Monday, December 31, 2012
Is Lovie Smith a good coach? I've spent the better part of a decade wondering.
I don't think he's particularly great on gameday. He treats timeouts like sarcastic suggestions, has wonky challenge habits, and their gameplans rarely get adjusted to the point where you'd call it a creative response to what the other team is doing. In 2005, he famously didn't double team Steve Smith en route to Smith shredding the Bears for about 220 yards in a playoff game. He throws assistant coaches under the bus and has had more offensive coordinators than Kim Kardashian has had boyfriends. His core defensive principles were innovative in 2002. His core offensive principles were all the rage in about 1940. And remember when everyone was asking "Who can stop Devin Hester?" It was Smith that took him off returns to transform him into Jerry Rice. Didn't work out so well, and wasted at least two seasons of Hester's prime, which appears to be a thing of the past at this point.
What makes him a good coach? Players play hard for him, veterans respect him. That may not seem like much, but it goes a long way in the NFL. He stresses takeways, and they go get takeaways. He never takes grudges to the media. Based on wins, he's one of the most successful coaches of the decade. They always have one or two signature wins per year, and always seem to have a couple more wins than everyone thinks they should have, and you could easily give him a B+ for 10 wins this year, given the talent assembled on the offensive line and defensive backfield.
So, do I, as a fan, want to see him fired? Yes and no. I'm not sure I trust the McCaskey family to get a head coaching search done right, after they royally screwed it up during every search in my lifetime. I remember when Dave McGinnis was going to be the coach, but they got in a contract dispute AFTER the announcement and suddenly Dick Jauron showed up at the press conference. I remember them taking what felt like 2 months too long to hire Lovie. This is the family that hired a search firm to hire their first GM. And what they have in Smith is that coach that you fire and he goes somewhere else and wins the Super Bowl. It's the devil you know vs. the devil you don't know argument.
Yet, they've been to the playoffs once in 6 seasons. They were 7-3 last year and tanked, they were 7-1 this year and lost to every single NFC playoff team on their schedule. On both occasions, you felt like if they got in, an elite QB would slowly eviscerate their Cover 2 defense while Cutler got sacked into a concussion and three picks.
My verdict: Lovie Smith is a good NFL coach, but he's not great. It's time to move on and take a chance on someone else. Your best players are Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler . . . call up Washington and get Kyle Shanahan on the phone. Build the team around your young offensive stars and hope that the defense hangs on for another year or two before they fall apart from age.
If you really want to think big, Sean Payton is gettable, but he'd have to be the highest paid coach in the league and that's simply not happening in Chicago, especially with Dallas's checkbook in play. The Bears love to hire cheap assistants and hope they pan out. Lovie, like him or not, panned out. They got to a Super Bowl. They were competitive for a decade under his program. I won't remember Lovie the way I remember Wannstedt or Jauron, that's for sure, and that's about the highest compliment I can give a guy that teased Bears fans with greatness for the last 8+ seasons.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
You walk into Bub’s Pub. The floor has soaked up just as much beer as the regulars; the corner door is sometimes propped open to carry the echoes of conversation and the scent of light beer throughout the narrow space. The bar is long—walk past the restrooms and you have a side door to slip out into the parking area or you can continue into a fenced off place for smoking or just enjoying a mild evening. Yet the most apparent, the most affecting part of the Bub’s Pub experience was Bub himself, who loomed behind the bar instead of tending it, a towel over his shoulder, with kind eyes refracted by his thick glasses. Like most bartenders, his wisdom came from his recollection, his memory etched with moments and names, news and rumors. He’s like the entire cast of Cheers rolled into one—Cliff’s knowledge, Norm’s humor, Sam’s steady hand behind the bar.
Larry “Bub” Bates was a friend of mine, but friendship is a fickle word with many levels. I cannot and will not attempt to prove that his passing strikes me with the same level of grief as it does his family, his closest friends, and the more-regular-than-me patrons of Bub’s Pub. We knew each other by name, we exchanged stories and good natured, sports-related ribbing. I drank in his bar, hell, he even sold my books at his bar and refused to keep any portion of the sales as fair profit for doing so, which tells you all you need to know right there.
