Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 May 2015

Why I’ve had my fill of gluttony on this vile TV food show

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

The advantages of living in a predominantly teenage, predominantly male household are many and varied. But the downside of being the token female, token parent can be summed up in one word. Television.

While the rest of the female world is happily snuggled up on a sofa, sipping Baileys and catching up on Downton, or Strictly, or America's Next Top Model, I have to endure some horrendous hunter/gatherer TV that appeals only to alpha males and no-one else.

If only one of my sons were gay. It's just not fair.

Even as I write, son number two is gawping at another tiresome episode of Mythbusters, one of my least favourite.

In it, an American team of geeks and nerds plan and undertake crazy experiments in the hope of proving or disproving popular myths and misconceptions. It's sort-of educational in a science-boffin kind of a way, but apart from that it's silly verging on idiotic. Every experiment involves either sticks of dynamite, paintballs, an animal carcass, a shotgun, a helium bottle and a bucket of pig's blood ... or all of them combined. It's inane, it's noisy and it's so popular in America that even Obama has appeared in it. Having vicariously seen every episode, I can honestly say I hate it with a passion.

But my distaste for that programme pales into insignificance when compared to the vilest of them all: Man v Food.

Now this show is so utterly gross and grotesque in every possible way that I may not even have adequate words to describe it effectively. But I'm sure as hell going to try.

Of course it's American because, frankly, only in America would such a programme exist.

The basic concept is this: each episode, this one big fat bloke eats stuff, while the cameras roll. Seriously. That's all it is. No different, nor any more appealing or interesting than sitting watching any old fat bloke pigging out in a restaurant ... except for one disgusting twist. And that is the sheer amount of food he has to consume at one sitting.

In the last episode I had the misfortune to see, he ate 17 chilli hotdogs. Seventeen! In 20 minutes! Even writing that makes me want to throw up.

Each episode he and his bottomless pit of a stomach face a new challenge. Each episode he polishes off a veritable mountain of food that might have fed an entire Third World village for a week.

And each episode I pray that this time he will suffer a debilitating reaction mid-mouthful, realise the absolute shamefulness of his quest and pay once and for all for his revolting gluttony. And, indeed for not just encouraging but actively promoting obesity. But no — no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, he manages it.

And the worst part about it — even worse that watching him stuff another calorific mouthful into his ever-gawping bucket bake — are the baying crowds of onlookers who chant and cheer him on, as though he's doing something that's genuinely clever, commendable and impressive. To me it's like a modern equivalent of Dante's vision of Hell.

The fact that my son loves it, too, is a sore point. How can you justify it, I often ask him with incredulity.

“But mum, it's quite a good thing actually ...” he once tried to explain, “... because for every thousand new viewers who watch the show, he gives a certain percentage of his earnings to charity!”

“Look, son,” I replied, “he could personally fly a plane across the arid, parched deserts of Africa and air-drop a million Big Macs into the oustretched hands of the starving throngs and I still wouldn't be convinced or impressed. There really is nothing that can ever justify it. Nothing and no way!”

So have you too had the misfortune of witnessing this awful show? What do you think? I'd be interested to hear your views. Email me at the below address and let's see if we can't raise a ruckus, as they say over there in the land of plenty. Too much plenty.

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