Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
While this column has gingerly pointed at the summer television drought on a few occasions now, the coming weeks of August in particular can only be described as a barren wasteland of reality TV and uninspired procedurals as we await the inevitable September banquet of quality premieres. In preparation for what is sure to be a lot of revisiting of quality on-demand programming (and the horrible time I'm about to endure while catching up on Entourage), this week's TV Dinner will feature two seemingly omnipresent, if underwhelming, items of interest: Romio's Pizza and Pasta, via its sumptuously greasy Buffalo wings and Hawaiian pizza, and Adam Carolla, through The Car Show on Speed Television.The Cuisine: With a pretty lackluster red sauce and a famousness for inconsistency, Romio's may not top anyone's list for Best Pizza Ever, but with locations spread all over the Greater Seattle area, an impressive gluten-free menu, and liberal delivery hours, the restaurant is at least in the running for the most accessible local pizza franchise in the city. If you need any more proof of their (albeit unorthodox) vigilance to reach out to their community, just check out their Eastlake location's Yelp page -- their owner has painstakingly replied to almost every review.
I got the "Samos" style pie, because apparently Samos is Greek for Canadian bacon and pineapple, the ultimate weapon of futzy eaters against pizza purists, who have probably already have turned their nose tilted up towards Romio's at a full right angle by now. It was a stout, cheesy mess of a pie that had a comfortable chew to it aided by the pizzeria's pillowy dough -- not exactly a faithful Neapolitan experience, but definitely a comfortable one.
That comfort extended itself naturally to Romio's buffalo wings, which most branches practically give away with their large pizzas if you spend the tiniest glimmer of effort searching for a coupon. Although their hot wings are tangy and totally inoffensive, I've always preferred Romio's smoky barbecue flavor, especially now that they're practically lathered in sauce. Romio's does big and tantalizingly unhealthy quite well, which is key to satisfying exhausted group all-nighters who can barely lift a fork, let alone savor a complex dish.
The Entertainment: Adam Carolla might have not sealed his place in mainstream American pop culture yet, but that's certainly not from lack of trying. Not to mention Carolla's successful run in talk radio, the renaissance everyman has been featured prominently in a series of popular podcasts, a totally competent feature-length film and an armload of . . . variably successful television shows. Carolla's latest TV outing was going to be on the aforementioned American version of smash hit UK series Top Gear, but when NBC dropped the project to The History Channel's delight, Adam Ferrara apparently made a suitably blander Italian-American goofball substitute.
This lead to the more generic, but at least slightly less derivative Car Show. Not only drawing inevitable comparisons to Top Gear, The Car Show's factory standard title and oft-cancelled leading funnyman practically begs a parallel with Norm Macdonald's now-defunct Sports Show. Even without similar themes, I wasn't surprised at all to hear that Carolla had actually served as an executive producer for the ill-fated Comedy Central show. However, unlike Macdonald's mostly comic foray into sports, Carolla's Car Show has a much more rigorous focus on its subject matter (even one segment of the show, a crossfire panel with an itemized list of topics, managed to look more like a modern sports show than Norm's).
While Sports Show really didn't require any prior knowledge of sports besides which athletes had recently gone to prison or married an ugly person, Car Show jumps right into the guts of issues that might be a little too advanced for audiences stuck in Car Talk 101. This would appear to stymie crossover appeal for audiences just looking for another outlet for Carolla to rant about left turns and strip-club DJs, but as an avid moron towards anything automotive, it was a little exciting to take Car Show as a crash course (*shakes head solemnly*) in all things under the hood.
Car Show, whether it be for their target audience or simply a lack of budget (which is played up to comedic effect by Carolla, although it's hard to tell where the joke ends and the austerity begins), has so far refused to follow Top Gear's frequent emphasis on ruthlessly expensive prototypes in favor of more affordable, reliable sport vehicles and all the messy, proletariat fun to be had with them. I might be exaggerating this pattern due to a lack of available episodes, but the focus on more popular vehicles set well with the amicable nature of Carolla's well-varied panel of experts (and John Salley). Car Show is above all unpretentious, and when something entertaining comes along that can shine a light on a frighteningly complicated area of expertise without alienating neophytes, that's worth paying attention to.
If there's one big complaint I have with The Car Show, it's that it kind of creeps me out to see the ever-casual Carolla polished and postured up to look just a little too much like what I can only describe as an American Jeremy Clarkson. It's too early to tell if some of the host's delivery was hindered by the sharper look or if that stiffness was just a result of the feeling out process of the show's first few episodes, but I certainly hope this show doesn't make any grievous errors in pursuing its forefather too closely.
The Verdict: My lack of knowledge of cars aside, I can certainly think of worse "Adam Carolla joints" to bet on having a healthy, meaningful run (*cough*). If there was one thing to like about Carolla's most famous endeavors in Loveline or The Man Show, it was the rapport he built with the other regulars and the loose, dynamic atmosphere that manifested as a result. It might be awhile before we see the same kind of hilarious, provocative fruit he yielded with Dr. Drew Pinsky or Jimmy Kimmel, but it certainly seems as if all the ingredients are in place.
Meanwhile, Romio's provides plenty of greasy, generous portions that make for a great late night option when you just don't have the time or energy to cook for large, picky groups. Details like the extended gluten-free menu and free delivery show that the plucky pizza franchise strives to provide something for nearly everyone, regardless of their diet or locale.