A lot of people take a look at Zane Lamprey's show Drinking Made Easy on the HDNet (now AXS TV) cable network and wonder how a guy could host a drinking show which focuses on various points of the country and their drinking culture. More to the point, when would Lamprey's liver sue him for nonsupport? But while Drinking Made Easy certainly includes drinking in the foreground, in the background it is also a travelogue of sorts where drinking happens to occur, and I think that proves to make the appeal of the show far more than just one of a half hour weekly bar crawl. Now in its third season, the show's second season was recently released on video for obvious promotion and enjoyment.
The show's premise is simple: going from place to place and enjoy the culture and have a beer or a drink every so often. For those longtime viewers of the show, one of the things that changed from Season One to Season Two was the excision of Marc Ryan, who served as a brief departure from the show's hosts, interviewing a local brewer or distiller about their process and enjoying the product. What Lamprey may have realized is that the show works better with him and his co-host (or mascot as he calls him) Steve McKenna taking the majority of the show to enjoy the locales. Which is good, because the two have a good chemistry that makes you laugh but (with Lamprey's previous shows also being travel-focused) also informative. The pair also undergo a competition in each area that is locally-focused, with the wager being a six pack of beer in the 'Six Pack Challenge.' Lamprey usually wins these challenges because McKenna is the George Constanza of the pairing, if George Constanza's hair reappeared on his face in the thickest beard you can recall seeing.
The other thing about the show that seems to change from Season One to Season Two is Lamprey and McKenna seem to take an almost upscale approach to the season. Well, 'upscale' may not be the word. But where Season One found Zane and Steve drinking and enjoying it, Season Two finds Zane taking the reins a little more as to how a beer or liquor may be made before enjoying said beverage. And this slight evolution in the show makes it better as a result, with much more of a curiosity as to these beverages, many of which may be regional but thanks to the internet, can be bought and shipped as desired.
That's not to say Zane and Steve forsake the hijinks and laughs in the first season for grown up behavior in the second, the show does not have to reach for the laughs as often because the subject material comes across as interesting, and when the pair do go for silliness, it still works as well as it does in the first season. This is a credit to them, because doing a show about drinking seems like an easy premise, but I think it one that could very well get screwed up. Zane and Steve not only NOT do that, making it fun and educational with two likable guys improves upon it.
And that should be the goal of any television show, whether it is fictional or not. The fact that such an improvement is that noticeable in Drinking Made Easy is welcoming to see, considering how 'fun' the show was in Season One. The evolution is great and takes the appreciation of the work to a different level.
Drinking Made Easy is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen in what ultimately proves to be a nice standard definition look from what is shot natively in high definition. Colors and fresh tones are reproduced accurately and faithfully, and the many exteriors look superb and are free of image processing issues. The show looks as good as it is going to on standard definition and that is a good thing.
Two-channel Dolby Digital for all of the episodes, which is hardly a surprise considering the nature of the show. You get drinking, dialogue, and light drama in the six pack competitions. There is no use for the rear speakers to provide directional effects or channel panning, and as far as a subwoofer goes, don't kid yourself. It's a nice sonic perspective of the show.
Lamprey, McKenna, Lamprey's wife Melissa (who also produces the show) and Josh Dean (a cameraman on the show) combine for a commentary over all 24 episodes that proves to be jovial. The quartet hosts a semi-regular podcast in some combination or another and the rapport is evident, and they even circle back to various episodes of said podcast from time to time on a previous discussion or two during the tracks. Recorded in a functioning office as Lamprey points out and the phone ringing occasionally still reminds us, the group does not hesitate to have a beverage from time to time. They talk about some behind the camera anecdotes and provide additional information on the locations and on the drinks they consumed, and McKenna recounts a story about getting a break on baggage at TSA. The production process from shooting to editing is touched upon also. While there are moments where folks (OK, McKenna) just watch the action, the tracks are solid listening material and are nice complements to the viewing experience.
The other extras are on Disc Four, starting with the "Ultra Premium Imperial Reserve Platinum Especial," a special with Zane and Steve celebrating the show's 50th episode. Filled with drinks, good times and a Sinatra family member cameo, it is a nice look at where the show is at the moment with a bunch of unique content to the show. It also includes a commentary that covers a lot of the same veins the episode commentaries did. Some deleted and extended footage follows, but to call it 'some' shortchanges it a bit, as there is almost two hours of material here (1:56:08). Some of these are extended sequences or full interviews with a brew master, and others are bloopers such as the McKenna blooper reel, but there is a lot of stuff here worth perusing.
Season Two of Drinking Made Easy takes an entertaining premise from Season One and builds on it, giving it a subtle refined nature that is nice to see for the show. Technically it is decent, but from a bonus material perspective is exhaustive as I can recall seeing on a set of discs. Worth seeing at the very least, with the extras pushing it into an easy buying decision.