The news of his passing proved that his life was communicable, contagious—that his life cannot truly be gone because it’s spread among thousands of people in varying levels of degree. Indeed, those closest to him will feel the sadness in ways that I cannot truly share, but every memory someone has at Bub’s—maybe they met that special someone at the jukebox, or saw that big sports moment, or celebrated that big slowpitch softball victory—I think that his passing tinges those moments with a measure of sadness, knowing the man that stood watch while so much life unfolded in front of him is now gone, prematurely, and undeservedly. I know I'll remember him fondly, and the next time I go into the pub, it'll seem just a bit more empty and sad without him. I know I'm not alone on that count.
Everyone is mortal. I think the best we can achieve is to have that communicable life, one that spreads through friends and family and beyond. Bub achieved that in intangible ways through his kindness and spirit but also in a tangible one—it sits on a nondescript corner in Sandoval, a white, pedestrian looking building filled with memories and love and the echoes of an excellent man who cannot be replaced—but he can and will be remembered thanks to the many lives he touched.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
In the summer of 2010, I had dinner with Kristy Makansi, Jason Makansi, and Jamey Stegmaier, who were launching a publishing company right in my backyard, St. Louis. They talked about their vision and I talked about a novel I was working on. It was about 32k words old and tentatively titled The Samaritan. I could tell that Blank Slate Press was different, and by the end of the dinner, I knew it was worth throwing my hat in the ring with them. Sure it was risky launching my writing career with a small, unknown, startup press. But I thought it was equally risky that they were willing to debut with an author who didn’t even have his novel finished yet. Peas in a pod.
Fast forward two years later. The novel got published (and published well, I believe). A few awards rolled in. I got a larger audience than I ever expected. Blank Slate Press has added authors and gained steam. And in what I think is the next big leap for both myself and BSP, today I signed the contract that effectively ends my relationship with Blank Slate Press.
My writing career is now under the guidance of the good people at William Morris Endeavor. Kirby Kim is my literary agent and Anna DeRoy is representing the film push. I think it’s incredible that they believe so strongly in a larger audience for The Samaritan and I can just chill and finish up this next novel while the shopping goes on in the background.
But first and foremost, this blog is sort of a thank you letter to BSP. Blank Slate Press, myself, and my first novel will always have intertwined DNA. Our relationship will always exist in spirit, as I’ll support their efforts as I’m sure they’ll support mine as the next chapter of my career unfolds. The relationship is only “dissolving” in a purely paperwork and rights standpoint, since Kristy, Jamey, Jason and all the others involved with BSP have done an unbelievable amount for my progress as an author.
How did we get here? We leaned on each other and tried to get my book out there, and after months of effort and buzz, it ended up on Shelf Magazine’s list of the best indy releases of the year. That list, in turn, then ended up in the USA Today and then the agents started calling.
William Morris Endeavor is the world’s largest talent agency, the type of holy grail agency that I might have never even bothered to approach if I were shopping my novels in a traditional sense. And one of the main reasons I hooked up with Kirby and WME is because he wasn’t just interested in the new books I’m writing now—he wanted to breathe new life into The Samaritan on a larger scale. So while I’m putting the finishing touches on some new work, the book so many of you have already read and enjoyed will be out in the market once again, in the largest of possible ponds. But I’ve got one hell of a fisherman guiding the boat in Kirby, so my hopes are high.
BSP brought the vision and passion to help me get noticed by a really big agency. Not only did they give me guidance and an opportunity, over these last two years they’ve become trusted friends. I’m glad they’re right across the river so we can continue that relationship long after the paperwork is filed.
And it’s also a great opportunity to thank everyone out there who has taken the time to read my stuff. Without readers, without word of mouth, without buzz there’s no way I would have the opportunity that rests before me. Thank you!
