Who’s Watching This?: Extreme Fast Food

With the birth of direct streaming and binge-watching, the average cable provider (if a handful of multi-billion-dollar conglomerates can be said to have an average representative) has to fight even harder for our entertainment buckaroo.  Once the undisputed masters of their realm, they now throw anything that sticks at the wall of hungry eyes — hey, I’m a critic, not a metaphor expert — in hopes of catching the desperately finicky zeitgeist and turning a million dollars of bad money into five million dollars of good money.  It’s a tough racket, but then again, all cable TV companies are run by a bunch of greedy assholes, so seriously, fuck them and their desperate quest for their share of our discretionary income.

Anyway, here’s the next in my occasional installment of Who’s Watching This?, where I examine a show airing in the nether reaches of the upper 200s of your cable box at some ungodly hour when decent people are mainlining cocaine or stumbling home to the cars they will pass out in after a night of Jell-O shooters.  After taking in an episode of these shows, which, in keeping with my usual rigorous approach towards cultural criticism, I know absolutely nothing about, I will report back to you, the bored reader, what I learned from this waste of the airwaves.  Capiche?  I know you do, because TV makes you smarter.

THE SHOW

This week, I took a look at a recent installment, and by recent I mean likely broadcast at least a decade ago, of the Travel Channel’s “Extreme” series, entitled Extreme Fast Food. It’s an intriguing concept, because fast food is usually the opposite of extreme: it’s meant to be dull, predictable, and reliable. Fast food does not challenge you or broaden your horizons or test your preconceived notions about what food is supposed to be; the most fearsome aspect of it is that you might accidentally get a burger that some bored 16-year-old Puerto Rican fry cook blew a snot on.  So what on Earth could be extreme about it, other than the sanitary conditions out by the dumpster? Let’s find out.

  • Our first stop is Portland, Oregon, or, as it’s often called, Seattle without money.  Voodoo Donuts in Portland is owned by an overexuberant hipster named “Cat Daddy”, who looks pretty much exactly like you would expect him to look, and staffed by underutilized Suicide Girls. They favor heart-stopping pop-culture concoctions like a bacon maple donut, a donut encrusted with Cocoa Puffs, a pastry shaped like a blunt (furthering the entirely mistaken notion that food is as good as drugs), and many more of the sort of thing that killed Elvis. You can even get married there, as do a couple who have already has a few too many.
  • I live in Texas, and I can tell you that there’s absolutely nothing extreme about Sonic Drive-Ins, which are found on pretty much every street-corner. Their sole interesting feature would be the turf wars they engage in for the small-town fast food buck with Dairy Queens, if that was a real thing and not just something I made up.  However, the producers of Extreme Fast Food tracked one down in the town of Tyler, Texas which features a bunch of rollerblading duders who do stunts in between serving as carhops. From donuts filled with Jolly Ranchers and made to look like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction to guys who bring you your tater tots using a skill they developed because they couldn’t make the cut in JV football in one segment:  the bar for “extreme” just got lowered.
  • Okemo Mountain, Vermont, home of absolutely nothing else, features the Waffle Cabin, the world’s only ski-through restaurant. The joint is run by a couple of genuine Belgians attempting in a very misbegotten way to dispute their nation’s reputation as the most boring place on Earth, and we’re treated to the sight of a well-fed skier who says she waits all year to come to the Waffle Cabin, Belgian waffles apparently not being available wherever she lives. The secret to the Belgian bombshellery’s success? Gobs and gobs of raw sugar!  Now that’s extreme.
  • Extreme Fast Food claims that the Wiener’s Circle, in my beloved home of Chicago, has the best Chicago dogs in the city. This is patent nonsense.  The Circle is a stunt restaurant.  There are better dragged-through-the-garden dogs on any streetcorner in any neighborhood in Chicago, but at those places, the staff and customers aren’t forever mugging for the camera.  Still, you can’t beat an encounter with the force of nature known as manager Roberta “Poochy” Jackson, who has years of experience trash-talking the obnoxious Wrigleyville drunks who comprise the joint’s primary client base. This segment has more bleeps than an off-track betting parlor located next to a prison yard that happens to contain a naval base.
  • Next up: Manhattan’s Bamn! Automat. Thank God that someone has finally chosen to highlight the accomplishments of New Yorkers in the media.  The concept of an automat shouldn’t seem so extreme; Automats were once very common in New York in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and are still everywhere in Asia, where essentially every human function is now carried out by vending machines. But Bamn! appeals to the scarf-wearing downtown stoner they inexplicably choose to interview for the segment, and he is apparently representative of the nation as a whole now, so okay, I guess.
  • Fadmy Atme’s Cluck-U Chicken (it stands for Cluck University, you perverts) was apparently founded to punish Rutgers frat boys for their hubris. Attempting to sink New Jersey’s reputation even further down into the toxic waste dump where Chris Christie has lunch every day, Atme, an obvious terrorist, dispenses chicken wings with sauce so hot that it can only be measured against police-grade pepper spray. Watching rapey dudebros break out in paralytic sweats is the most amusing thing about Extreme Fast Food.
  • Finally, Cowgirls Espresso stands out against the billions of other coffee joints in Seattle by appealing to the sort of people Seattle normally publicly shames into silence.  It does this by having its java dispensed by scantily-clad skanks, of which the suburbs at least have no shortage.  (The city sourced its skanks out in a trade exchange with Vladivostock several years ago, and they have not been seen since. For those who have always wanted the overpriced beverages of a specialty coffee shop combined with the icky sense of self-loathing of a strip club, Cowgirls is just the place for you!

WHO’S WATCHING THIS?

People who found Extreme Conventions a little too boring, Extreme Miami Hotspots too classy, and Extreme Bathrooms not foodie enough.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

If you can eat the Voodoo Donut’s Tex-ASS donut, a pastry six times the size of their standard offering, in a minute and a half, you get your money back. Practical Application: That’s a few bucks you can apply towards your quadruple-bypass.

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