Imagine you’re in a grocery store and you’re in a real hurry. There are three hungry, demanding people waiting for dinner; you have 30 minutes to plan a menu, buy the ingredients, and make something edible. You’re really sweating here! Like, physically! You turn down the frozen aisle to cool off and look for a nice vegetable medley when some sunburned schmuck with frosted tips and a bracelet made out of guitar picks that are also covered in skulls (a real thing!) approaches you and is like, “Huh. So, you’re going with frozen vegetables instead of fresh.” Keep in mind that assault would ruin your chance at winning $20,000.
Therein lies the most entertaining thing about Food Network’s new Guy Fieri-hosted game show, Guy’s Grocery Games. (One contestant was waaaay too quick to point out that it can hereby be referred to as “Triple G,” much in the way Guy’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is incessantly referred to as “Triple D.”) Otherwise, this shit is just Chopped with a grocery store-size basket. And more sweat dripping all over the food.
When I first saw a commercial for Triple G—hey, if you can’t beat ’em—visions of Supermarket Sweep danced in my head. Sorely missed and entertaining in almost complete opposition to logic, Supermarket Sweep was a game show that quizzed teams of contestants on their knowledge of brand-name foods, then sent them sprinting through the aisles of a fake grocery store to spend as much money as they could (which led them, without fail, to diapers and turkeys).
It was a pleasing vicarious experience to watch someone on a grocery-shopping spree during the economic recession of the 90s, particularly because the contestants were average Joes and Janes: housewives, out-of-work everypeople. On Guy’s Grocery Games, the contestants are chefs. Four of them compete each week in a series of three challenges. In familiar style, the weakest competitor is eliminated after each round, leaving two to compete in the last of the three challenges, and one to compete in the final round for the chance to win $20,000. Oh, and instead of being “chopped,” the eliminated players “check out.” Great job, guys.
Each challenge sends the chefs scrambling through the store and then scrambling back to the kitchen area to cook a meal that suits the challenge in less than half an hour. Fieri is there to be annoying at every turn, whether he’s on the loudspeaker or accosting players in the aisles.
The fact that the game is played by chefs adds an unsavory aspect I don’t much care for: they’re looking for recognition, for validation, for fame. The first contestant booted from the show in episode one contorted her face horribly and explained what she was most upset about: “The world didn’t get to see what I have to offer.” What happened to the good ol’ days when we went on game shows strictly to make a bunch of money without having to work for it?