|Reviews & Columns
TV on DVD
Reviews by Studio
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
The M.O.D. Squad
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
Good Eats - All American Greats (three pack)
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Although it's moved away from straight cooking shows lately (kind of like how VH1 and MTV don't show much music anymore), The Food Network has amassed a large catalog of instructional cooking shows that it's starting to release on DVD. Of the shows on the network, few are as quirky as Alton Brown's Good Eats, a self-consciously snarky one man operation that dissects one element of the world of food per episode. The Food Network has been releasing three-disc sets of Brown's shows with each set containing nine episodes of the show (other series releases have varying numbers of episodes per disc.)
The set featuring the disc "All American Greats" features shows on what to do with home ground beef, corn and the pickling process. The other discs in this set are "Super Sweets 2" (Dutch processing, angel food cake and cheesecake) and "Breakfast Eats" (coffee, eggs and pancakes).
The discs are haphazardly grouped but the Alton Brown style offers some valuable information. While power-watching episodes of Good Eats is not recommended (I lost my patience with his smug demeanor after a while) the approach to teaching deserves some praise. Brown mixes science, history, theory and practical advice in with his recipes. Unlike Emeril Lagasse (who is a showman) and Bobby Flay (who is a fool), Brown is more of what you'd call a "foodie," a somewhat snobby food fetishist who won't rest until every backyard bar-b-q features his idea of a four star hamburger. But his love of food helps him impart a lot of great information on the unwitting viewer. For example, his suggestion of only seasoning hamburger meat with kosher salt may seem ho-hum to fans of french onion mix (something he'd probably vomit over) but I'd bet it really brings out the best in the flavor. And while I wouldn't suggest trying his technique of soaking corn in a mixture of lemon juice and Clorox bleach to preserve it without carefully copying down his proportions, it's tips like that that can help bring home cooking into a more complex realm.
My main problem with the show is the over indulgent nature of Brown's performances. Even more than Emeril's annoying "BAM!," Brown overacts his way through what could be a classy, educational half-hour of television. Granted, it's his goofy style that garnishes him with whatever attention he gets, but it's distracting, whether it's gags like being attacked by a mummy in a cheesy faux-Egyptian tomb (in the pickle episode, for some reason) or the jarring editing and camera angles that seem to be striving for comic book framing and indie cred. There's no point to these flourishes but be prepared for a host who tries too hard on your way to culinary paradise.
The full-frame video quality on this set (and all Food Network releases I've seen) is rather sub-par. Edge enhancement appears to have been used and the colors are often over-saturated, giving the image a smeary, too-bright quality. This is especially hurtful in rendering some of the recipes unrecognizable and ugly.
The Dolby Digital audio is bland and uninvolving. While not necessarily key to this type of release, Brown's voice distorts at times and the sound overall is lackluster.
One nice extra is an "Ask Alton" segment that accompanies each episode. In it he reads and responds to viewer mail that followed that particular show. This gives him a chance to expand on ideas from the show and clear up any points related to the show's recipes. A very nice addition.
Recipes from the shows are also included (printed in the booklet), as is a bio for the host and a series of previews for other Food Network programs (which starts, by the way, with the on-screen text "Americans eat 64lbs of sugar a year," and then identifies that as a bit of "Fun Trivia," instead of the horror stat that it really is. Yuck!)
While Alton Brown's style can grate on the nerves, he's obviously very enthusiastic about food and really wants to share his knowledge. This is one show that helps understand not only just what to cook, but also why.