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Sep 23, 2003 07:49 AM

Phantom Gourmet and TV Diner

  • j

Did anyone else watch the "debuts" of these shows this weekend? First was the new TV Diner on NECN at 10AM Sat. with Billy Costa. They were dragging in celebrities to wish him luck: Ming, the Upstairs people, Walter McCarty from the Celtics, etc. Pretty pointless. The theme was something like new hot spots. Seems like they only got to three places, Excelsior, Elements and I can't remember where else. Rating system is 1-5 plates with platinum (I think) being the best and the worst is whatever color and "needs work", so not too critical. Did some interviews including the Bambara chef. Made a comment about how they won't be doing anything with fast food. The one real twist is that a chosen TV Diner will go out to dinner on them to review a place, report back, get another gift certificate that's matched with an email viewer. I'll hop on that. This repeats at 8PM Sun. as Phantom did in the past.

The new Phantom came on at 11AM Sat. on Ch. 38, not sure if it repeats. The theme that day was pizza. New host Dave Robicheau seems like a nice guy but isn't too exciting. The interviews were way too long and they're definitely still dealing with things like best frozen pizza in the "Top of the Food Chain" segment. Then it seemed silly cuz for the "Great 8", instead of doing the best pizza places, they made it Italian in general. Why, when there are enough places in Boston never mind places like Sally's and Flatbread Pizza that they could have easily made a list of 8. You'd think mentioning places like Tuscan Grill and No. 9 Park (?) would be for a completely different show. I'll still watch both cuz I'm obsessed like that, but neither is as good as it could be IMHO (I say as I scratch my mosquito bites from White Farms Ice Cream stand).

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  1. I caught TVDiner, and I think it has some kinks to work out, but has a lot of potential. They seem to be truly interested in feedback from viewers too. Definitely worth following.
    I've grown really tired of the Andelmans' schtick, so I don't watch PG anymore. Just too much pandering to their advertisers and too many inane comments from brothers Dan and Dave.

    1. g

      The third reviewed restaurant was Great Bay.

      I really liked the fact that the TV Diner reviews were able to be critical, even if the overall review of a place was positive. It shows that they aren't sucking up to the celeb chefs and advertisers a la Phantom Gourmet. I also like the (so far at least) Boston-centric focus of the restaurants mentioned, rather than spreading all over New England like Phantom. Overall, I was impressed with Costas and his show.

      Even though their new host is comatose and the restaurant reviews are suspect, I'll continue to watch Phantom Gourmet too. There is some entertainment value, they often have guests (like Michael Schlow, Chris Schlesinger and Jasper White) who are worth listening to, and the 5 second snippets of food on plates can at times be very informative.

      13 Replies
      1. re: GaryLovesFood

        I feel like they are all getting kickbacks everytime they love a place. Maybe they aren't....but it kind of feels that way.

        1. re: umami76

          I agree - I also get the feeling that they get kickbacks of some form, especially since they delete many negative reivews that folks put on their "forum".

          1. re: Delhiwala

            Why would you need kickbacks when you are getting paid in the first place?
            I am reasonably sure PG gives placement and positive reviews for advertisers. TV Diner not so much.

            1. re: AHan

              Well, as long as this thread has been dusted off and resuscitated, let me dust off another, specifically relating to this:


              1. re: finlero

                In retrospect, I now wish I'd spent fewer hours of my life dissecting the pros and cons of the Phantom Gourmet.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  That's probably some lucid hindsight on your part, but that thread was a hell of a lot more entertaining (never mind informative) than the actual show.

                  1. re: finlero

                    Looking back on that way-too-long thread, I think what got me going is my sense that dishonest critics reflect badly on honest ones: if one guy is whoring it out, it casts suspicion on everyone who writes or broadcasts about food semi-professionally.

                    I don't mind someone who takes a lowbrow approach to food writing, or fills a reviewing niche like casual-dining chains that I don't want to touch. It's the pretending to care and pretending to be unbiased, and actually conning some people into buying this micron-thin veneer of probity, that galls me.

                    Watch Phantom for the entertainment value, by all means, but please don't mistake it for actual reviewing.

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Can't believe you folks dedicate as much psychic energy, text and effort to PG. I've got no respect for the dufus whatsoever; he is what he is.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        I truly think people should just take Phantom Gourmet at face value. It's entertainment, and it makes you hungry watching it. Well, at least it does make me hungry watching it at 10 am on a Saturday when I've been out to 2 am the night before :) It gives me a few suggestions for some places I might normally not be aware of, but I don't for a second think that's its going to be a real gourmet, foodie type experience. It's something to watch. That's it. If you don't like it, don't watch it.

                        1. re: massgirl

                          (I don't watch the Phantom Gourmet anymore: I find Dave Andelman's overly-modulated, budget-broadcast-school narrator voice too grating to bear.)

                          I'm sort of running out of give-a-damn on this subject, but much of the extended thread that finlero cited above discussed this notion that it's not just entertainment to a lot of viewers: they treat it as a review show.

                          Watching it, you can't really tell which segments are proper reviews and which are bought and paid for. The crux of my problem is this unethical blending of paid-for and ostensibly unbiased content. You can take the show at face value, but you really shouldn't.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            The way I understand it, from a (reliable) source inside the organization: "Restaurant Report Cards" are legit, with an unsteered reviewer (though, thanks to the scoring system, big portions and good value get factored in significantly to the overall score, as much as, say, appetizers).

                            The rest of the segments are decided topically (we're doing a BBQ show; we're doing a Comfort Food show, etc.), with preference given to sponsors and advertisers, as well as newbies (to encourage future advertisers), but not direct pay-for-play.

                            Agree that it muddies the waters, but they seem to be consistent with these divisions. Which the average viewer wouldn't know.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              A lot of people think professional wrestling is a sport and that the Jerry Springer show is real people sharing about their actual lives with no premeditated "script" too.

                            2. re: massgirl

                              I couldn't agree more. I often watch it on weekend mornings, usually when I'm a tad hungover and loving the 'food porn' angle. I don't take their reviews seriously in any shape/way/form, but I watch it regularly.

            2. I too was glad to hear Billy Costa say "we won't be doing fast food on this show!", but oddly, the very next segment on the show was announced by a title shot proclaiming "Sponsored by Papa Gino's!". Made me doubt him.

              1. Nice bump! For a minute, I thought that Joanie had gone kooky by talking about two "new" shows that have been around for 5 years now. ;-)

                2 Replies
                1. re: hiddenboston

                  I was wondering what the heck was going on too. It's been a long time since "Robey" was the host of PG. On a recent note, did anyone watch TD when Billy Costa was at Patriot Place and kept getting the name wrong. Doing MC's favorite thing and adding a 's onto Patriot for most of the show.

                  1. re: Joanie

                    Billy Costa should know better than that. Everone knows that the apostrophe goes after the "s." ;-b