Episode 28 – Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives


This episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Maury, “Greatest Hits” according to the Nosey app curators.  Watch it on Nosey.

A dramatic reversal on this episode on 42 Minutes of Reality as JS has a nice time and Mike grumbles about the terrible show he had to watch.  However, once the grievances are out of the way, we dig into the concept and structure, as per usual, and discuss our impressions of the show’s flamboyant and boisterous host, Guy Fieri, and his overall place in the constellation of ‘foodie’ cultural politics.

We then jump off into the ‘meatier’ portion of the discussion (sorry – was channeling the ‘dad jokes’ from this show’s host) as we delve into what this show has to say about the relationship between food and social class, the evolution of our relationship to food in the ‘industrial’ era of food production, and what constitutes ‘authenticity’ when it comes to the creation of dishes.  Finally, we get down the usual topics of authenticity (as it pertains to the show’s production) and appeal, which is lost on Mike, but which must exist as this has gone on for a billion and a half seasons already.  (Also, we announce the results of our listener’s choice – note the placement of the apostrophe – poll!)

Show Notes and Links

1:06 / Back to the usual Internet recording setup (our Foxy Ladies episode and ‘Fox Bros Bar-B-Q’)

2:14 / Introducing this month’s show (our Hell’s Satans episode)

3:30 / Mike takes his seat on the “complain train” and JS luxuriates in the payback for all the terrible shows Mike made him sit through (the usual lowlights get a mention)

3:58 / The concept and structure of the show

7:24 / Our impressions of the host, Guy Fieri, and his rise from show contestant to show host

9:50 / Guy’s background in cooking and restaurant management, lack of chef ‘pedigree’ or Michelin stars

10:38 / Guy Fieri as an icon of the populist ‘everyman’ (Mike mentions the late and lamented – at least by him – The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: the specific segment is here, coverage of the scathing NYT review of his Times Square restaurant)

12:12 / Cultural politics of food – haute cuisine vs. ‘real food for real people’ and the relation of food to politics (Obama’s Dijon mustard ‘gaffe’, John Kerry’s cheesesteak)

13:19 / Mike tells some stories about his lack of appreciation for fancy food (Little Caesars Pizza)

15:18 / Why JS picked the show – interest in the relationship between food culture and social class

17:10 / We thought the first two episodes (in Italy) of this season cut against the grain of the rest of the show

18:48 / The flak that Fieri has received (Mike’s take: over-the-top, but he’s kind of grating. JS’s take: LEAVE GUY FIERI ALONE!)

20:46 / Revisiting the dichotomy of success vs. failure in reality TV (Kitchen Nightmares, Horatio Alger)

22:40 / This show is lacking in narrative entirely, which was a problem for Mike, but not necessarily for JS

23:30 / Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives as advertisement (Mike mentions the late Billy Mays)

25:20 / This show did suffer due to the format we watched it in – not a show recommended for binge-watching

26:11 / Introducing this episode’s article: “Southern Barbeque: Fabricated Authenticity in the American South” from Kaitland M. Byrd’s 2017 dissertation “Culture on a Plate: The Social Construction of Authenticity in Food Culture

28:24 / Authenticity rooted in nostalgia and tradition, defined in opposition to the ‘industrial’ food system – emphasis on ‘fresh and local’ and ‘from scratch’

31:58 / The evolution in prestige of ‘industrialized’ food and how ‘fresh and local’ unifies the different ideologies of foodie culture (JS mentions tomatoes and Mike mentions Butterball turkeys)

35:11 / This show also taps into the appeal of the underdog ‘mom-and-pop establishment’ vs. the corporate ‘chain restaurant’

36:01 / ‘Authentic’ versus ‘Fusion’ paradigms – issues of demographic change, marketing, and cultural appropriation

40:24 / Transitioning to the authenticity of the show

41:51 / JS makes the distinction between ‘inauthentic’ and ‘authentic, but produced’

42:31 / How the tapings work and how that impacts the authenticity of the show

44:23 / Why this show fell short for Mike and how it could have been more interesting (Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown)

46:40 / JS gives the positive case for the show’s appeal and we discuss the role of gender in said appeal (The Great British Bake-Off)

48:25 / The segment on KC’s Steakhouse: another appeal to tradition in the show

49:34 / Our poll results – congratulations to our one voter!

51:36 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 9 – Kitchen Nightmares


This week’s discussion: Kitchen Nightmares, Season 5, Eps. 1-6, 16.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Survivor, Season 1.  Watch it on Hulu.  Watch it with Amazon Prime Video.

This week Mike and JS delve into their first food-themed reality TV show – Kitchen Nightmares.  We mainly cover the US version, but also devote some time to discussing the original UK version as we were both struck by the many differences in the presentation of the shows and how they might reflect broader differences between US and UK culture.  Topics discussed include: our impressions of reality TV star Gordon Ramsay, the insanity of Amy’s Baking Company, the ‘disclaimers’ in the credit sequence of each episode, the centrality of food in Western social interactions, the harsh realities of operating a restaurant, and how the optimistic narrative the US version tries to sell us reflect a broader cultural view of American idealism.

