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

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Episode 25 – The Four: Battle for Stardom

 

This episode: The Four: Battle for Stardom, Season 1, Eps. 1, 5-6.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next episode: Steven Seagal: Lawman, Season 1, Eps. 1-8.  Watch it on Hulu.

Mike wanted to stretch the podcast’s legs out and take on a singing competition and boy did he regret it!  Interspersed between his procession of grievances about the loud production, frenetic pace, bizarre voting system, and overbearing personalities, we discuss our experiences with previous singing shows and top 40 radio (or in Mike’s case, lack thereof) and add some comments on how this show could have been improved.  Mike then lays out his critique of music contests as meritocracy and we finish with an article from the Atlantic on how these shows interpret the American Dream and speculate as to why these shows continue to have such a voracious appeal even as they fail to launch their winners into the stratosphere of superstardom.

Show Notes and Links

1:32 / Mike has something to get off his chest

2:45 / Introducing the show officially

3:20 / Complaining about the episode length

4:03 / How the hell did this get renewed?  (Our Monica episode is here.)

4:33 / Starting with the structure of the show and how it compares to its more famous siblings (American Idol and The Voice)

6:50 / The strange audience voting scheme and the garish product placement (brought to you by T-Mobile)

7:30 / How the structure killed any sense of narrative build-up and continuity

9:12 / The contestant background narratives hit (or try to hit) all the familiar ‘beats’

10:22 / Segueing to the judges – DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, and Charlie Walk

11:15 / Discussing the #MeToo allegations surrounding Charlie Walk and how the show (didn’t) handle them

12:32 / Mike does his Fergie impression

13:04 / Describing the performance venue

14:18 / Talking about the semi-professional backgrounds of many of the contestants

17:16 / Returning to our personal impressions of the judges

17:55 / JS enjoyed some of the between-the-scenes banter

19:17 / JS’s power ranking of the judges, with Diddy as #1

20:22 / Mike thought the judges were the most annoying part of the show

21:06 / Discussing what JS liked about American Idol

23:03 / Investment in contest vs. music

24:45 / Different flavors of badness – Mike was surprised by how much he hated this one (he also runs down the cavalcade of lowlights from 42 Minutes past)

25:35 / The production style of this show is too ‘loud’ and ‘quick’

26:56 / Mike was irritated by how forced it was – the banter, the ‘trash talk’, the catch-phrases

27:35 / Dissecting the etymology of ‘Eat!’

28:15 / The airhorn was really annoying

28:49 / Mike continues on the grievance train by complaining about Charlie Walk’s namedropping

29:56 / Returning to the format: Mike found it irrational and capricious, particularly the voting system

32:16 / This show didn’t live up to its promise of genre diversity

33:35 / JS’s musical background

35:10 / Mike’s musical background (Mentions: last.fm and the podcasts Hit Parade and Switched on Pop)

37:14 / Mike’s complete lack of familiarity with commercial top 40 radio

38:10 / JS’s personal definition of pop music

39:49 / Mike adds his two cents

41:54 / What should pop music aim for?  Financial success or artistic value?

43:16 / Importance of concerts in post-Internet music economy

44:02 / Mike outs himself as an “insufferable elitist”

44:55 / We try out some constructive criticism

45:15 / JS’s expectations and idea for a different battle format

47:10 / Mike’s idea – have the contestants perform original material

48:28 / This show needed more musical diversity (Mike mentions Bon Iver)

49:42 / Original material as ‘leaning in’ to the semi-pro status of these artists

50:55 / This show as advertisement for hit songs and the careers of the judges

51:27 / Mike thought this would have been improved with different judges (obligatory Kanye West mention)

53:10 / Is this specific format salvageable?

