Allen’s High Fives is a weekly series in which our resident critic, Allen Weiner, provides you with a curated list of five videos/series/films you should watch right now. We tried something different with this week’s edition. What follows is a transcript (edited a little bit for clarity) of an audio recording Allen produced for the series. You can listen via the Soundcloud clip below and/or read along if you so desire. Enjoy.
This week on my High Fives we have a Turtleman, a badass British debt collector, and some second-chance chefs showing their bravado… or is that Bravo?
“Backwoods Living with Turtleman”
“Backwoods Living with Turtleman” features the exploits of Ernie Brown, Jr., a celebrity of sorts on Animal Planet who is known for… you guessed it… catching turtles. If Crocodile Dundee crossed paths with one of those good ol’ boys from “Justified,” the net result is Turtleman, practitioner of all things geared for survival in the wild. Got yerself a nasty case of poison ivy? Tutleman shows y’all how to make a syrup elixir from a jewel plan to make the itching cease and desist. Need yer 4 by 4 spiffed up, el Hombre de Tortuga shows you how to make (you guessed it) turtle-wax out of beeswax and linseed oil.
EBJ, we’ll call him, makes for an entertaining host, and the websides are quick and to the point, but it’s often hard to understand this backwoods dude from the Bluegrass State. For that, we’ll give “Backwoods Living with Turtleman” a B.
“All-Time 10s” is a program that fits web-viewing venues to a T. The segments are short, interesting, and professionally produced, and either make you laugh or scratch your head and say (generally to yourself): “I didn’t know that.” Among my favorites:
10 Surprising Facts about Google
10 Things You Didn’t Know about Santa Claus
10 Illegal Foods — Who knew ketchup is banned in France?
And, of course: 10 Things You Didn’t Know about “All-Time 10s”
The clever chaps behind “All-Time 10s,” and a host of other [shows] by London-based Diagonal View Productions… Founded in March 2008 by entrepreneur Matt Heiman and TV producer Steve Carey. These gents wisely license all sort of video content from places like Reuters and mash them together in a narration-less montage. The perfect time water for your working day, I’ll give “All-Time 10s” an A.
I found this really cool web show from PBS’s digital labs called “Idea Channel,” which illuminates fascinating issues such as the third wave of feminism by weaving together art, science, and pop culture in fast-twitch MTV-on-steroids style. My issue is that the host, Mike Rugnetta, narrates as if he’s double parked and worried about getting towed away to a distant land. In other videos Mike claims he talks as fast as possible to mimic the rapid pace of the internet’s audio and video memes. To that, I say, Mike, we get it… Slow it down a bit dude so us normal people can follow along.
The concept, writing and production are all top shelf, but the host’s weak imitation of the guy in the FedEx commercial John Moschitta drags this down to B- level. John Moschitta you ask? Hey, that’s what search engines are for.
“Last Chance Kitchen”
So, you’ve made the trek to this season’s “Top Chef” city of choice from your place behind the stove at your new eatery featuring the latest in modernist cuisine a la certifiable food nut-job Nathan Myerold. Week one, you fall victim to a tomato that just would not slice evenly or a tartar sampler whose flavor embodied just a tad too much pickled shallot. You pack your knives and go… But you don’t really go home as all hope is not lost. “Last Chance Kitchen” is “Top Chef”’s web series in which each week’s losing chef is put back in play in a sudden-death round-robin.
The ever-smug Tom Colicchio is the host and each websiode pits the previous week’s winner against a new challenger, giving them 30 minutes to make one dish. Tom is judge and jury, so the drama is kept to a minimum and the focus is on the chefs and the food — just as it should be.
To be honest, I gave up on “Top Chef” a few years back; too many weeks, too much sidebar nonsense, so by the final week, I just didn’t care anymore. “Top Chef” became the real world with pots and pans. What I like about “Last Chance Kitchen” is that it is quick, to the point, putting the spotlight on the chefs and the food. For that reason, I’ll give “Last Chance Kitchen” an A.
You want grit? I’ll give you grit. Vice’s “Rule Britannia” is a nasty, dirty, foul-mouthed look at the seedy underbelly of life in the UK. If you want to see how a former self-made terrorist has transformed his life into being a “legit” debt collector, then the two-part “Rule Britannia” series on Shaun Smith has your name on it. Someone is selling steroids out of his gym? Smith gives the culprit a nice bitch slap, tells him he’s being taxed $1,000, and if he doesn’t pay up by the end of the day, he’ll have a head first appointment with the sidewalk. While post Londoners whooped it up in 2012 during the Olypmics, Vice took its “Rule Britannia” cameras ‘round the town to capture the anger, frustration, and utter disgust of people whose lives were turned upside down by the construction, gross commercialism, and harsh civil rules imposed against the backdrop of the Summer Games.
And then there’s “Swansa,” a love story, a stomach-turning train wreck of a tale you cannot turn away from as you see, first hand, how this small town in the south of Wales became a cauldron of unprecedented growth in heroin addiction.
Like Vice, a magazine for the modern day, a no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled vehicle for contemporary life — the good, bad, and ugly — “Rule Britannia” is what “60 Minutes” would it be like if it were both NSFW and free of network censorship. Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but Vice’s programming , which is shown on the publisher’s VBS.tv site as well as YouTube and other outlets, gives those of us with an unquenchable thirst for an unadulterated view of a world without borders a regular place for nourishment. I am overwhelmed by much of “Rule Britannia,” despise some of it, but watch every webisode from start to finish. Compelling, for sure. I’ll give “Rule Britannia” an A.
That rounds out my High Fives for this week. Be sure to tune in again for my picks of web programs you’ll want to add to your daily video fix. Til next time, I’m Allen Weiner for VideoInk.