Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top Reality Shows: Yes, Another List

I'll admit, I've never been a huge reality TV show fan. Back in 1998, I watched about 30 minutes of Survivor before I gave up on it. I know some people really enjoy that show, as well as numerous others such as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, Big Brother, and so on.

I've never liked these shows, but I will give them credit for being wildly popular. I think a big push for reality TV has been from the networks. These shows don't pay actors, don't pay (many) writers (because it's all so real, get it?) and the production costs are low. If the show flops, no big deal. And if it is a success, its a huge profit.

Anyway, there are some "reality" (and I think I'm using the term pretty loosely) TV shows that I do enjoy. Most of them are on the Travel Channel or the Food Network. None of them are on VH1 (T.O. show, this means you).

One more thing. I don't really seek these shows out, but I will watch when they are on. It's kind of like College Basketball before March Madness. I have a general awareness of what's going on, but I'm not committed to making much of an effort to seek it out. (Notice I said before March. I don't want to hear complains about how great the tournament is. I get it. Opening weekend is one of my top 4 sports moments of the year.) So, here's the list of reality TV shows that I like.

1. No Reservations. Host Anthony Bourdain is at times very funny and at all times very full of himself. He talks way too damned much. And he really only knows what he's talking about in a few situations. But still, I love this show. He goes to exotic places (mostly) and does things that are off the beaten path. I enjoy watching this show. Also, he doesn't do that many gross things, like somebody later down on this list. I love traveling and I enjoy seeing places I haven't seen on TV. It's a good concept. Take some guy who is obnoxious but somewhat knowledgeable and send him all over the world to do different and random and local things. And then put it on TV with some (too much) of the host talking about what he did.

2. ManVentures. It could also be called Madventures, I'm not sure. Its sometimes difficult to understand these two dudes as they speak with their Swedish or Finnish accents. I'll admit, I've only seen about 2.5 episodes, but they've all been outstanding. Basically, these two dopes go around touring the world and doing stupid/adventurous things. They snuck into Cambodia once. One guy is the host and the other guy is the camera man. I don't think anyone else is involved. They're both highly unstable and unpredictable, and it makes for GREAT TV. Also, I think that these guys have consumed massive quantities of drugs and their brains don't quite work correctly. Again, fascinating.

3. Iron Chef. This includes both the Japanese version (which I don't think still airs) and the newer American version. I enjoy cooking and I think I'm pretty good at cooking some stuff. But to watch most of the people on this show is simply amazing. Now, don't get carried away, I'm not comparing myself to Iron Chefs or even the contestants. They are all some of the best chefs in the world. But, I do enjoy the creativity on the show. Even if they try to make a lot of weird things into ice cream, it's still a good show. It's been a while since I've watched Iron Chef, but I've always liked it. Watching people take something like oysters and easily make it into 5 or more (nearly) flawlessly executed dishes in less than an hour is incredible. And, let's not lose sight of how funny the voice overs were into English from the Japanese version.

4. Bizarre Foods. Some of you will recall I pointed out that I don't like this Andrew Zimmern joker in the past. Well, I've slightly changed my mind. Slightly. I like the show. Zimmern goes to cool places, much like Bourdain does. And he does some pretty wacky stuff, again, much like Bourdain. But he eats way too many gross things. Bourdain always eats pork, but Zimmern always eat animal genitalia. Sorry, I know it's gross, but he does it. In every episode I've seen he's eaten something awful. My father, a man who worked in Emergency Rooms and Operating Rooms for a long time and has seen just about any injury, no matter how gross, even finds this part of the show offensive.

5. Man vs. Food. The premise of the show is really cool. Some guy going around the country, checking out the local flavor, and eating some good food. If you followed my BBQ Road Trip blog, you'll know I love this kind of stuff. There's something inherently American about hitting the open road and seeing the differences from region to region, state to state and even city to city. And I think it's great. Here's my problem with this show. The host, Adam Richman, is so annoying. He's not funny. He's an idiot. And he should be replaced. Really, any joker can do his job. He never wins the eating contests, unless it's something that is hot and he can just eat it in two bites and drink milk as soon as possible. This show has potential, but the host is dragging it down.

6. Chopped. This is another cool show on the Food Channel, if you don't know. Chefs come in, are given mystery ingredients and have to create an appetizer, a main course and dessert. After each portion of the meal, one of the four chefs is "chopped." The winner gets money. It's a good premise, even if its kind of a mini version of Iron Chef. The funniest parts are seeing people struggle with how to make something good out of Gummy Bears, Ground Pork, Fennel fronds and Matzoh Ball Mix. There is always one or two ingredients that are just so off the wall compared to the others the chefs must use. I like this show. The judges are also very harsh towards the competitors. It's great.

7. Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. This is the exact same show as #5, only no eating contests. The idea behind the show is really cool, but the host is a jackass. So, the only real difference is the channel. Bonus trivia: Guy (that's his name, I'm not using a description) ate at Lankford Grocery here in Houston and thought it was great. He does get some points back in my book for this.

8. Hell's Kitchen. This show is about some young chefs trying to get their break into the big time from Gordon Ramsey. They compete in contests and in cooking. Each week, one character is sent home. It's pretty good, even if it's formulaic. There is also a lot of the forced breaks that are seemingly inherent in all reality shows. This show does get bonus points because Gordon Ramsey talks a lot of sh&t. And he's funny to me and intimidating to the contestants, which makes for great TV. In addition, Gordon throws things at people all the time. And people who lose flip out constantly.

9. Earlier, I dedicated an entire blog post to this show, so I won't rehash. I'll just say that Whale Wars is a monument to the stupidity of people and how easily a snake oil salesman can take advantage of people. Look, I'm not saying I'm anti-whale or anti-Earth anything, but come on. Fanaticism of any kind is over the top. But it does make for good TV.
What did I leave out? Anything I should know about? And "Battlestar Gallictica" is not an acceptable answer on this post.


Colin said...

I saw one episode of Whale Wars where a whale was killed in front of the warriors (I hope that is what they call themselves because that would be pathetic) and they all just started freaking out. They couldn't believe that the Japanese ship would actually do its job and that their stink bombs were not a sufficient deterrent. Hard to believe I know. . .

This list suits you.

Colin said...

Also Anthony Bourdain visited the BBQ place that I go to in Attascocita (Tin Roof BBQ). I think it was for some show before No Reservations.

Jordy said...

Nobody likes Whale Trek.

Shae said...

You should watch Three Sheets, on the Fine Living Channel. The host (Zane Lamprey) is kind of dorky, and they have some goofy schticks, but it's the "World's Greatest Drinking Show." It's basically like No Reservations, but all drinking. He goes to pubs, bars, wineries, breweries, distilleries, huts, trailers, and anywhere else that someone is making or drinking alcoholic beverages. He gets incredibly wasted and you get all sorts of trivia about different countries, cities and cultures. It always ends with a trip to a restaurant to try the local hangover cure. Fun show.

Zachary said...

I love Top Chef... Padma Lakshmi is gorgeous and even if the show sucked I would still watch it just because she is the host. But they actually show you how everything is cooked and the challenges are always surprising. Plus they publish all the winning recipes, which has allowed my personal culinary genius to blossom.

Crystal said...

So basically you like "reality" shows about food?! hahaha. I love Bizarre Foods,Unwrapped, and a host of other Food Network shows as well. Good stuff.