Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Emeril Lagasse Eats Babies For Breakfast

From the New York Times:

By Alessandra Stanley

An alien has invaded Planet Green (What?  Ooohh, that dippy environmental channel that only four people, including me, get.  I swear Discovery is going to soon create a channel for insane dog owners who want to clone their dead pet.).

In a wispy utopia of bamboo cotton, home wind turbines and vegan celebrities (Who the fuck's utopia is that?  Mine involves an endless supply of dirty Reuben love.), there is one kitchen voluptuary who seems intent on subverting this environmental cable channel’s less-is-more ethos (How dare he?  Prick.  And who exactly is flying in the face of such wonderful wonderfulness and how is he doing so?  Please tell me cuz I'm DYYYYYING to know.).

Emeril Lagasse (Him?  Didn't his relevance leaves this realm about ten years ago?) cannot put away the butter. Or the cream, crème fraîche, white flour, olive oil, fried batters, béchamel, roux, mayonnaise and fatty beef. (Put all that stuff together and you got yourself a stew goin'.)“Emeril Green” on Planet Green, a new offering by the Discovery Networks, is supposed to promote easy, healthy ways to prepare nutritious, eco-friendly dishes. As he strolls the aisles of a Whole Foods Market, Mr. Lagasse mainly points out organic foods while waving a green felt-tip pen. (I smell a food Nazi writer!  Once, when driving home from Colorado, I was listening to a woman nutritionist scream at another nutritionist on the radio because he dared say that drinking 2% milk was okay for a healthy diet.  She couldn't believe he was endorsing such poison and yammered on about how skim milk is the only milk that wasn't poison and promptly hung up.  I'm thinking it's the same person.)

Recent recipes have included chocolate soufflé (cage-free eggs) (Hah!) and fried, breaded eggplant (Ooh!) topped by a white shrimp-crab béchamel sauce. (Ahh!  Topped?) The diet lentil salad he prepared for a woman trying to maintain her 130-pound weight loss came topped with a fried egg. (Or, in another language, mustard gas!) Layering organic tomato, lettuce and avocado on a hamburger — on a brioche bun — for a picky teenager, Mr. Lagasse, the Louisiana-trained chef, implored her to let him add mayonnaise. (Child killer!)

“How about just a little bit?” he urged. “Because it’s homemade.”  (That fucker.  Why doesn't he just throw a puppy in the blender as well.)

Healthy, it seems, doesn’t have to be heart-healthy or even low in fat as long as it includes fresh greens.  (No.  A diet and sustaining the success of a diet means treating everything with moderation, you dip.) But on a channel that measures good citizenship by the carbon footprint, Mr. Lagasse leaves a huge caloric wake. (I blame gas prices on Mr. Lagasse.  And I have to start TiVoing this potential abortion.) He certainly stands out next to Planet Green’s lean-living, eco-minimalist hosts. (I think that's a fat joke and it's entirely uncalled for.) The actor-environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., who has his own show, “Living With Ed,” powers his toaster with a stationary bike (Well bully for him.). Yet in some ways, the Emeril presence is emblematic of the channel’s wide and at times inconsistent embrace: Planet Green tints home renovation shows, makeovers, car races and celebrity interviews in bright ecological green, but the color is dappled with incongruities, from an all-fats-allowed celebrity chef to advertisements that undermine the channel’s most heartfelt (?) messages. (I bet she wanted to be part of the launch of this channel and was roundly rejected.  Or some producer just broke up with her.  She'll show 'em.)

To conserve water and cut back on chemicals, viewers are urged to kick the lawn habit. Moments later a commercial for Patch Perfect, a grass seed fertilizer, pitches its lawn-repair product as “grass seed on steroids.” (What?  An upstart cable network with absolutely no viewers or bona-fide revenue streams couldn't turn down a grass seed commercial in the first two months of their existence?  Everyone should live with Ms. Stanley's superlatively high standards.  It's TV!  What rock or Berkeley enclave have you been living under?)  

And for a channel that prides itself on exposing what it calls “eco-crimes,” Planet Green at times provides remarkably credulous coverage.

