Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.
This week, TV Dinner chose to take refuge from the frozen hell of summer television schedules in the spasmodically flaunted innards of Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior--armed only with a daunting stack of meat, bread, and crinkle-cut fries from SoDo's Burger Madness. Which one serves self-indulgent messes of wildly clashing constituents and bland, trivial filler and which one serves hamburgers?
The Cuisine: Burger Madness is the small but ambitious burger stand that stays true to the "more is more" mentality perfected by franchises like Fatburger, while still leaving room for fresh ingredients, creative flourishes, and $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbons.While the Madness's focus is obvious, the burger joint keeps a wide menu with plenty of competent choices, like their sublimely creamy milkshakes. I haven't heard many good things about their skimpy chicken strips or bland buffalo wings, but on the other hand, Madness keeps a Jack Daniels-flavored BBQ sauce that packs a punch so potent I'm not entirely sure I can recommend eating it before the drive home.
The title of most notorious menu item, tackled here by the fearless Mike Seely, has to go to the dreadfully variable "stack 'em high" burger, which can include up to 12 beef patties. However, not content with massive quantities of beef and dairy, Madness also offers a variety of less conventional add-ons such as avocados, pineapple slices, grilled onions, grilled jalapenos, and even a signature "Madness" beef patty stuffed with cheese and onions.
I went the Double (because DEADLIEST!) Calorie Buster, which took the standard pile of meat stacked with American and Swiss cheese, then went full-on interspecies with a layer of ham and strips of smoked bacon, only to top it all with a fried egg. I'm going to be honest: It's really hard to explain exactly what happened to my tastebuds through all the agony, ecstasy, and humiliation--besides to say it felt like the meat-eating equivalent of licking a battery. It felt like licking the world's most delicious battery.
I did have a harrowing moment where I felt a bite of Buster go down for just a little too long, but I'll chalk that one up to not being objective.
The Entertainment: Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior is a documentary entertainment show dedicated to studying armies, assassins, and other (para)military figures throughout the world's history, all for the noblest of purposes: seeing who would kick who's ass. So if you couldn't gather from the very premise, Deadliest is a pretty inherently divisive program. Some think that pitting the stats of the world's most talented people-killers against each other is just engaging in self-indulgent historical dick-measuring at the expense of decorum and respect for the lives lost in brutal wars or terrorist attacks. Others think that those people are sissies, and that Deadliest Warrior is awesome, because we would otherwise never know who win in a fight between a ninja and an IRA carbomber (hint: It's the IRA, but only if the ninja is driving a car).
As the well full of history's greatest hitters and stabbers grew dry, Deadliest Warrior moved on from the simple "badass group of soldiers vs. different badass group of soldiers" model to actually pitting individual historical figures against each other, based on numbers and stuff. For example, this season pit William the Conqueror against Joan of Arc, for anyone who was ever interested in who would come out on top in a physical altercation between the Battle of Hastings' ruthless victor and a 17-year-old French girl.
The competition is made a bit more even when both historical figures have four of their best-armed bros time-warped in with them, but sort of tips back on its ass when you realize the French have about 300 years of technological progression on their side. To be fair, Deadliest Warrior tries to go beyond brute strength and technological advantages by calculating psychological "x-factors" that may turn the tide of the imaginary battle. For example, according to the show's expert opinion, Joan of Arc has an "Intuition" score of 84, which is higher than William the Conqueror's pitiful 80. I don't exactly know how that figures into a battle simulation, but if I know my video games, it means that Joan of Arc is better at casting magic spells.
Courting godhonest integrity, Deadliest likes to take any opportunity it can to lodge a bullet or a battleaxe into a ballistics dummy. However, it's really hard to take their "controlled experiments" as much more than an excuse to beat or shoot the crap out of gel-filled mannequins with all the badass weapons their budget would allow, because the newer-ranged weapon or armor is almost always going to be the obviously superior one.
Granted, these extended test sequences allow the show's panel of experts to cram in some intriguing tidbits of science and history amongst all the uninspired re-enactments and explosions, but since the show ALSO tries to get you invested in those excitable, giggling personalities as they blow stuff up, the entire presentation just becomes a hopelessly stretched-out mess.
One of this season's brand new experts is a computer-game designer and its prized new technology is basically just a yet-to-be released military simulator program, which is a pretty dead-on allegory for the most flat, disappointing elements of the show. After all, what you could possibly gain from this massively disorganized experience that isn't better served by just getting wasted, playing Civilization, and watching a handful of brain-dead historical action movies on mute?
The Pairing: Burger Madness is a fairly incomparable place when it comes to Seattle burger joints, but it mostly resembles what would happen if encouragingly gluttonous create-a-burger franchises like Fatburger and In-and-Out came upon the same offbeat experimentation of The Lunchbox Laboratory. The Calorie Buster is so over-the-top that you'll probably feel your heart thickening mid-chew, but fresh ingredients and a hearty bun keeps the insanity in manageable, decadent bites.
Meanwhile, while Deadliest Warrior seeks a gratifying end to those rousing bar hypotheticals about whether or not Confucius could beat Aristotle in a game of Street Fighter, it really just shows that your speculation is much better off in wine and with friends, at least for entertainment's sake. Military buffs can probably find something less incoherent. Action buffs can probably find something less boring.