I think Hua Hsu has uncovered the perfect explanation for why we are drawn to Guy Fieri like potatoes to a vat of grease:
“Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” is the opposite of destination dining. It’s a travel show about going nowhere. It is the precise opposite of fomo: I never feel like I’m missing out on anything. I’ll never go to Bakersfield to eat “outrageous” Basque food, or seek out Asian Experience, an “outstanding” Thai (and pizza) joint thirty miles farther south, in Taft. But the show is a pleasing reminder of all the unassuming treasures just around the corner, all the entrepreneurs pursuing a modest, neighborhood version of the American Dream, the way landlocked immigrants often juggle their own aspirations with the expectations of whoever’s picking up the check.
I too have a fondness for Fieri that is only facetiously ironic. I have caught myself watching his show for hours on end, never getting bored with the images of deep fried meats and cheeses glistening on my screen.
But I keep watching because it’s one of the only shows on TV that allows me to transpose stories proximate to my life onto someone else’s travels. The diner where my mom waitressed when she first landed in Kankakee, Illinois. The place in Champaign-Urbana where my dad first understood the appeal of pizza.
He’s totally right. Especially in college, I imagined that some of the places we frequented could be featured on “Triple D.” And that’s why the show is so relatable — those places could make it on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” because there’s really nothing special about the restaurants he chooses to visit. They’re just modest local establishments momentarily on a national stage. The embodiment of the “American dream.”
So go forth and binge-watch. We’re all doing it too.