Man v. Food is a strangely addictive American television program produced by the Travel Channel (it earned the channel their highest ever ratings for a new show). Enthusiastically presented by Adam Richman, a man who has held ‘nearly every job in the restaurant business’ each episode finds him in a different location in America, trying out a series of local dishes of extreme proportions or content, building up to a special finale challenge. A Twelve-patty cheeseburger with a pound of French fries, or a dozen of the world’s hottest chicken wings, being typical examples, it makes it a fascinating if somewhat disturbing program that won’t be to all tastes.
Despite its subject matter it is a surprisingly enjoyable series, every episode brings a different challenge, and the short running time (approximately 25 minutes) means it is an easy, accessible watch. Richman’s over the top, presenting style is also a benefit, whilst some viewers may find it annoying (he does come across as very American at points), it adds to the entertainment value, and makes up for the less interesting challenges. He seems genuinely aware of how ridiculous the show is, often joking with the restaurant’s staff and their customers, and engaging in bizarre ‘dream’ or training sequences, to big himself up for the final challenge, which, while not always working, add to the show’s offbeat tone.
As well as providing entertainment (or not depending on your point of view) it is also educational, Richman often gives information about the local area, or foods he is trying, and assists each restaurant manager in creating the final challenge for him to sample, this is usually a very interesting segment of the show, though it does give the impression that everything in America comes with cheese, bacon and chilli.
During the show Richman asks locals for their advice or opinions on his challenges, their replies often appear scripted and quickly get annoying, for a show about a man stuffing his face, there really is too much enthusiasm. The show can come across as very American, with frequent references to US history and celebrities, which may be lost on UK audiences, and the show is presented in American English which can cause confusion. Despite the varied locations featured in the series, it can feel repetitive-many of the challenges come across as similar; evidently Richman doesn’t get sick of eating burgers. Each episode ends with a ‘news conference’ in which Richman answers questions from the audience on his strategies and feelings, its clichéd, repetitive but sometimes qyuite funny. Although, eating a 6 foot sandwich does not put you in the same category as a successful athlete.
The show never really comes across as memorable, there is only limited pleasure to be had from watching someone else eat, and many audience members will find the whole idea sickening or silly (indeed some readers may find a review of such a program a little silly). But for those who ignore these issues, an enjoyable if forgettable way to spend half an hour awaits. 6/10
It is worth bearing in mind that the fourth, longest series known as ‘Man V Food Nation’ follows a different format, with Richman recruitng loclas for the challenges, serving as their coach instead of doing the challenges himself