With each passing season, Steven Reichlen's Primal Grill series (which airs on Public Television) becomes a show that would appear to have some viability in area of cooking shows on mainstream television. It seemed a little stilted in its first season and improved on it incrementally in its second. Yet it manages to take a third step to the better in the third.
The most conscious step appears to be in how Reichlen shows how encompassing an installment is and the production staff that's required to get a show working. During one of the episodes Reichlen mentions how much the staff helps him and this third volume of Primal Grill has many shots that linger for the crew to come in and help themselves to Reichlen's culinary creations. Or maybe there are shots of the crew filming or cleaning up after a dish after there's been sufficient video coverage of it.
The other step is slightly quieter but no less effective, and it's the dishes in this volume. There is no denying that Reichlen makes some exotic dishes and has over the first two volumes, but this third one has an underlying tone of ease for the grill master and still retaining the lavish meals or side dishes which encompass each show. There's something about mussels that are grilled in a bed of dried pine needles in a aluminum tray over a fire that sounds both easy and appealing to the palate.
It's kind of strange watching this third volume of Primal Grill. One part of me takes a minor proprietary bit of pride in perhaps subconsciously improving the all around product, making for a more entertaining and informative show. On the other side, with just five episodes on this volume, this is only part of the production run and I feel a little bit cheated. I kinda want to see more of Reichlen all grown up (as it were), but perhaps the folks at Maryland Public Television have found a bit of a sweet spot as to his show and these DVDs. Lord knows I want to watch it regularly on broadcasts from here on out.
Primal Grill returns in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, just like it did in the second season. There are not as many occasions where the show cuts to exterior shots of Southwest (or specifically Arizona's Esplendor Resort), but the ample shots of food look clear without pixilation and there is no edge enhancement to speak of. There is a minor layer change in the fourth episode that was surprising but hardly jarring to the overall viewing experience. It looks fine.
Two-channel Dolby stereo that sounds a shade weaker than previous versions of the show, but still makes for capable listening. The score that highlights the cuisine of a particular dish isn't so strong this time, and the action all happens in the front and is replicated clearly without any distortion or hissing. It's a cooking show and hardly demo material for a home theater.
Not really all that much. There are five bonus recipes included that aren't on the programs, including roasted vegetables, wood grilled pizza and sweet and sour duck. The "behind-the-scenes" footage is just more than two minutes of a camcorder getting crewmembers in "gotcha" moments. And as is quickly becoming the case with these discs, the specific measurements in the recipes (and some other dishes) are housed at the Primal Grill website.
The third volume of Primal Grill combines a host who's rapidly becoming more comfortable in front of the camera while being behind the grill. The recipes appear to be pretty easily done and the overall result is a decent instructional for those aspiring masters of culinary fire. Technically it's adequate and from a bonus perspective it is what it is, but unless you're really hard up for grilling recipes, I'd check out the television episodes first before deciding on a purchase.