Every once in a while I allow myself to get drawn into a show I would never usually try. The availability of these shows on sites like Hulu and Fancast has given me the option of sampling these alternate programs. Insomnia is a catalyst of sorts, but once i get going on a reality show and there is a whole season accessible, I am hooked.
It started with Kitchen Nightmares which began as a BBC show. Fox picked it up with a new American series. It is really quite compelling in the way it shows the average American under foibles-microscope. That, in general, is what works best when it comes o reality shows. Find the knucklehead and make him see the error of his ways, then broadcast that spontaneous psychotherapy to the millions that identify with it. Gold.
Ramsay’s virtue is that he is a Michelin three-star chef with about a dozen successful restaurants around the world. He is known across the board as a stickler for detail and will bust skulls when necessary. He can take biggest ego down a notch for sure and all to find the best in everyone. You tune into this show for the fights and humiliation but you also get an even bigger helping of positive energy and heart.
His other Fox Series is the approprately named Hell’s Kitchen. Though it isn’t actually filmed in the West-side Manhattan neighborhood as it’s monicker leads on, this show takes place in dueling kitchens with the pressure growing as subsequent episodes build. Here we have a more competitive reality show format than the other, but what stays consistant is Chef Ramsay’s cooking standards. It would be easy to label him as a blustering bully. In reality what ultimately comes accross is a new respect for what amazing efforts go into the restaurants we mostly take for granted.
Both of these shows are worth catching if not during the original broadcast then as you like from on Tivo or online. I sat in front of a tiny computer screen and found both to be compelling. Guilty pleasures are ok even ones produced on a Fox-affiliated network.
When I was a kid growing up in “glorious” Cold War-laden eighties I was often found plopped in front of the TV for hours at a time. Almost as often I could be found in front of a tape deck listening to either a comedy album or better a classic radio show like The Jack Benny Show or Fibber McGee and Molly. It was a habit that was started by my nostalgic mother. She has said that “If he’s going to spend so much time focusing on entertainment, it might as well be something clean.”
Of course the comedy albums were not all clean, but I certainly built up a ton of respect for all of those comedy shows that were so well written without resorting to blue material. It became not only a formative portion of my life, but left me wanting more of the same. That era radio of had sailed and contemporary examples were hard to come by. The Bob and Ray Show was the latest example and that was gone by the seventies.
Then there came the Ipod. With a new piece of technology has come the blessing and curse of all types of programming to suit all tastes. The curse being that there is a ton of garbage to wade through. Much like the upper channels of your cable listings, it is thin with quality. Cable could take a cue from the a la carte manner in which one can pick and choose how ones Ipod can be loaded. Because once you skim the cream off, you can make the best of your programming choices.
With the best aspects of podcasting there is a ton of knowledge that you never thought you needed. There are all sorts of news shows you can download from around the globe thereby seeing the virtues of the coverage you may have missed. Small, one or two man comedy teams set up small shows to podcast their goofy antics to the other singularly nerdy people from all corners of the world. I may be overstating it, but I have found some of these discoveries cathartic. All kinds of gold lay uncovered. Plus, best of all, some of my old radio show favorites are available for podcasting.
The Podcast really is the underestimated new golden age of “radio.” Of course the FCC will start moving in on this any day and ruin it with unnecessary standards any day now.
Some of my favorite podcasts are listed below:
Jordan Jesse, Go! – An irreverent goof-off fest with intelligent and earnest friends.
The Sound of Young America– An interview show featuring offbeat people in the arts, comedy, literature and film.
This American Life– This show features true stories of this American life linked by a common theme.
KCRW’s The Business– A show recapping current issues facing “The Business” of the Hollywood entertainment industry.
The 40 Year-old Boy– One man’s musings or rantings about the struggle to grow up.
The Ricky Gervais Podcast– To truly get a sense of this pioneering podcast you must buy the back episodes. This one features the creators of the British version of The Office and their remarkably dim-witted, round-headed producer.
WNYC’s Radio Lab– The hosts of this show pick a common interest scientific subject and make it beautiful to learn more about it. This show must be listened to and absorbed like a vivid dream.