54:56 / Mike’s critique of music contests (Mentions: Debris’ Static Disposal, William Hung, Kate Bush’s The Dreaming and Bound 2 from Kanye West’s Yeezus)

58:18 / JS pushes back on the critique, cites the cover of Creep as a contestant risk

1:00:20 / Mike points out that the unique contestants lost in the semifinals to more conventional singers

1:01:30 / Our article for this episode, from the Atlantic, Julie Beck’s “The Voice’s Empty Promise of the American Dream” (published March 28, 2017)

1:03:13 / The emphasis on American Dream as ‘superstardom’ particularly reflected in this show’s narrative

1:04:36 / Our current cultural obsession with seeking fame for purpose of being famous

1:05:20 / Reality TV as a pioneer of the ‘democratization of fame-seeking’ (Mentions; Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, YouTubers and Instagram models)

1:06:09 / How the music industry has shifted since American Idol’s debut – innovations in technology and distribution (Mentions: Soundcloud rap, XXXTentacion – this was recorded before his murder, Lil Uzi Vert.  The article Mike referenced on Spotify’s RapCaviar is here.)

1:08:35 / The persistence of the music contest’s appeal even after its relevance as tastemaker and gatekeeper has faded

1:09:46 / The importance of the success narrative to these shows’ appeal and why it doesn’t carry over after the cameras stop rolling

1:11:59 / Situating this into larger reality TV narratives, particularly in comparison to others we’ve watched (Kitchen Nightmares and Highway Thru Hell)

1:13:24 / Drilling down to the specific appeal of this show (as opposed to music contests in general) (Mentions: The X Factor, America’s Got Talent)

1:14:30 / Perhaps the short length and quick pace might have been a feature, not a bug to some audiences; Mike explains why we didn’t do The Voice

1:15:52 / Mike thought it was trying to be the ‘hipper’ version of American Idol, targeting younger and more diverse urban demographic

1:17:30 / Final thought: Mike won’t be checking out Season 2 (unless someone wants to send him money)

1:18:06 / JS’s blockbuster pick for the next episode

1:20:12 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate and review, and subscribe

1:20:47 / Bonus PSA: Check out the listener’s choice poll on our Facebook page

Episode 22 – Behind Bars: America’s Toughest Jail

 

This episode: Behind Bars, Season 1, Eps. 1-8 (or just Ep 9 if you want to save time – and your sanity).  Watch it on Tubi TV.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

Next episode: Highway Through Hell, Season 1, Eps. 1-5, 10.  Watch it on Netflix.

[Many apologies for the unannounced delay, which was 1/4 having to record late because JS had a cold and 3/4 Mike having a severe case of “procrastinitis” when it came to the editing.  As a heads up, the release schedule going forward might be a bit more variable than the strict ‘first Sunday of the month’ schedule we’ve been on, but we are definitely not going anywhere and will be back each month for an episode.  Now on to the episode recap…]

This month we took a field trip to Joe Arpaio’s infamous ‘Tent City’ for a ‘unique experiment’ (not really) featuring 10 British ‘punks’ who get whipped into shape by Sheriff Joe’s lackeys for 10 days to put them on the ‘straight and narrow’ (again, not really).  JS found the experience to be bearable enough as entertainment, whereas Mike was left feeling as miserable as one of Sheriff Joe’s inmates.

Other than the usual recaps of structure, concept, and cast, we discuss the show’s worldview and the stagecraft of the ‘scared straight’ experience.  We also situate this show both within the larger ‘scared straight’ phenomenon and the overall relationship between the justice system and reality TV, go over the cultural differences in penal practice between the US and Europe, talk about the appeal of punishment versus rehabilitation in spite of its ineffectiveness in reducing crime, and explore the ‘gonzo rhetoric’ of both Joe Arpaio himself and this show.

