20 October 2003

I'm not sure if I've ever really discussed Unwrapped in this space before. I could try to describe it, but it's like the Matrix; not even the Food Network itself is quite up to the task:
Ever wondered where the tiny marshmallows in your breakfast cereal came from? Have we got a show for you! Each week, Unwrapped uncovers behind-the-scenes details on classic American food, from peanut butter and chocolate syrup to French fries and bubblegum. Join host Marc Summers as he explores the test kitchens and the secrets behind lunch box treats, soda pop, movie candy, and more. Unwrapped--the show for everyone who's ever worn a pair of wax lips.
All right, this description is accurate enough, but somehow it seems to overlook the...I dunno, the existential dread at the heart of every episode of Unwrapped. Candy, soda, hot sauce, processed cheese...all seem to be pressed and extruded in the same joyless box factory, by the same oppressed minorities wearing the same hairnets. In "Deutsches Requiem," Borges wonders whether a man might go crazy if the same image (the map of Poland, for example) were constantly before his eyes. What if you saw ten thousand boxes of Juji Fruit being cranked out, all day, every day?

And then there's your host, Marc Summers. What is it about Marc Summers that I find so fascinating? Why am I tempted to take out an option on his autobiography, Everything in Its Place, as my first project as a screenwriter? My memories of Double Dare and Marc's own battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder probably have something to do with it. More likely, though, it's a general fascination with the idea of the professional emcee. Groomed, polished, always ready with a quip...but who are these game show hosts? Who is Regis Philbin, or Alex Trebek, or Marc Summers, really? There's something terrifying about the effortless way in which Marc Summers switches smoothly back into game show mode, after all these years, in the redundantly titled Triva Unwrapped, a new Unwrapped spinoff in which Summers poses trivia questions to a trio of contestants, in front of a nonexistent studio audience. There's the canned applause, the banter and handshakes with the contestants, the fabulous kitchen set prizes. But it's just Summers and three considerably less animated contestants in an empty studio, and you can hear the crickets chirping in the background.

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