And that’s all this is—an opportunity. Nothing is guaranteed. I’ve got a novel under my belt, I’ve got an agent who can drive my work to the highest of heights. Now it’s on me to keep producing work and make sure that I don’t squander this chance. An agent is just an agent. I have to hand him a quality manuscript in order to make this work.
As for my newest book, it’s almost done. A small lake wedged away in a quiet part of the Midwest is the battleground, and at the bottom of those waters, a Biblical force waits to be unleashed . . . the end of the world begins on those quiet shores, and I hope when the time comes you’ll come along with me for the ride.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
So, The Avengers. I kept hearing this global phenomenon was not just eye candy and fanboy dreamboat fodder—I kept hearing this was a “good film.”
Disclaimer: I smiled a lot, stopping just short of clapping like a little kid. The movie was a good time, an event. I’ll probably watch it again. But a good film?
If good means having a comprehensible plot and a strong villain, this wasn’t a good film. The first act was long and disjointed, introducing the characters that I would bet a majority of the audience already knew, and were tapping their toes waiting for the “good stuff.”
The second act was more about the superheroes “infighting” than actual development of the looming threat of Loki, who got himself imprisoned, a la, Heath Ledger’s Joker, only with an inferior plan and far less charisma and menace. He just sort of hangs out in a glass lockbox until needed, just like the fire axe at your place of employment.
And that glass—the glass that Thor can crack when he’s really mad and wanting to get at Loki, but he doesn’t outright break out of it. Not until he’s a few inches from the ground and he really needs to break out of it to—what?—he’s still falling the same speed and the fall won’t harm him anyway because he’s fucking Thor for God’s sakes, he falls from places, it’s sort of what he does.
This is a slippery slope, applying logic to a film like this. I can hear the chorus swelling—it’s supposed to be fun, you’re overthinking it. Yeah but you know what? Thor looks stupid in that sequence. In a good movie, the villains are brilliant but the heroes eventually outsmart them. This movie? Not really.
|Don't worry, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, either.|
The problem truly lies with Loki, who has recruited a scary-looking alien force to capture Earth for him. The problem is, he’s completely under-utilizing his own skills. He can turn people into his mindless slaves with the touch of his scepter and he can also create holographic images of himself and/or teleport, we never really get the full grasp of that since it’s hardly deployed usefully or consistently. You would think that holographic images and/or teleportation would come in handy before daring the Incredible Hulk to smash your ass, but I suppose he forgets about this handy power that he uses exactly twice.
Did I mention he can also turn people to his side with the touch of the scepter? He has Nick Fury dead to rights in the first ten minutes. He turns two important characters to his side but never really pulls that trick again and completely wastes an opportunity to kill and/or “turn” Nick Fury, which would really f things up royally for the good guys. Probably the screenwriters as well, which is why it doesn’t happen.
The “heavy” stuff is hinted at, such as WMD’s and the use of torture on prisoners. Yet it is quickly dismissed. I found myself drawn to Captain America the most—fish out of water, by far the most vulnerable of the superheroes with a perfect opportunity to have his duty and loyalty played against his honorable sensibilities with torture and whatnot.
The third act paid off nicely for pure visual spectacle and that melted honey feeling of the heroes finally working together (even if the alien army was about the worst fighting force you could ever recruit) The Incredible Hulk stole the show, both for character arc moments and comic relief. Tony Stark was refreshingly back to being funny and cheeky instead of smug and unlikeable (I’m looking at you, Iron Man 2). There was a lot to like and with the hodgepodge of characters, this may be the most one can ask for from the first Avengers film.
But a “good” film? Not with that first act, not while its essentially plotless. Not when these films depend largely on the cunning of their villains and Loki lacks both the intelligence and physical disposition to truly put our heroes in jeopardy. Combine this with the many gripes of logic the comic canon may fill in while leaving the casual viewer wondering, “huh?”