Show Notes and Links

1:08 / The moral of this week’s show

1:58 / Introducing the show

3:30 / The concept of the show (similar shows include Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible)

5:06 / The optimistic narrative arc the show is trying to sell us

6:02 / Discussing the history of the host, Gordon Ramsay; JS mentions Hell’s Kitchen

7:45 / Emphasis on the ‘celebrity’ in celebrity chef

8:22 / The differences in Ramsay’s presentation in the US and UK versions

10:15 / The US version struck us as much more heavily produced

11:20 / Starting our detailed breakdown of La Galleria 33

12:50 / The general arc and themes that reoccur in each episode

14:35 / Returning to La Galleria

15:22 / Mike fills in a couple spots in the episode arc that JS missed

16:35 / A brief digression on the editing

17:07 / The afterword at the end of each show

17:38 / The show often implies the owners are chiefly at fault for the problems at the restaurant

18:00 / Talking about the restaurant shutdowns

18:40 / The episodes of the show are pretty similar; many blended together for Mike

19:02 / Discussing episode highlights from Mama Maria’s

20:05 / The motif of frozen vs. fresh that comes up again and again

21:24 / Nostalgia is a common refrain in these episodes; many of the owners who have been successful at one point are more stubborn

22:06 / The common dynamic of multiple owners who conflict over the changes Ramsay wants to implement

23:53 / Segueing into our summary of Amy’s Baking Company

25:19 / JS can’t contain his giddy excitement over this episode

27:40 / This episode breaks the typical narrative arc of the show

28:47 / Discussing the fallout of this episode on the Internet and how it affected the business

29:52 / The difference between Amy and other recalcitrant owners was that the others would at least temporarily ‘play ball’ with the show

30:40 / Segueing into this show’s placement on the spectrum of ‘reality’ in reality TV

31:40 / There are some notable disclaimers in the credits of the show

32:42 / The diners being brought in by the show and ‘playing to the camera’

33:25 / JS knows of a restaurant near him that went through one of these shows, discusses the process of collecting diners

35:23 / Mike mentions a lawsuit against the show; JS explains mandatory arbitration

37:05 / Despite the lawsuit, our feeling is that this show is probably not TOWIE or Bridezillas

37:37 / The narrative of hate-to-love of Chef Ramsay by the owners came off to JS as producer coached

38:12 / The rags-to-riches theme of the US version reminds Mike of a Horatio Alger tale

38:43 / The site that Mike got his information from

39:01 / The harsh realities of the restaurant business

39:38 / The message of the US show may not correspond perfectly with the real world; the UK version seemed more realistic

40:52 / The restaurant as a symbol of the American Dream – often an immigrant success story

42:00 / The US show is very focused on the personal and family backgrounds of the owners

42:53 / The different center of focus in the two versions: US version is owner-centric, UK version is kitchen staff-centric

44:00 / The American focus on individual success and responsibility; UK focuses more on the overall team

45:38 / A brief aside of the differing budgets of the shows, Mike mentions Rupert Murdoch

45:53 / Segueing into the appeal of food TV

46:12 / The centrality of food and ‘dining out’ in Western social interaction; JS alludes to the Food Network

47:09 / The combination of immediate accessibility and specialized behind-the-scenes insight

48:15 / The allure of reality television success and overcoming difficulties

49:38 / Many of these owners have gone in without specialized business training

50:38 / Mike preferred the realism of UK version to the idealism of the US version

51:42 / The contrasting afterwords of the two shows as an example of this

52:38 / How does the episode of Amy’s Baking Company fit into the idea that this show’s appeal is about success?

54:00 / Was Amy’s Baking Company really a failure?  Discussing the irony of the owners who tell Ramsay off doing better than many of the restaurants on the show who followed the instructions

55:20 / The capricious nature of the restaurant industry, even something as simple as lack of parking can doom a restaurant

56:10 / The high failure rate of restaurants in the first year (and an article Mike found that provides a counterpoint); this show perhaps looks at the industry through rose-tinted glasses

57:43 / We both discuss how will we never be opening a restaurant, even if we win the lottery

58:30 / This show, like other reality shows we’ve watched, is very focused on individual control and individual responsibility

1:00:48 / The appeal of the show’s Prodigal Son narrative, but how realistic is it for these businesses to dig themselves out of the deep holes they are in?

1:02:00 / Mike made a Facebook page: please go like the page and take part in our listener poll: Snooki & JWoww: Moms with Attitude vs. The Sorrentinos

1:04:02 / Announcing a semi-reoccurring segment for the next show: Reality TV First Loves

1:05:16 / Contact us, rate and review, and subscribe