Show Links and Notes

1:11 / Mike opens with an apology and a correction

1:55 / Introducing this month’s show; JS mentions another Behind Bars show, Mike mentions Spike TV

3:24 / Our initial thoughts on the show’s enjoyment factor (Our Keys to the VIP episode)

4:23 / Why Mike picked this show, he mentions COPS

4:52 / Our background with ‘scared straight’ shows; Mike mentions Scared Straight ’99 (he thought it was 96) and Beyond Scared Straight

7:15 / The concept and structure of the show

9:24 / JS runs down the recap episode; Mike mentions Kitchen Nightmares

10:37 / Our main takeaway from the show

11:26 / JS goes on a brief tangent about Star Trek: The Next Generation

12:30 / Discussing Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his (infamous) record; Mike mentions Al Capone getting busted for tax evasion

15:27 / Talking about Sheriff Joe’s lack of presence in the show

16:31 / JS breaks down the difference between jails and prisons

18:01 / Mike just has to talk about Sheriff Joe’s dumb parade and the yokels that show up at it

18:57 / Transitioning to Sgt. Irby – the institutional center of the show

20:12 / The show didn’t do a good job of giving us differentiation between the ‘inmates’

21:23 / There are also American inmates featured in short, snippet interviews

22:23 / This narrator failed the UK version of the SAT Analogy section, but gives you a good idea of the show’s worldview

23:35 / Delving into the cultural differences between the UK and US – idea of ‘Tent City’ as being related to ‘frontier, Wild West justice’

25:14 / Talking about the stagecraft involved in the ‘scared straight’ experience

28:44 / The show emphasizes the controlling, totalizing nature of the prison regime but paradoxically also expects us to accept these events as authentic and spontaneous

29:23 / Mike was struck by how much the show emphasized common stereotypes about prisoners and prison life, even down to the way it was shot

31:25 / The mission statement of the show – is it accurate? (A: No.)

31:51 / Mike talks about the link between harsh prisons and recividism (the papers Mike mentions are here, here, and here)

33:00 / Comparing US prison practices to Norway

34:10 / The history of ‘Scared Straight’ and how it doesn’t work

35:45 / Talking about cultural questions of punishment vs. rehabilitation

37:02 / The appeal of punishment in American culture – is support for harsh punishment linked to belief in the ‘American Dream’? (the papers Mike mentions are here and here)

38:58 / A final coda – the ‘Bloody Code’ in the UK failed at deterrence

39:32 / Talking about Joe’s record in detail (lots of lawsuits and scandals)

41:10 / Segueing into the article: Crime Control as Mediated Spectacle: The Institutionalization of Gonzo Rhetoric in Modern Media and Politics, R.J. Maratea and Brian A. Monahan, Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 36, Issue 3, 2013

42:27 / The five-part definition of ‘gonzo rhetoric’ in the article

44:36 / Joe Arpaio as a symptom of broader media and political practices

45:45 / ‘Gonzo rhetoric’ is effective because it is simple and swims with the broader cultural tide

47:40 / Our ‘bonus’ article: Punishing images: Jail Cam and the changing penal enterprise, Mona Lynch, Punishment & Society, 2004

48:16 / Returning to the heart of the appeal of harsh punitive practices: despite the lack of evidence, they are a simple solution to a complex problem

49:26 / The idea of ‘willful nostalgia’ in penal practice – comparing ‘Tent City’ to ‘Make America Great Again’

50:32 / A brief aside on Sheriff Joe’s botched ‘Jail Cam’

50:58 / Criminal justice reality TV as commodity/spectacle; JS compares this to other reality shows (COPS, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and court TV shows like Judge Faith and Divorce Court)

53:52 / Mike recaps the fleeting instances where this show stops being propaganda and actually gets real

55:01 / How this show fits into the larger ‘scared straight’ genre

55:40 / JS’s theory of the show’s specific appeal to the UK audience

56:05 / Returning to the topic of our enjoyment (or, in Mike’s case, lack thereof)

57:41 / Mike actually would have liked this more if it was shot like Toddlers & Tiaras

58:08 / This show would have been better if it was shorter, less repetitive

1:00:14 / Our official endorsement: Don’t vote Joe Arpaio to the Senate

1:00:24 / Introducing the show and article for next month’s episode

1:01:54 / Our usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe