The Quarantine Stream: 'Somebody Feed Phil' Offers a Hammy But Delightful Escape from Home
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Somebody Feed Phil
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: Phil Rosenthal is best known for creating the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, but thanks to this series, he’s become known for traveling the globe, sampling some of the best food that the world has to offer with a big smile on is face and some hokey jokes in his back pocket, all with the energy of a delightfully charming goober.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Honestly, I’m not sure that “essential viewing” is the best way to describe Somebody Feed Phil. If anything, while we’re still stuck at home and wishing we could take vacations, this is just a nice escape from what our lives have become in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. Phil Rosenthal doesn’t have the same wealth of knowledge of culture and cuisine as food/travel hosts like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, but Rosenthal’s everyman persona and generally goofy demeanor is what makes the show that much more accessible and easy to watch while putting together a puzzle, building a LEGO set or whatever it is you’re doing to pass the time.
Somebody Feed Phil actually started out as a series called I’ll Have What Phil Is Having on PBS. It only lasted a season over there, but Netflix picked it up and retooled it a bit to give us this new series. It’s an amusing, hunger-inducing journey around the world, from the big American cities of New York, Chicago and New Orleans, all the way to international hubs like London, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Seoul, and more.
In each episode, Rosenthal hops around to a variety of different restaurants ranging from local haunts that only longtime residents know about to high-class, modern and artistic takes on favorites. Meats, vegetables, spirits, ice cream, and so much more bring pure joy to Rosenthal’s face. Though he may not offer much insight into flavor profiles or thoughtful commentary, you’ve never seen a man so excited about food, and often in the goofiest way possible. His bright blue eyes light up, and the biggest smile shoots across his face. Sometimes he even does a little wacky jig because he’s enjoying it so much. Though it might seem like Rosenthal is hamming it up for his TV show, he’s so earnest and silly that I have no problem believing that this is his persona when he’s not in front of a camera.
Between his meals and snacks, he also stops by various landmarks, though not the most obvious places you’d expect. These sequences might be a little trying for someone who might be embarrassed or frustrating by an American guy wandering through places he doesn’t know much about. But Phil is by no means disrespectful in his ignorance, and he’s very happy to learn about new customs, cultures, and more. That’s what I love about watching Phil’s travels. From watching him, you’d never know he created one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. He’s just a playful, effortlessly affable, hilariously Jewish man who could easily be the zany father that one of your friends has, and he’s just happy to be here.
Oh, and at the end of every episode, Phil checks in with his elderly parents for a video chat, and you’ll quickly see how his family informed much of the comedy injected into Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s a nice touch that adds to the overall amusement the show brings with the beautiful sights and delicious eats.
But even if you’re not overly amused by Phil Rosenthal as a host, you will find great joy and appetite in the food on display in every episode. Take notes, so that whenever we’re able to safely take vacations again, you’ve got a list of some good places to try out.
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