Food Network; Travel Channel

Ginormous Food Faces Man vs. Food In The Battle Of Massive Foodstuffs

Which TV show dedicated to gigantic quantities of food goes down easier?

The Cuban poet Jose Marti once wrote, "Immensity brings joy." Granted, he was talking about the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, and not a chocolate éclair the size of a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, but the principle remains the same. People are fascinated by gigantic foodstuffs. You take some sort of food people are generally familiar with -- a hamburger or a pizza -- and then you crank up the size and heads will turn. Or, more pertinent to the subject at hand, channels will be changed, and TV shows dedicated to massive meals will be watched. There's a good chance you've heard of Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, but recently Food Network debuted their own show to titanic cuisine, the fittingly entitled Ginormous Food. Both programs prominently feature giant food, but which one sits better with you once consumed?

Which show has the better giant food-related premise?

To the credit of both Man vs. Food and Ginormous Food, their program titles get straight to the point. Man vs. Food is, in fact, about a man taking on food. While "Man vs. Food" isn't technically one of the traditional themes of literature, it is a nice combination of "man vs. self" and "man vs. nature." The real selling point of Man vs. Food is that we knew that, by episode's end, the host, Adam Richman, will be taking on a food-related challenge. Now, they weren't always about eating a gigantic amount of food. Occasionally, his challenge would be related to eating incredibly spicy food, but more often his goal was to try and eat a 12-egg omelet or a four-pound grilled cheese sandwich. The entire episode wouldn't be dedicated to the challenge, though. Basically, Richman would go to a city, he'd visit a couple other restaurants to eat some signature dishes, talk about the city and its cuisine, and then the challenge would arrive.

It makes sense that Man vs. Food wouldn't be solely about an eating challenge. For one, the show did air on the Travel Channel, so showcasing the city du jour made sense, at least if you think a TV channel's programming should live up to the channel's name. In modern times, this has been less and less relevant, but kudos to Man vs. Food for not forgetting to throw a little local favor in every episode. However, as the show's title clearly indicates, we all know the driving force of people's interest. People want to watch Richman try to eat a crazy amount of food. They want to see him struggle and fight and, if they are feeling morbid, suffer. Sometimes he'd win, and sometimes food would win, but there was always going to be a battle.

Ginormous Food is quite similar to Man vs. Food in many ways. Josh Denny, host of the show, also visits a specific city in each episode. He goes to a few different restaurants and talks to the chefs and the patrons. First, a more normal-sized signature dish is showcased, and then the restaurant's iconic giant foodstuff is prepared and served to Denny. Then, he moves on.

So Ginormous Food definitely showcases more...well, ginormous food. However, when it comes to each show's premise, we can break it down like this:

  • Ginormous Food: A man goes to three different restaurants and talks about three gigantic dishes.
  • Man vs. Food: A man goes to three different restaurants and in the end tries to eat a dangerous amount of food for his glory and our amusement.

In short, one of these actually has an endgame and some narrative conflict. The other does not.

Winner: Man vs. Food.

Which show executes its premise better?

Here's the thing about Ginormous Food. While it delivers what it promises, it doesn't do it in a very interesting way. At times, the show almost feels like a Trojan horse. It tells us we are going to be given staggeringly large dishes, and while that's technically true, too much of the show is dedicated to non-gigantic dishes. In particular, an excessive amount of time is spent talking to patrons at the various restaurants. Krusty the Clown once lamented that talking to the audience was always death, and that holds true in this similar situation. If you watch the shows on Food Network that are in this vein -- and the network has a few of them -- you know they almost all involve talking head snippets from regular Joes and Janes while jaunty music plays. With all due respect to the common man, I don't care what they have to say, and the soundbites are almost all devoid of interesting content. I don't watch television to hear some middle-aged man say "They make good eggs."

The part where the ginormous dishes are made is pretty interesting, and simple as it may be, seeing the final product in all its glory is cool. What always ends up happening is that Denny marvels at the dish; eats, like, one or two bites; and then invariably says, "This is too much food! I need to share it with everybody!" and then the other restaurant patrons dig in and, yes, give their thoughts on the dish. I will admit that, at first, this annoyed me, because I was viewing it through the Man vs. Food prism. It felt like a cheat that Denny would have this giant dish prepared for the show, and then barely eat any of it. However, the show is explicitly about spotlighting Ginormous Food. What happens to it after that is up to their discretion, and honestly, sharing it with people is a nice gesture.