A small list of those types of gripes (in addition to the Thor glass gripe listed earlier):
1 - The poorly guarded, laughably defenseless mothership explodes and the obviously flesh and blood creatures either have a “let’s make it convenient for the heroes” brain switch located in the mothership or simply cannot take the sight of so many pecs flexing on screen causing them to faint.
2 - Loki watches Thor and Ironman and Captain America have a “he started it” fighting moment but doesn’t take the opportunity to escape and is magically in captivity in the next scene—but wait, Fred, he wants to be imprisoned! Yes, so he can instigate the Incredible Hulk, which at the top of the “this plan sucks” list that he cannot reasonably think he can pull off.
3 - The MacGuffin—I’m sorry, the Tess-er-act—is stolen, taken to Germany for a little under the hood work, then brought right back to Stark Tower to open the portal over New York. So, umm, why the fuck did they bring it to Germany?
4 - The Avengers flying battleship thingy has a cool invisibility cloak—that is probably the worst cloak in the history of science fiction films, as it is instantly found by enemy forces and we see the ship during the entire movie. I guess after it got turned on, someone just turned it off to save energy as part of a “go green” initiative? Not that someone wanting to find the ship couldn’t hear the thing from a billion miles away.
Gripes aside, I love superhero movies and this had a lot going on. The sheer scope of the final battle, the dynamics of the hero personality clashes, the creative use of their powers and collaborations, and the emergence of Ruffalo/Hulk were all highlights for me. This one felt a lot like a traction-gaining exercise, depending on the allure of the heroes on screen together instead of “wasting” a more menacing villain on the first, guaranteed blockbuster. I see from the cookie that the second one could feature the villain I’m craving, and maybe in Avengers 2 we’ll see the superhero sweet spot that was struck by superior sequels such as Spider Man 2 and The Dark Knight.
One can only hope. Oh, and spoiler alert.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Five sports fixes that should occur immediately:
1 – Eliminate the extra point in football. Completely worthless play. The game is already long enough with all the replays, why keep a play that is not interesting at all and has a 99 percent success rate? Seven points for a TD, or you can take 6 points and go for two. Fixed. Done. Next.
2 - Touchless icing in the NHL. The NHL is the only place that touch up icing still exists, raising injury risk and just being completely needless.
3 – Install more instant replay in baseball. No sport has more blown calls that can be clearly rectified by replay. The games are already, what, four hours? What’s another ten minutes to get it right?
4 – Speed up, already. Speaking of slow baseball games, keep the batter in the box and let’s have a pitch every fifteen seconds, minimum. Rules to speed up the game already exist. Enforce them.
5 – Eliminate flopping in the NBA by calling a technical foul for obvious flops. The NHL penalizes flopping, the NBA should follow suit. You should not have to fall down to draw an offensive foul. These are grown men, probably the best athletes on the planet, let them bang and get the Miami Heat, I mean floppers, out of the game.
I just made the entire sports world better in about six minutes. Don’t you feel better?
Monday, February 27, 2012
As this February ends, I mark 1 year since THE SAMARITAN was released. So while I’ve been a “writer” for as long as I can remember, this is pretty much my first year as an “author.” With that in mind, to celebrate one year as an author, here’s 12 things I learned in the last 12 months.
Publishing a novel is hard . . . Writing a book? Easy. Rewriting a book? Slightly tougher. Getting on board with a publisher who—gasp—wants to publish the book? Rewriting repeatedly, absorbing editorial comments, the cover, the dedication, trying to remember who to put in acknowledgments, the bio, the author photo? The “is anybody going to read this, is this any good” feeling? Staring at your promotional plan and wondering if you can bring yourself to read in public? Going to a reading with 8 people, and then 80 people, wanting to soil yourself no matter what the audience size for entirely different reasons? Coming to terms with the fact that the most visceral, violent stuff you can come up with will now be out there for public consumption? All that stuff is pretty hard. Fun, but hard.
