Thursday, May 30, 2002

Iron Chef USA!

How the heck did I miss this when it aired in November?

Last night, I was flipping around the dial waitig for South Park to begin, Yes, South Park... shut up. And I caught Iron Chef USA.

The latest program in an ongoing string of unoriginal, ripped-off-from-Europe-or-Asia-TV-geniuses here in the states. Nothing is unique though anymore in Hollywood. Iron Chef, Fear Factor, Big Brother... yadda yadda.

Anyway, they rebroadcast the Todd "my Boston restaurant keeps getting shut down for health code violations but I am still a pompous bastard" English battle, and I caught the last 10 minutes.

I didn't get to see the opening, which probably would have caused me to crap my pants laughing, but the closing was crazy enough. I had heard rumors. But it was true... there he was. There was William Shatner, "William Fucking Shatner" as Wil Wheaton calls him, is playing the "Commissioner" role. How funny is that? (Shatner's got a pretty good website, but, I noticed in his news page there is no mention of this Iron Chef USA role. ha ha. I'm laughing). He was so funny, doing his "food fuels our body, but cuisine fills our souls" kind of bullshit at the end. I almost fell off the couch. He was dressed for the role in this ridiculous purple vest, and did an okay job if his purpose was to not be serious. I loved him. On the whole though, critics don't care for the program. But the best part was the few bits of Shatner there at the end. My shredding of the program ...

hee hee heeee. Look at Shatner. He's so awesome. bwa ha ha.

If you are familiar with the original Iron Chef program, which hails from Japan and is featured prominently on FoodTV, the premise is as such: Eccentric Billionaire and Gourmand "Takeshi Kaga" decides to build a stadium in the basement of his opulent castle to honor the warriors of culinary art... the master chefs.

He assembles four chefs from around the world, and has lesser chefs come "challenge" the master "Iron" Chefs. The most popular of the Iron Chefs Morimoto, who does chinese/japanese like no one's business (and has a kick ass restaurant in Philly, with an interesting website).

Kaga puts the challeger and the master in "Kitchen Stadium" where they have one hour, and one kind of ingredient, and must prepare food for judges to vote on. The show is like a sports show, with camera action down on the "field" and commentary from the booth, play by play style. There's an "on the field reporter" who runs from side to side trying to get exclusive interviews with the chefs as they whip stuff up. Amazingly funny. It's all dubbed, except Commissioner Kaga, who is subtitled because his dramatic performance in the Japanese cannot be messed with -- it IS the show. The show has a great opening, which shows the Commissioner admiring his empty Kitchen stadium with pride, as he knows, this is the showcase of champions, of gustatory delights. And he picks up and bites a yellow pepper with such joy and contentment, with an "ah HA! Bring on the Iron Chefs!" look on his face. It is hysterical. He wears the craziest-assed clothing I've ever seen in my life, and is flamboyant as all get out. They traveled to NYC to battle Bobby Flay once, and here's the get up the dude wore for the press photos:

In the American version, frenzied audience members whoop and cheer like they're at an XFL game instead of the distinguished and honorable kitchen stadium. Like most Americans, they are loud and stupid, and I suppose that's how the world sees us so why try and change, right? They hold up signs stumping for the chef of their choice, mostly the pompous and full-of-himself Todd English. The challenger, Bellagio Vegas Chef Kerry Simons, looked like a deer in the headlights at the end as a calm, cool English was blowing kisses to the adoring crowd. What a showman! What a tool!

The judges picked to do the judging were not a reflection of the Japanese version of the judges. They picked the ridiculous jackass "comic" Bruce Vilanch, who looks like Michael Moore with a bad dye job and no Yankee hat, Mrs. D.L. Hughley (I should say her real name but her name on the show she's on is Mrs. Hughley), some blonde playmate of the year who was shown over and over eating, in slow motion, like she'd take someone's weenie in her mouth that beautifully (I'm sorry if that offends, but that's exactly what the producers were going for kids. Don't be fooled. They never showed Bruce Vilanch eating in slow motion, rolling his eyes and letting the food "play on his tounge" the way they did her. Obvious. Obvious. Obvious. Sex sells, kids) and some other guy who looked like he belonged in college, not eating and judging on TV.

The whole thing took place in Las Vegas, and was an absoute farce, if you ask me. Why do American studios (Lions Gate Entertainment in this case) have to make everything... worse. I mean, the campiness of Japan's Iron Chef was what made it so good. And everyone loved it, because it was Japanese, funny, and was poorly dubbed... not because they love the show and the action. Well, some people do I'm sure. The original was fine. And Shatner, while a total cult hero and able to mock himself to the fullest with an impish grin, is no Commissioner Kaga.

Thumbs down overall for the American version. But do catch the Japanese version on FoodTV. Gosh, FoodTV has all our favorite shows these days... or so it seems.

Gotta run. I assured Geoff that I'd take him to run errands. Our VCR is eating tapes, so we have to take it to get fixed in town, and I need a shower. More later.

Photos from May 2002