Man vs. Food, on the other hand, delivers exactly what one wants from a show like this. You get a little info on a city's food culture, but then something actually happens. Namely, Richman tries to eat a bunch of food. Now, Richman isn't one of those professional competitive eater types like Joey Chestnut. That probably helps, and it also makes things more palatable. Man vs. Food, to speak in the Goldilocks vernacular, is at the "just right" level for an eating competition. Stuff like the Nathan's Hot Dot Eating Competition on the Fourth of July are the Cronenbergian body horror of this sort of thing. Anytime hot dog buns are being dipped in water and then shoved down people's throats it only vaguely resembles what we know as "human food consumption." It's both disgusting and unrelatable. We can imagine ourselves in Richman's shoes, even if we wouldn't want to be in them. The fact that over the course of the show he failed almost as much as he succeeded is a point in the show's favor. Unlike Ginormous Food, Man vs. Food actually has something of a dramatic arc, and somehow it manages not to be gross.

Winner: Man vs. Food.

Which has the host with the most?

As Man vs. Food's title reminds us, there is more to both of these shows than just food. Each also involves a man who takes us on these food-related journeys. Richman and Denny each shoulder the vast majority of the load as hosts, especially Richman. However, which one does a better job?

Richman has the more daunting challenge. Obviously, that's partially because he has to try and be engaging while trying to complete an eating challenge, although voiceover helps there. Man vs. Food has more of said voiceover than Ginormous Food, but Richman does a good job of it. He also manages to make the moments where he interviews patrons and diners almost interesting. Before becoming a food show host, Richman was an actor -- he apparently played God as a butcher on Joan Of Arcadia -- so he has screen presence. His personality is bold and dynamic, which is de rigueur for a show like this, but manages not to be annoying. On occasion, he's even kind of funny. Now, any discussion of Richman and his personality probably needs to address the hot water he got into on the internet a few years ago. Richman was trying to lose weight and made an Instagram post which included the hashtag "#thinspiration." This alone was enough to get people on the internet mad at him, saying he was promoting unhealthy body image. Had Richman simply said, "Hey I'm trying to lose weight and this is my business leave me alone," he probably would have been fine. Instead, he got a little irked and told commenters things like, oh, they should eat a bag of shit or that they should kill themselves because nobody would miss them. He apologized, of course, but it was still a weird, unpleasant situation. However, when it comes to his stint as Man vs. Food host, it should be stricken from the record.

At this point, we have a smaller sample size on Denny. He has an everyman quality, what with his slight huskiness and his copper-toned beard. He seems like a nice enough guy. However...I've never used this word before, but it seems most apt: he's kind of a goober. At least, that's what it seems like on TV. His Twitter profile says he's a standup comedian, and this is probably a sweet gig for him. I'm happy for Denny. I just don't think he has much of a presence on TV. He's a bit grating. Denny does the thing where it seems like he's yelling all the time, even when it's clear that he isn't. I feel like Denny is following in Guy Fieri's footsteps. Maybe Denny will get better with time, but right now, there's work to be done.

Winner: Man vs. Food.

Which Show Makes The Food Look More Appetizing?

Here's one Ginormous Food can win. No matter how tasty a food might look on Man vs. Food, once Richman begins the process of trying to eat it in a competitive fashion, it can certainly mess with your appetite. Ginormous Food doesn't have that problem. The endgame is just seeing the dish, not seeing it shoved down a guy's throat.

Winner: Ginormous Food.

Verdict

Ginormous Food probably works fine as comfort food TV. (That is to say, as TV that serves as comfort food, not as TV dedicated to comfort food, which normally I wouldn't have to clarify but...you know.) It's the kind of show I like to flip over to during commercial breaks in something else, because it's pleasant enough and you won't get suck in and forget to switch back to what you were watching. However, to use a well-worn phrase, there is no there there. Man vs. Food is a better produced show, but it also is more interesting and engaging. Fittingly, the program that actually is about a showdown -- albeit one between a person and inanimate foodstuff -- wins this competition.

Winner: Man vs. Food.

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