. . . but not impossible. The writing world is rife with stories of perseverance. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I truly believe if you want it to happen, it’s going to happen. I can’t even get a count on how many hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written to get to the 73k that is bound between the two covers of SAMARITAN, how much I needed to learn and discover and work out. I can barely remember when I started putting words to paper, but it’s been over fifteen years. The key is don’t get stuck or married to one idea. Write it and move on. The best is always yet to come, but you’ve got to do the right now to discover it.
Independent publishers like Blank Slate Press can be incredibly viable and effective. They’re not bound to tradition, they’re nimble, flexible, daring, they work hard, they return calls and emails same-day, they write checks that clear. They’re the guerilla fighters that win while the lockstep redcoats get popped off one by one.
The feeling that your first book will be the noose that hangs your second book? Totally real. Just to reiterate—totally. Real. I approach my second novel clenched up as if the manuscript is going to punch me in the face.
Social media and platform creation is paralyzing and difficult for me. I’m just not consistent enough with it. I never feel like anything’s worth posting, I barely know how to operate a hashtag, it’s just a complete extension of social anxiety disorder that branches into a virtual world. Must. Do. Better.
The author’s personality and delivery is just as important as the quality of the book when it comes to selling the book. I gave a “lecture” to a bunch of college kids who didn’t seem like they particularly cared to hear from some “author.” After my talk, which was more of me just being myself than anything else, a lot of them bought books. Why? “Because I thought this lecture was going to suck but it all sounds pretty cool.” Or something like that. Either way, I moved a lot of books that day and learned a lesson. You’re not just marketing the book, you’re marking you.
I’d rather be from a town of 600 people than a city of 6 million. The small town I’m from? Yeah, they do a hell of a job of supporting the locals. I think that everyone read it, bought it, recommended it, or talked about it at some point. It’s easy to get lost in a big pond. The small pond Patoka ripple effect was pretty amazing.
You better keep writing your ass off. Eventually what you’re writing today is going to be yesterday and everyone wants to know what you’ll have tomorrow.
Balance is important—so is having a wife that keeps you both balanced and grounded. It’s quite a luxury to have a gentle voice tell you to put that damn laptop away. She helps me remember that life comes first.
Physical fitness is a secret weapon for a fiction writer. My longest writing sessions and some of my best ideas came after a really traumatic, weight-filled workout. If you’re a writer that thinks better during or after a walk, kick it up to a run, a few sprints, a few Olympic lifts. Your body and mind will thank you.
You get to ask cool questions and do cool stuff in the name of “research.” No one says no to anything if they think it’ll make it into a book.
You can connect with readers, but you can’t make your non-reading friends into readers. This one is self-evident. I don’t need to name names here, but I can think of one dude that had an ARC of my book and now, over a year later, I think his family has read it and he still hasn’t. I haven’t found that magical power that makes non-readers into readers quite yet.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Restaurant: Impossible is a cable television show about professional chef (and also, professional black shirt wearer) Robert Irvine, who takes abysmal, failing restaurants that exist in every city (come on, you know that one place in town, right?), makes over the menu, chews out the staff, guts the whole damn place, and reopens it, “saved,” to a packed house that adores the new décor and the revamped menu.
There are too many good things about this show to list, chief among them, the chef himself, Robert Irvine. When I think of black shirt wearing, British TV personalities known for their sharp tongues and basic ability to not suffer fools or tolerate bullshit, I am not alone in thinking of Simon Cowell. Well take Simon Cowell, put him on an extremely demanding weightlifting program, teach him how to cook, and shape a whole show around him. RI is sort of like that.
The show opens with what can only be described as a “barely above the quality of claymation” green screen depiction of Irvine crossing his arms and walking about while a black car and sparks are generated at cartoonish levels (spies and Mission Impossible, get it?).
