Somebody Feed Phil, Season 3

Dept. of Whole(some) Foods


I’ve gone on the record, repeatedly, as not being overly fond of reality TV. I usually leave these to my colleagues to handle. When it comes to food shows, however, some exceptions can be made. I’ve avoided watching competition shows, even the ones I’ve been told are “so good”, like GBBO or Masterchef, simply because there’s so much of them. With new series, new contestants, and new dramas every year, I simply don’t want to spend the time. Even when it comes to food travelogues, shows we’re pretty hit and miss in our household, but in the two years since it first arrived on Netflix, we devour each new season of Somebody Feed Phil as soon as it’s served.

Why is that?

No Reservations?

The ingredients are the same as most other food shows in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. A (hopefully) engaging host tries interesting foods in far flung places, frequently with friends, while often dabbling in some of the local activities. Somebody Feed Phil could be forgiven for following the recipe more than most, considering the same production company, Zero Point Zero Production was involved in both, but as with truly great meals, it’s the host, as well as the food, that really makes it.

Removing some of the heat that characterised Bourdain’s shows, Phil Rosenthal is a far less intense host, but that doesn’t mean the result isn’t filling. Phil samples a dizzying array of foods and places in each of Season 3’s episodes. His stopovers in Marrakesh, Chicago, London, Seoul, and Montreal are far from comprehensive, but then again they’re not meant to be. No segment overstays its welcome, no celebrity guest allowed to hog the limelight to long. It adheres strictly to its format except when it doesn’t.

Stop with the Amen Already

Phil might ask his dad for an old joke on their customary video call or he might not. Phil might eat at a fancy restaurant or share a meal in a family home. The format is never allowed to overshadow Phil’s childlike glee, and apparently insatiable appetite, with which he devours everything from deep dish pizza in Chicago, to Martini’s in London, to raw octopus in Seoul.

The true test for whether this show is for you is if you can handle, nay enjoy, a 60-year-old man exclaiming “hee-hee” as he bites into a particularly succulent pastry.

Watching Phil eat is fun.

He may lose the run of himself occasionally and forget to explain what he is eating, or what it tastes like, but you won’t hold it against him. Just like his Amazigh hosts in Morocco, when he accidentally eats the meat in the couscous first instead of last. It’s clear that no offence was intended but you’d be won over by his his joy sampling the dish anyway.

The “Dessert” of the Real

All reality TV, and all TV for that matter, is fake to some extent, but Phil feels like a genuinely honest host, and not just in his reactions to food. He seems authentically delighted to experience the Maghrib prayer, echoing from the numerous mosques surrounding his rooftop dining spot in Marrakesh. When chatting with customers outside Jim’s Original Polish Sausage Stand in Chicago, it feels like he really means it when he tells a motorcycle enthusiast with “no special someone” to share his ride with, that “You’ll find it”.

Other hosts might have recoiled at the prayers or mocked the motorcyclist but not Phil.

As his father tells a bad joke on one of their video conference calls I couldn’t help but smile when I realised that Phil was silently mouthing along with the words. It’s a reaction shot many producers might take out, but here it’s all part of the charm.

Missing Ingredients

This season, there is one vital ingredient that is sorely missed, his Mom. Before the end of each show Phil makes a video calls to his folks. Sometimes to share his experience of his trip, sometimes to get a terrible joke from his dad, or sometimes just to eat something delicious directly in front of them. This season, his mother Helen is missing from all but one episode, having sadly passed away in October 2019. 

The show doesn’t linger on this, and she appears in the final episode of this slightly truncated 5 episode season. The show just keeps moving and keeps trying new things, which appears to be Phil’s mission with this show. To share a love of good food and eating it with people you like.

With its  scenes of packed medinas and restaurants, hearty handshaking and people sharing food, Season 3 of  Somebody Feed Phil may seem like an artefact from a bygone era, but it’s the perfect comfort food for now.

Somebody Feed Phil
Netflix, Season 3, 5 episodes
Cast: Phil Rosenthal, Richard Rosenthal, Monica Horan, Helen Rosenthal, Max Rosenthal, Nigella Lawson, and Sophie Winkleman

Somebody Feed Phil, Season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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