Review: "All You Can Eat"

The television program “All You Can Eat” airs on H2 at 10:00 PM on Sundays. An episode consists of basically three things: stand-up comic John Pinette talking about food, people in the food industry talking about food, and “Modern Marvels.” I’ll get to that third part in due course.

Pinette is basically the only I reason I tuned in to “All You Can Eat” in the first place. If you haven’t seen his act, you should; it’s hilarious. Here is a good place to start:

Now, go buy his stuff.

On “All You Can Eat,” Pinette is a fine presenter, and he gets to tell a few jokes (most of which I assume he wrote, although the show has no writing credits of any sort at the end), but this is a television show, not a stand-up act. And besides, while I might have tuned in only to see him perform in a new medium—although if Twitter is any indication, I’m not alone—I imagine most viewers are interested in the main content, which is the food.

So what happens is, Pinette takes a minute to introduce a food or topic, and then the show cuts to the meat of the content (pun not intended…I don’t think), in which his only involvement is an inset occasionally pops up, during which he mostly interjects a couple humorous words or makes some facial expressions. (The latter are particularly hilarious when a man attempting to create traditional Italian mozzarella cheese in the U.S. describes his, um, processes.) Mostly, however, you get someone in the food industry, usually but not always a restaurateur, who talks about their product, whether it’s macaroni and cheese pizza, goetta, over-sized gummy bears, or whatever.

There’s a definite emphasis on unusual foods and preparations (see: the over-sized gummy bears), which I guess is the quirk with which the producers are trying to make this show unique, as you can find countless shows about food on other channels and at more convenient times of the week. I assume. I haven’t checked myself. But heck, there’s an entire Food Network.

Sometimes another place you can find about about food is the History channel show “Modern Marvels,” which will occasionally have food-themed episodes. That doesn’t mean your food show on basically the same channel (H2 is to History channel as ESPN2 is to ESPN) should straight-up lift bits of it. Yet, that has happened twice in the first four episodes. You suddenly hear the “Modern Marvels” narrator explaining a food process. The first time this happened, in the second episode, I recognized the narrator’s voice and didn’t quite understand what was going on until someone tweeted about it.

I understand that you might not need to produce new content about the same topic for which decent content that you have the rights to already exists. However, it would be a lot less awkward and ham-handed to create new, independent content instead of desperately trying to fill 3-5 minutes of a half-hour program.

(I also think, but I’m not sure, that they interviewed the same person about his burritos on both the first and fourth episodes. Can anyone confirm this?)

The show’s flaws are mostly minor things like that—there is no real single deal-breaker—but they kind of add up. The first thing that immediately strikes you in the first minute of the first episode is the weak laugh track. There’s also a lack of focus at times. They barely cover something and then move onto another thing. I really felt this way during the initial episode, but it gets better.

Mostly, though, to me, it’s just kind of boring. I don’t find myself craving any of the featured foods or being particularly interested in giant hot dogs. But, if you just can’t possibly get enough food-related content on television, go ahead and try it.

If you’re a fan of John Pinette, you also might want to check it out. But, for me, he’s not enough to save the program, and he’s also sufficiently limited by the format that it’s more worth it just to catch his stand-up on DVD or Comedy Central if his act is all you are looking for.

I really wanted to like “All You Can Eat,” and I still kind of do. After four episodes, I definitely don’t hate it. I grade it a 6.5/10, since there is some good material here. I’m just not sure there’s enough to keep me watching next Sunday.