And then one of the best and perhaps least known quarter hours of television unfolds upon us, as Irvine surveys the current condition of the restaurant. There will be blood.
|The only time I've seen him wearing not black.|
In the episode I’m randomly recapping, Irvine describes a stumpy-looking owner who has a “Country Fare” restaurant that is completely failing. The owner is 520k in debt, has no formal training as a chef or manager, and has generated one profitable month in the restaurant’s 5.5 year existence. This is akin to me opening a rocket science and cold fusion combo business tomorrow. I don’t know what it is about the food industry, but everyone thinks they can do it, and they usually go broke trying. Imagine “that place” again in your hometown (again, seriously, you know the one). How many times has it reopened under another name? How many owners fail and sell to a new owner that DEFFINITELY thinks if they just served, say, Mexican fare instead, it would be a smashing success? “The bottom line is, I don’t make good decisions,” says the owner, in a sort of understatement.
Observation: “Country Fare,” as a name, offers us insight into the creativity and “sizzle factor” that this particular owner can generate. I believe he chose this name over the others on his short list, including “Use Forks and Spoons to Eat” and “Menu of Things to Order.”
And just to note, I believe you have to sell a hell of a lot of hash browns to earn back 520k.
But our black clad hero rides to the rescue, but he enters through the kitchen, offering the beginning of what I call the “restaurant patron fantasy.” We have all had bad experiences at eating establishments, right? Bad service, bad food, rude employees, a hair in your taco, things of that nature. I don’t think a lot of us say much, we just bury it deep inside where our darkest pain resides, and decide to never eat there again.
Through Irvine, we fulfill the fantasy of stalking the restaurant, pointing out all the crap that’s wrong, and yelling at people about it. Maybe yelling isn’t the right word; he’s stern as hell, but you never get the feeling he’s trying to lambast anyone for drama’s sake. It’s a genuine frustration. The man truly expects more from these people. It’s sort of breathtaking.
In this episode, he enters through the kitchen and utters some combo of the following: “Yuck, dirt, flies, disgusting, smell, not hygienic, dirt, failure, abysmal, disgusting (again).” Talks to the owner: “Mess hall, cluster of crap, bland, dingy, yuck (again), drab.”
Now, onto his sampling of the menu. Something about hearing a guy order almost everything off the menu as a waitress scrawls it down is strangely entertaining. The funny thing is, the built-like-stone Irvine could eat it all. He interviews customers about the food as he waits. Customers (why are they there?) hate the food. He regards the food on his table. Sighs. Samples it all.
Here we have a professional chef eating “Pigs in a Blanket” and that itself is simply worth your time. The biscuits have the flavor and hardness of urinal pucks, if I am to believe the look on his face. As he samples the fried baloney (I refuse to spell it with a G) he simply . . . I don’t know . . . reacts. It looks like he’s having a stroke. On to the “Breakfast in a Cup.” (Interpolation: If this owner somehow originated the idea of putting as many disgusting foods as possible in one container, he could probably earn his money back by suing KFC since they stole his idea with their “famous bowls.”) Irvine tastes what appears to be a mixture of eggs, ham, and some sort of gravy-like product. I don’t know, it’s white, it looks like it wants to be gravy some day. He spits in the napkin. Now, this is television. You’re probably thinking, “He’s just being dramatic.” Look, I fucking believe this guy right now. He should simply walk out. He should say, “Yes, this is impossible” and get on with his life. That he is volunteering to spend 2 days dealing with this shit, he should get a medal. I’m completely serious.
Completely awesome bonus moment: Irvine forces the owner to taste the breakfast in a cup. Irvine says it’s almost pure salt. The owner takes a greedy bite, says that he tastes sausage gravy, sausage, and ham. Irvine mentions the salt. “My sense of smell and taste were completely destroyed in an oil fire,” is the owner’s response. It’s a sad moment, in a way, since he is a former Marine. But, I have to get this straight: they were destroyed just enough for you to taste the sausage and the gravy and the ham, but not the salt? Selective destruction? I’m sure there is a scientific reason for this. I’m not looking it up. And just to note, yes, a guy with no restaurant experience, no tastebuds, and no sense of smell decided to get into the business of selling people superior food. Okay then. Moving on.
