While flipping through the TV channels the other day I stumbled across the station “Destination America”, which not only did I not know was part of my cable package but also did not even know existed. What I witnessed upon the screen amounted to the fever dreams of an overly caffeinated child, an overly caffeinated child who has never fed upon any food other than bacon. This is not in a good thing.
That is United States of Bacon, hosted by Chef Todd Fisher, a man with what could be described as at best an unhealthy obsession with bacon. I don’t have my copy of the DSM around, but I can only assume that at some point in his childhood, hence the childlike enthusiasm, he was abandoned by his parents at an old bacon factory. Young and alone, he was forced to live off of the one remaining storage fridge of bacon that had been forgotten, and turned feral. Perhaps even fashioning the scraps into some sort of Wilson-esque family figure that he told all his secrets and imparted humanity to. Who knows how long he was out there before discovered by a wandering chef, but by then the mental damage had already been done. Todd may have grown up and become a chef, but the mere sight of bacon sends him right back to that abandoned factory and his bacon scrap parent. It’s the only logical explanation.
Now, I like bacon as much as any other completely reasonable person, but recently a good portion of the population seems to have gone completely out of their minds about it. The amount of bacon related products that have permeated popular culture is completely unheard of compared to any food other than perhaps the iconic Twinkie. It’s this strange cult mentality around the meat that allows a show like United States of Bacon to exist. “Sounds like you’re just jealous that bacon is so popular. I bet you wouldn’t be so dismissive of the show if it was United States of Nachos would you?” A valuable point, but honestly, if it’s as douchey as USoB I probably would.
It may be a little bit of a stretch to call USoB “douchey”, but most certainly “excessive enthusiasm bordering on incredulity” is a fitting description. If you could somehow harvest the energy of the previously mentioned overly caffeinated child, pour it into a man shell, and aim that golem at a pile of bacon, it would be easier to believe it’s emotional attachment to the food over that of Chef Todd’s. When the host’s enthusiasm is so over the top that even the guys from Epic Meal Time doubt the sincerity, that spells trouble.
I can't entirely blame Todd for this. We get it, he's overly excited about bacon, but it is the producers of the show that put him on the air primetime. I’m sure that he’s a fine chef and great guy, but when the big bosses saw what an enthusiastic maniac they had on their hands they figured this guy has to be on TV, in a move I attribute to the general Guy Fieriing of food reality television.
Long gone are the days of Julia Child, and now is the age of random dudes traveling around the country and eating unique food at unique places. With seemingly a new show popping up every week in the late 2000’s, most of these food related travel logs got flushed, but a few floated to the top of the bowl,mostly those with with the most extreme/douchey hosts, such as Guy Fieri. While hosts like Anthony Bourdain, Adam Richmond, and Andrew Zimmerman all had critically successful shows, only Fieri, whose shows attracted more male viewers to the network than any other, gained the popularity to make him become the face of the Food Network. You can see why!
This is what food shows are becoming. While Todd Fischer is missing the Ed Hardy clothing and Axe bodyspray, he’s out of it enough that he covers the same level of spectacle that Fieri does. I realize that you need a catch to make your show stick out over others of the same ilk; Ace of Cakes being the Jersey Shore of the food world, Man vs. Food being more of a competition than a food show, and Bizarre Foods being mostly about the shock value. Having a gimmick is fine, but when you let your gimmick define you, especially when it defines you as a douchebag, that’s when you’ve got trouble.
So who would be the best host for United States of Nachos? Undoubtedly the first choice would be Werner Herzog, because frankly he should host everything, and a close second would be Danny Trejo. If you’re looking for a real chef though, you’ve got to go with Anthony Bourdain. Here is a man who does not have an orgasm every time he eats something tasty. A man who not only talks about the food, but the culture and history of the area as well. A man who really seems to care less about the food than whatever wacky food related adventures go along with getting it. That’s the kind of irreverence to food that’s worthy of nachos, where the tasty stuff will get a fair shake and the not so much so get kicked to the curb. Plus he hates Guy Fieri.
So if you like your food as douchey as possible, feel free to hit up Guy’s restaurant (Or based on this review don’t, or this menu do) after drinking a Red Bull mixed with Axe deodorant, but don’t encourage his show. It was only a short step from Guy Fieri to Todd Fischer, and who knows what the next step will be? A resurrected Wesley Willis reviewing food? Gary Busey on PCP breaking into restaurants and making his own food? A post lobotomy paranoid schizophrenic who is wheeled from 5 star restaurant to 5 star restaurant? It’s a slippery slope and we must not stare too deeply into the reality food TV show abyss, because the reality food TV show abyss stares back into you, and sometimes it has frosted tips and a rock and roll attitude.