of the late 1960s, but of all time.

Then there was Captain Clarence Oveur, the pervert pilot in Airplane! His lines to the little boy in the early stages of the show -- "Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?" "Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" "Do you like movies about gladiators?" -- were riotous. They certainly would not make a modern film in this era of political correctness, which is what makes them even funnier. Graves, known widely for his great dramatic roles, delivered each side-splitting line as if he were doing Shakespeare.

Peter Graves suffered a heart attack after returning home from dining with family. He was 83. Survivors include his older brother, actor James Arness.