Posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2020 by Jacob Hall
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Show: Guy’s Grocery Games
Where You Can Stream It: Hulu
The Pitch: Divisive Food Network host and fashion nightmare Guy Fieri invites four chefs into a giant grocery store set, where they must compete in various cooking challenges that involve them rushing through the aisles and literally collecting their ingredients. But since this is a silly game show, those challenges generally involve chaotic limitations (you can only shop in certain aisles) or cruel requirements (your savory dinner must include mustard and a bag of marshmallows). It’s ridiculous. And addicting.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Look, Guy’s Grocery Games is not essential viewing. And if you can’t stomach Guy Fieri, with his low-brow sense of humor and atrocious haircut, this will be a legitimately painful experience. However, there’s something fundamentally nice about this show, which sidesteps being a cutthroat competition in favor of being an easily digestible showcase of chefs concocting creative and delicious dishes from ingredients available in a standard supermarket. As Pixar’s Ratatouille explored: anyone can cook.
Although I can’t say I’m an especially big Guy Fieri fan (I generally think he’s loud but harmless, not the End Of Western Civilization, as some people seem to think), he’s far better here as a wacky game show host than he is in other Food Network programs. The spotlight is rightfully on the chefs he invites onto his show and the truly bizarre, often randomized challenges they have to overcome to win the episode and pocket some cash. I’m especially fond of the challenges where they have to create lavish meals on a strict budget, which showcase how creativity and ingenuity can supplant money, a democratization of fine dining that I find downright inspiring.
While others will undeniably be turned off by the show’s middlebrow tone, I found myself won over by its charms, which are constructed to appeal to Middle America more than people who write for pop culture websites and are supposed to be spending this pandemic watching good things instead of tacky and incredibly entertaining Food Network game shows. And yet, the show’s casual celebration of people of all backgrounds quietly shines through. This is a show that showcases female chefs, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks, all of whom compete on equal footing with everyone else. The show never pats itself on the back – it just lets this diversity exist alongside everyone and everything else. For a series that feels so clearly aimed and mainstream tastes, it feels like a low-key statement of purpose. Tacky Food Network game shows belong to everyone, damn it.
I’d be lying if I said Guy’s Grocery Games is good TV. It’s junk food, even if its goal is to celebrate great food. Still, I find myself drawn to it, to its blanket positivity, to its fast pace, to its inherent bingeability. When I wrap up a day of work, I find myself clicking play on this instead of something remotely challenging or thoughtful. I don’t know what this says about me. But I do know what it says about Guy’s Grocery Games: this is a top-tier guilty pleasure.
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