Now comes the impossible part, the rebuild of the restaurant. Having seen this show at least twice before, I’m absolutely sure this “impossible” mission is truly mission “one hundred percent happening.” How much drama can they plug into this show when we know the ending? Well for one, the impossible is sort of a voluntary impossible, since the 2 day deadline is self-imposed to create drama. They schedule a “grand reopening” and work to meet the deadline. The budget is similarly constrained, capped at ten grand. If our owner could somehow borrow 520k, I’m pretty sure he could come up with an extra two grand if it came to that, right? Not on this show. Irvine treats that budget like a mom from one of those couponing shows.
We get a half hour of our black-clad hero stalking about, instilling a sense of motivational panic in his designer, his home improvement expert, and the restaurant staff. At no point does he sound forced. Either he’s the world’s best actor or the guy literally gives the ultimate shit about the places he’s trying to save.
Highlight: When Irvine shows the overmatched kitchen staff how to cook some new menu items. I imagine if I shot around with Michael Jordan, it would be sort of like this, only with cooking. The look in the kitchen staff’s face says, “How in the hell am I supposed to make this when you’re gone?” Our “breakfast in a can” crew is now staring at him as he makes bananas foster French toast at blinding speed with precision skill. I want to eat my TV at this point. He shows them how to cook a hamburger and how to bake an apple pie. Like anyone who’s the best at what they do, they make the difficult look easy and the easy look impressive. It’s not watching a pro cook a few basics that’s engrossing, it’s watching someone who will literally go broke if they don’t learn to cook watching a pro cook that’s engrossing. When they taste it, their face says “Oh my God this is actual food, now I remember.”
He forces them to call him “Chef,” as if it’s a military rank. In the culinary industry, I think it is. I hope so. The cries of “Yes, Chef!” bring a smile to my face.
Day 2 unfolds. He arrives in the morning, and it must be cold because instead of a black polo shirt he’s wearing a black fleece. This guy is taking the Johnny Cash dress code to the next level.
Of course everything is behind schedule. Of course things aren’t going right with the remodel. Of course we are shown how the kitchen staff completely fails at recreating his menu items as he cries out “This is garbage, do it again!” Yes, Chef. Of course there’s no way they’re going to be ready for the grand reopening. I wonder, will they somehow pull it all together at the last minute and save the place? Does a bear shit in the woods?
He explains the concept of a taster. Since the owner isn’t exactly good to go in that department, he tests the kitchen staff to see who has the best palette. He gives them a vinegarette. What do they taste? “Vinegar.” Brilliant. Shockingly, the gal who runs the kitchen is an idiot savant at food tasting. She picks up capers at one point. I’m not sure I could identify a caper if you gave me capers to eat and told me they were capers.
Robert’s big marketing hook is to implement a pie eating contest for the restaurant. Eat the whole pie in 5 minutes, get your name on a wall. Can’t eat it? Pay for the whole thing. He calls it a win-win. I agree, since I’d be eating pie either way. Say what you will about snooty cooks from Britain, they know how to appeal to middle America.
By some miracle of television editing, the diner goes from 30 percent complete to 100 percent perfect within minutes of the opening.
The owners are literally blown away by the remodel. You can tell when someone’s shitting you, and they’re not. Just like the staff was blown away by real food, this guy’s shocked that his diner now looks like an actual diner.
The line is out the door. Something tells me this is less about the Country Fare reopening and more about the fact that Irvine is inside and they might get on television.
Do I really have to mention that everyone loves the remodel, loves the food, would come here again, et al?
But what happens after Irvine leaves the restaurant in the owner’s hands again? A white-lettered crawl updates us. County Fare is still open and is moving in a positive direction, a footnote happy ending that is about as vague as you can get. I should call Country Fare right now and ask for Breakfast in a Can, just to see if they bite.
The bottom line is, America is addicted to reality television, most of which isn’t real. Chef Robert Irvine is about the most genuine reality TV star you’re ever going to encounter, and in today’s cultural landscape, that means something.