Freaky Eaters: Worst Food Show on TV
Daniel examines his raw meat options on Freaky Eaters.
We now acknowledge the primacy of reality TV -- and TV in general -- to the foodie experience. Stand around the water cooler in any office on Thursday morning, and the conversation is likely to turn to who won the Quickfire on Top Chef the night before, or to some stunt that Guy Fieri or Paula Dean pulled on their most recent shows. But the popularity of food-themed television has spawned a dark underside, and I'm not just talking about Andrew Zimmern -- witness the TLC show Freaky Eaters.
Down the piehole with another morsel of raw flesh. Daniel's an animal!
The setup is this: A friend or relative is exhibiting some sort of deviant eating behavior, real or imagined. You call a number flashed at the end of Freaky Eaters, and a team of self-important "experts" -- some of whom seem to be out-and-out quacks -- is called in to stage an intervention.
Late last night, I watched bleary-eyed as someone known only as Daniel was shown, in a series of clips flashed over and over, chowing down on raw meat. He was smirking all the while, as if his mouth had been frozen into that position by the botulinum toxin, or he knew the whole thing was a fakey setup. After all, many of us eat beef tartare and various flesh carpaccios on a regular basis, and suffer no ill effects.
But no, this guy supposedly buys raw meat at discount supermarkets and shovels it down. He loves steaks and raw hamburger, eaten at the counter directly from the Styrofoam tray, the plastic wrap barely pushed to one side. The juice dribbles down his chin and onto the floor.
With the technique of a chef, Daniel cuts the raw meat into bite-size pieces.What's so freaky about that?
Next: We meet the estimable J.J. Virgin.
J.J. Virgin -- just itchin' to give you an enema and unblock that colon.
His brother, in the Army and supposedly way more successful than Daniel -- who is very well dressed and lives in a nice apartment -- calls in the Freaky Eater crew, which seems to vary by episode. One guy is a psychologist, while another is a family practice physician. They discourse learnedly on the dangers of eating raw meat, and the mental underpinnings of Daniel's pathology -- attributing it to a father who was too strict. Well, duh!
But the best expert is someone with the unbelievable name of J.J. Virgin. Luckily, it's a blonde-haired female in her middle years -- though probably no virgin -- and a refugee from the Dr. Phil show. She's a sort of pop nutritionist, I guess, and warns Daniel about all sorts of parasites he might contract as well as bacteria-borne illnesses. She says a couple of really dodgy things, too. For example, she tells him that by eating raw meat, he has all sorts of stuff stuck for years up in his colon. This is what quack nutritionists always say. We expect her to pull out the old enema syringe right then and there and administer a high colonic.
Daniel's stool sample report shows a parasite, as J.J. Virgin breathlessly tells him, but, quite oddly, the specific nature of the parasite is not revealed by the report, which notes that it's a protozoan (like amoebas or giardia), and not a human parasite like tapeworn.
The three experts then stage an intervention at his gym, where Daniel -- obviously healthy as hell -- is seen shirtless and covered with tattoos pumping iron. They tell him he has a parasite (earlier, they'd taken a stool sample), without identifying what parasite it was. Are they trying to not gross us out? (We were already totally grossed out by the Animal Planet show, Animal Hoarders, in which we'd been treated to a room full of dog turds from a lady who had 97 dogs in her house.)
Naturally, Daniel succumbs to the intervention -- the dialogue is so stilted and dumb, I readily believed everyone was making it up on the spot -- and then he and his brother go off for a therapeutic session of paintball. Paintball cures everything, is the experts' conclusion. Next episode, we're told, the show will be about a woman who drinks too many Cokes.
Please call on my behalf -- I have a compulsion to eat high-end sushi and it's ruining my personal finances!
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.