“Hollywood Green,” hosted by an entertainment reporter, Maria Menounos, serves as a kind of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Responsible,” touring green Hollywood Hills mansions and beauty services. A recent segment celebrated a tanning salon with solar-powered tanning beds. The show reported glowingly on the establishment’s bamboo walls and air purifiers but didn’t point out that the solar-powered tanning beds still rely on carcinogenic UV rays to darken customers’ skin.  (Top four objectives of this channel:  Make money, make money, make money and hope to change a few stupid American habits along the way.  IN THAT ORDER!)

The channel’s tone is insistently light and sprightly, perhaps because environmental piety is one of the most reliable ways to turn away viewers.  (So she wants her TV to preach to her in haughty tones?  Isn't that what Current TV is for?) Preaching is limited (?) to pop-up eco-trivia: “a reusable mug saves approx 23 lbs of waste a year.” (Yep.  She does.)

Shows like “Renovation Nation” and “Greenovate” flatter viewers with you-can-do-it-too tips about compact fluorescent lightbulbs and urban compost heaps. The shows profile pioneers who build entire houses out of shipping crates or couples who restore old houses and fill the walls with soybean-based insulation.

Planet Green relishes detail, be it recycling methods, pollution counts or solar power engineering, but its corporate sponsors keep their messages opaque. A commercial for Dow Chemical shows a slow montage of art photography — doleful miners staring at the camera with blackened faces, a fish swimming in the ocean, tribesmen, a woman with a stroller — as a narrator solemnly intones, “Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen are the very same elements from which we are made, they are the bond between us all.” (I'm betting $29 that Ms. Stanley lives in a college town where changing the world is the topic she and her fellow 'writers' regularly discuss in scornful, humorless ways over tapas.)

The nonadvertising content is more prosaic. “Wasted!” rounds up suspects with especially wasteful habits and challenges them to reduce what the show calls their “eco-footprint.” A family living in a vast McMansion (a 9,000-square-foot living room) with five cars was asked to cut back on everything from gasoline (its consumption comes to about 218 gallons of crude oil a week) to paper towels and lighting. After three weeks even modest stinting helped, though the lady of the house drew the line at replacing flame-shaped light bulbs in her chandeliers with boxier energy-efficient ones. “They’re absolutely hideous,” she explained. (Maybe we should just kill 'em then.  Seems like the only logical conclusion to such waste.)

The channel mimics almost every cable conceit (There.  You said it.  Cable.  What's your expectations here?  Here's a little hint for ya.  Granola-types don't spend money!  Ergo, please draw me up a business model for the channel that would work in your eyes.  I'm waiting, you conceited, pie-in-the-sky nutjob.) ; last week it unveiled a reality competition, the eco-smack-down “Battleground Earth: Ludacris vs. Tommy Lee.” These two artists and their posses compete in 13 challenges, including collecting plastic bottles and disposal cups at a ballgame.

It’s easy — and fun — to snicker at the smug self-righteousness of young Hollywood, especially on “Alter Eco,” a show that encourages stars like Adrian Grenier and Leonardo DiCaprio to show off their eco-cool. The show’s regular hosts, Darren and Boise and Angela, swan around Southern California calling each other “dude” as they recycle, down-size and party in a Planet Green version of “The Hills.”

“Supper Club,” a health foodie version of “Dinner for Five,” caters to an older set. Tom Bergeron invites a celebrity chef to prepare a green meal for a small group of celebrities like Mariel Hemingway and Marilu Henner. The guests sip wine, eat and debate “sustainability,”(OOOOOHHHHH, that's TiVoed!  That might be the perfect example of Mundane Hour With Ed Mundane.) but there is usually at least one dissenter, like the comedian Martin Mull, who mocks or questions the dogma. (It's TiVoed.  I just did it.)

There isn’t a lot of scolding on this channel (She wants this.  She wants scolding.  Ms. Stanley, time to climb out of your stuffy little pretentious box you call a head and go meet some real people and find out how the world really works.), and purism is diluted by sunny chatter. A little like last year’s star-studded international music benefit, “Live Earth,” Planet Green figures that viewers will swallow their environmental medicine only if it comes coated in a bright, sugary syrup. (Well, it probably has about 18 viewers right now.  Make it a preach-a-thon and you'll have a six left.  Good solution.  I'm convinced.  You?)

Or a creamy béchamel sauce. (Witty.  I bet she had a smug look on her face when she typed that last period.  A smug look coupled with a slam down on the 'send' key.  She showed 'em.  Nobody calls her humorless and breaks up with her without SERIOUS repercussions.)

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