Sarah Anne Lloyd, 2011.Holding my metaphorical nose through the bottom of the reality-TV season before next week’s Sons of Anarchy premiere starts a long chain of new fall offerings, this week’s TV Dinner takes a look at Discovery Channel’s Man, Woman, Wild, which starts its second season this Friday. For this grownup Blue Lagoon, I packed a dinner from the take-out offerings of the Pike Place Chowder that’s semi-bafflingly located in Pacific Place.The Cuisine: Pike Place Chowder started out a rather easy-to-miss Post Alley detour from the titular market. It might’ve been tucked away, but its wide-open setup and sparse seating made eating a hot bowl of chowder standing up not only an unirritating experience, but one quintessentially Seattle. In fact, one of my most vivid Market memories is looking out onto a rainy Post Alley and enjoying a hot bowl of PPC’s soup. When I heard they had installed a second location in Pacific Place, I was skeptical they’d ever recapture the magic.
The place-friendly brand came to the upscale shopping center’s limited-seating restaurants that straddle the line between fast food and square meal–dutifully replacing Tacone’s “disappointment with a Southwestern flair” when it came to the quickest sustenance you could score before catching a flick at AMC Pacific Place 11. While the Post Alley location still retains the spunky, roughshod appearance that reflects the food’s industrious local roots, the second PPC location adapts the rigorous Pacific Place dress code almost as naturally as a Brookstone or a Williams Sonoma.
Thankfully, the food itself hasn’t changed. Pike Place’s cod is pretty much as bland as fish can get, but the blow is softened by flavorsome, decadently yielding fries and tartar sauce that adds more to the batter than a truckload of calories. Of course, the obvious headliner is the white clam chowder, a tangy kick of a soup with sublime consistency speckled with chunks of clam that had more bite than chew. The decor still didn’t evoke much besides “This is a restaurant that would pass a health inspection,” but for the purposes of this article, it made a great take-home meal.The Entertainment: When it comes to the lucrative world of survival-based entertainment (that, as of 2011, still has nothing to do with The Running Man), content has been far from sparse. While Discovery Channel had a big hit with dreamy rodent-eater Bear Grylls and Man vs. Wild, they must’ve sensed the market getting a little hostile with Survivorman, Apocalypse Man, and the UK’s Survival with Ray Mears all encroaching on Grylls’ piss-drinking sangfroid.
Pretty soon, Discovery must’ve realized that audiences might have been getting a little tired of the “man who doesn’t die” phenomenon, and were now looking for a new, cutting-edge development that would change the way we looked at haggard people building fires and ramshackle rain shelters forever: Enter Woman.
Discovery Channel’s Man, Woman, Wild features not only a truly daring lack of conjunctions in its title, but also a spry, adventuresome married couple in Mykel and Ruth Hawke. The Hawkes make a living mucking around in a wealth of new, deadly positions that your couch-bound mass will probably never find yourself facing. Granted, it’s mostly the same deadly positions that survival-reality fans have been accustomed to (jungle, desert, remote island, remote desert island with a jungle in the middle), but now you get to vicariously experience what all these living hells are like with a second belly to feed with snake guts and sterile urine.
Or so you would think. There are some awkward moments where Ruth plays at the stereotypical female counterpart a little too well, expressing just a little too much sympathy towards a cute turtle for someone who is supposedly starving to death in a mercilessly humid jungle. But in the end, the couple’s levity and good-spirited gender-war barbs mostly edge a little too close to Romancing the Stone territory, reinforcing the fact that both of our adventurers are travelling with a pretty infallible safety net.
All in all, even compared to the sometimes comically exaggerated perils of Man vs. Wild, Man, Woman, Wild just has a playfulness to it that undermines the sense of danger the show’s production end so desperately tries to hammer home. What seemed at first to be a novel twist on the survivalist-reality genre, going into detail about how a partner can drastically change the nature of already severe situations, ends up feeling more like Mykel and Ruth trading witty banter and spitting out neat nature factoids throughout their badass vacations. That’d be perfect, I suppose, if it weren’t for the manic documentary team following them around with histrionic tribal drums that go off at the first hint of theoretical danger. That being said, Mykel and Ruth are both undeniably charming and sharp. Even if you don’t buy into the narrative behind all the show’s bells-and-whistles, the show is a fun ride with dominant personalities that’ll probably teach you a thing or two. Also, don’t get me wrong, the show does go to lengths to highlight situations that would probably leave me an anxious, crying wreck–it’s just that the drama doesn’t quite translate through the sass. Regardless, if you’re into this sort of thing and the end of Dual Survival has you on the precipice, the second season of Mykel and Ruth’s Wild Animal Eating Celebration will begin with them sailing into the Bermuda Triangle to give Mykel an emergency enema. Because that’s just how they do things in the Bermuda Triangle.The Pairing: While both properties aren’t exactly at the pinnacle of authenticity (or originality), gunning after either of them for not living up to shallow expectations might be missing the point. Pike Place Chowder may seem a little too tidy and corporate for those who were sweet on the Post Alley gem’s obviously local mess, but the fresh ingredients that endeared so many to the original didn’t go anywhere. Man, Woman, Wild may not be an accurate portrayal of two people battling out of the brink of death, but the informational and scenic side of the program should hopefully assuage any lingering bloodlust. Past the hype and the deceptive sheen, there’s some pretty respectable sustenance to be found in both of this week’s features.Follow Voracious on Twitter and Facebook.