Hello and welcome to another Kitchen Catastrophe Quick-Tip. I’m your host, Jon O’Guin, writing to you from the PAST!
And apparently from a garden, too. That’s new.
Which, isn’t really that impressive, since that’s the default state of written communication. BUT, I’m writing this note a week ahead of time, because I’m actually going to be away from my computer for the next 5 days, traveling the state. I’ll have to make do with books, magazines, and television to keep my spirits up during these trying times. Oh, and people, I guess. I should probably talk to people.
But I wanted to focus a little on Television, and specifically Food programming on TV these days.
Turn On, Tune In, Drop out
It probably comes as little surprise to you guys that I watch a fair bit of Food television. These days, who doesn’t? From the tense stakes and on-the-spot of Chopped, to the cultural stepping stone of The Layover, to even the refreshingly direct programs of Public Television, where you can find Julia Child, America’s Test Kitchen, and Steven Raichlen all preparing a multitude of meals.
This man is here to smoke your steak, and your boyfriend.
I bring up this multitude because it’s actually a rare point of agreement for my family: My mother prefers Disney programming, my dad is very much into action and darkness, and I…like superhero stuff. But one thing we’re all perfectly content watching is food programming. It’s visually interesting, but not violent, and it occasionally inspires us to make food of our own.
So, when I was wandering on Netflix, and found a Food series with only a single star, my interest was piqued. What could this show do that rated it so low? I determined to find out, watching as long as it took to discover its deficiencies.
That time length was revealed to be five minutes. In less time than it would take to prep a TV dinner, I had already determined several things wrong with the program. So let’s take a look at Street Food Around the World episode 1, and see where they went wrong.
Before I really dive into this, a quick note: I, as an artistic creator, don’t wish to impugn or denigrate the work the people creating this put into it. I understand completely the issues of television production, and that this may be the absolute best all parties could have done. That said, the show has flaws.
As the Romans apocryphally said, the work comes sin cera, “without wax”, with any flaws or errors evident. (or nonexistent, but, hey, Latin scholars argue that etymology for “sincere” is wrong anyway, so who cares if I’m misusing it?)
“I CARE, JON.” Sorry, I meant, who cares that MATTERS
The Death of A Thousand Cuts
This show’s greatest failing, from watching the first few minutes, is that, despite what I said earlier, it doesn’t FEEL like anyone is putting in their A-Game. From script issues, tech problems, to pure structural issues, everything here feels like no one wanted to commit.
Let’s start with the opening of the show: we’re in darkness, a sitar playing in the background, and we pan to this.
What a moist welcome you provide.
Well, let’s see…this is a world-traveling show, I see a man getting soaped up, I can see he’s lying on his stomach while someone is doing something to his back, and middle-eastern music is playing. A Turkish bath?
Yes, this is a picture that screams “Turkey” to me. A couple other words as well. But definitely “Turkey”
The problem is those screen shots are taken 30 seconds apart, during which time he continues to give hints, while the camera pans out to reveal the truth BEFORE he acknowledges the answer. That’s just…sloppy.
Further, his hints are frustratingly vague, wrong, and misphrased, in order. “Here, you’re treated like a Sultan.” Thanks; that told me nothing the music didn’t already do. “The tea flows like water.” Turkey is famous for its coffee, asshole, not tea. “And the rahat lakoum, wow. It truly is a heavenly delight.” Rahat Lakoum is Turkish for “Turkish Delight”. This one would have been fine if you had just said “delight”. But not only do you not, you emphasize “heavenly”, implying ‘heavenly delight’ is the direct translation.
But fine, we’re in Istanbul.
Then they cut to the opening theme, which shows the host in a fancy restaurant as Boccherini’s Minuetto plays (You know the song, it’s the stereotypical “black tie dinner” music from EVERY MOVIE FOREVER.), as the host fails to eat his fancy meals, before he smirks at the camera, and jogs outside, to the stirring sound of…Yellow, by Coldplay. How deliriously white this intro is.
Or at least ecru. Eggshell, maybe.
In any case, so the idea is we’re going out to explore the world of Street Food. Cool, I love food trucks, farmer’s markets, all that jazz.
The host runs at us, dressed like his mother is afraid he’ll catch his death in the average Winter temperature of 50 in Istanbul, scaring a flock of pigeons. He explains the great dichotomy of Istanbul, a land of old and new, rich and poor, ancient mosques and modern building- wait, that’s the same dichotomy as the first bit. Jesus, you couldn’t even get 3 examples?
So let’s ignore all that, and the fact that he says “Sultan” four times in the first three minutes, and “Ottoman” five times in two minutes, after all, we don’t have all day-
Apparently, we have EXACTLY all day, actually.
Wait, what? Why?
I’m not being facetious here, why does he only have 24 hours? Like, Anthony Bourdain’s Layover, he only gets as long as his layover lasts, that makes sense. Rachel Ray’s $30 a day, she only has 1 day, but those are both explained at least. This time limit comes out of NOWHERE. And it would be so EASY to explain! “Now, we’re only in town for one day, and then we’re off on more of our adventure, so let’s see how much I can try out in just 24 hours.” Boom, audience is with you. Or “Let’s find the best street food Istanbul has to offer, morning, noon, and night.” Boom, you tell them “Hey, we’re going to cover meals for every time” without acknowledging a time limit!
Jesus, this is just a mess. I’m already at 1000 words, and I’ve only made it halfway through the first five minutes. And trust me, things aren’t getting better. I have to delve deeper into this. This show is just…a miracle of poorly done television. Join me again next Wednesday, as I wrap up my analysis of this.
Don’t pretend like you’re a part of this.
NEXT TIME: JON MAKES GREEN GOOP, MAYBE ORANGE GOOP TOO.