(posted by julia prescott)
I would like to talk to you about the Travel Channel and the power of its star program, “Man V. Food.”
For those not in the know, “Man V. Food” host Adam Richman seizes upon countless gastronomic injustices; it’s a hybridization of escapism meets morbid curiosity. He approaches every meal with the same ferocious fist-pumping tenacity as one would before “the Big Game” in any national sport.
What is it about this program that makes me love it so? Words fail me, so I’ll try and explain it in a singular moment:
Imagine yourself sitting in your old High School cafeteria, only it isn’t old to you at the time, you’re in 10th grade. You take your tray to your table and sit next to your friends, there’s a loud humming of different conversations seeping to the outer limits of the lunchroom. You turn to your friend and ask them what they’re doing over the weekend. They, in exchange, begin to nibble on your personalized pizza.
Suddenly, a tray of stale sugar cookies is knocked over from the kitchen; a blaring clash resonates throughout the Mess Hall. All is silent. Hundreds of heads whip in synchronicity toward the action.
Then, the lovable schlub of the 11th grade nonsensically shoves his arms in the air, shouts, “Yeah!!!” and takes a triumphant bite of his cheeseburger; someone chimes in with a slow clap, and all present rejoice.
He is adored, he is a hero; this boy is a young Adam Richman. Making the mundane unnecessarily epic, cheering on the triumph of a plate of tasty hot wings as if he would the Super Bowl. He represents the guy friend you’ve learned to never live without; he always brought the party, he always brought the enthusiasm, he always brought the pork rinds.
In the introduction we learn that Adam has “every job imaginable in the food business,” and he backs up this statement by consistently knowing what the hell he’s talking about. He’ll casually take a bite out of a pulled pork sandwich and cite the different spices put in the rub without having been told so by the chef, or cut into a slice of pepperoni pizza and describe the different flavors of the cheeses used.
Sometimes you hear that he mobs upon “quantity, not quality.” This would be a worthy argument, but there are pockets within Richman’s show that almost knowingly defy this convention. Moments where he sniffs the aroma of a steaming pile of nachos with the same concentrated focus as a wine connoisseur would breathe in a stiff glass of Pinot. Occasionally he’ll take extra care to remark that not only is the breakfast burrito he’s consuming over 4 pounds in girth, but it’s actually quite delicious.
Though, the main appeal is still within the platefuls and platefuls of food. The show has made a name for itself by trumping its own impossibilities consistently throughout the course of its 2-season run. The 2 1/2 pound Dagwood sandwich challenge in Columbus, OH from Season 1 seems like child’s play compared to the 6 pound, “Big Badass Burrito” challenge Richman faced in Las Vegas, NV in Season 2. Needless to say, in that case Man was not triumphant.
I believe the strongest aspect to Richman’s appeal lies within his simple talent of commanding attention where it needn’t be. He seems like the kind of character that, if in the Old West would quickly be appointed to town sheriff based on his youthful enthusiasm and unequivocal talent for rallying large crowds of gawking strangers.
“Man V. Food” gets a bad rep, but those who criticize it have likely never personally seen it. For if they did, they’d know that there is so much more than a king’s ransom in fried potatoes to be consumed, or a plate of scorching hot wings. Richman interweaves comedic bits in between the gorging sessions to lighten the mood, and I’m positive no other food or travel-based show will consume just as much calories as it references “The Simpsons.”
Some people tell me that I should maybe be doing something more with my life than watching the same re-run of the “8-pound Philly Cheesesteak” episode 5 times over. Readers, I know it’s cheesy to say, but if I’ve convinced just one of you to flip over into the deep-fried side of cable, then suddenly those countless couch potato hours have served that purpose.
My name is Julia Prescott and I still get choked up when Food wins.