Channel Surfing

The past couple of months I’ve been watching almost no Food Network at all, save the few times I’ve wanted to take a nap on the sofa and Barefoot Contessa happened to be on. In fact, when I feel like a nap, I actually hit the channel guide hoping it will be on because I know that I will be out like a light by the first commercial break. Ina Garten, as wonderfully pleasant and capable as she seems to be as a cook, just speaks and cooks in a way that is so sedate it unfailingly makes me drift into sleepyland. I should probably DVR a few episodes should I ever have insomnia.

I’ve also been making my way thru every episode of After Hours with Daniel on the Mojo channel. That’s the series where Daniel Boulud works with a chef at a different restaurant each episode and together they throw an after hours dinner party with various industry and celebrity guests. We get to see Daniel actually cooking in the kitchen, preparing stuff he likes sharing with his chef friends as opposed to the more mainstream sort of things he might serve at his restaurants. We also get a peek at what happens in the afternoon hours where they go to various shops or purveyors that we would otherwise never have heard of. And then of course we get to eavesdrop on the dinner conversation which can range from philosophical and insightful to irreverent and comical depending on how much wine has been consumed. Just like a dinner party you or I might throw, right? Best of all this show was filmed in HD so a lot of the close-up food prep shots are as stunningly vivid as you’ll ever see. Awesome.

In non-food related programming (unless you’re Korean, haha just kidding), I’ve now pretty much watched so many episodes of The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic HD that I’m a bit tired of it, but still, Cesar Millan is the man. While I understand his methods of “dog psychology” are controversial to some, it’s fun to watch him step into difficult situations and tactfully explain to dog owners how shamefully inept they have been at raising their pets. And while he never really comes out and says it, it’s easy to read between the lines and see that what he believes about interacting with dogs he knows is just as applicable to humans. He’s basically showing you that if you play the role of the pack leader and consistently set rules, boundaries and limitations, then people, er I mean dogs, yeah that’s it, dogs, will do what you want them to. If his dog psychology biz ever wanes he’d be a great speaker at managerial seminars.

I’ve also just gotten into the show Holmes on Homes on the Discovery Home channel. Mike Holmes is a building contractor somewhere in Canada and he gets called in to identify and fix all the shoddy and fraudulent work that other contractors have inflicted upon homeowners. In most cases the prior workmanship shows lack of skill and experience, and sometimes it’s downright dangerous where you wonder how the building hadn’t collapsed or burnt down before Mike arrived. In other cases the workmanship was actually good, but the contractor ended up screwing the homeowners by taking the money and not finishing the job because they had underquoted the bid. In either scenario, it’s kind of cool to see Mike rip stuff apart and show you how you can just look at the finished work (or unfinished in some cases) and it just seems to tell a story about whomever built it. He then brings in his own crew and other local contractors and specialists to do the job the correct way, or as his trademarked tagline goes, to “Make it Right”. When I first saw the show, I was reluctant to like it because for one thing, his appearance is that of an oafish characature of a construction worker what with his tattooed bicep and t-shirt/overalls combo, plus he appears to overreact to so many things to which Twoin commented “it’s easy for someone to critique another contractor’s work”. But as I watched more, I learned that he’s really a good guy. He overreacts because he cares about the homeowners and he’s seen so much shitty construction in his lifetime done by uncaring hacks and scam artists, and more importantly he’s seen the families whose lives had been devastated as a result. He’s gone on to create a foundation to educate and promote the skill trades. And the thing I like best, which is the same thing I admire in people in all walks of life, he puts in the time and effort to do things to a standard above and beyond what is required. But the show is also just plain fun to watch because there are often a lot of WTF! moments when you see the hysterically retarded things that prior contractors had done. And then there’s also the payoff at the end of the show when you see the finished renovations. The work is of course always impeccable, and depending on how tragic the situation was before the Holmes’ crew cavalry arrived on the scene, it can be kind of sappy and heartwarming when he brings the homeowners back to show them what his crew has accomplished. A show where I can both laugh at others’ stupidity and get a little choked up too? That’s quality programming.

4 thoughts on “Channel Surfing

  1. Oddly enough, ‘Holmes on Homes’ seems to have strong parallels to the show that I’m currently addicted to – the BBC version of “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares”:

    1) Ramsay seems like a loudmouth, offensive git at first blush
    2) you come to realize that he’s really, really passionate about food
    3) you can see he’s genuinely pleased when things turn around and genuinely depressed when they don’t

    (unlike the crappy American version of the show, he does a follow-up visit X months later to see how things have gone).

    while he is at times offensively blunt, his criticisms are never (at first) ad hominem attacks, but disgust at bad food and, particularly, unsanitary kitchen conditions (though he’s fully capable of ad hominem attacks when his blunt criticisms raise hackles in their targets).

    While I can’t laugh at their stupidity, the thing that I’m seen in this show is almost always the same: people trying to do too much with too little skill and/or time. Way too much trying to run before they can even crawl. Almost always the solution is the same: do less, but do it well. When it works out (and it doesn’t always, for various reasons), the return visit when things are going well is, indeed, quite heartwarming.

    Anyway, wasn’t sure if you’d seen it – I avoided anything with “Ramsay” due to the stupid “Hell’s Kitchen” – but I’m really liking this.

  2. Yeah, I’ve saw a bunch of those episodes a few years ago, and I agree they are good. You know what else was really good? His original British version of Hell’s Kitchen where he had b-list celebrities as the chefs. Belinda Carlisle absolutely melted down into a puddle of tears and yet she was still way better than the muscle bound former Olympic athlete dude who had his spirit broken by Ramsay to the point where he just gave up and quit, sobbing all the way. Man, that was really great television; I don’t know if you can find that series anywhere, but it’s definitely worth looking for.

  3. i LOVE Cesar Millan. but his principles and pysch methods are all the same- gets a bit repetitive. i agree.
    but still, LOVE him- he is the alpha dog in his packs.

  4. And you gotta love Daddy too, Cesar’s pit bull. He’s like the coolest dog EVER! I wish he would have Daddy on every episode.

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