Eating, laughing, and hugging. That’s what Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil is all about. Those activities, either separately or together, enhance our lives. One or more of them likely play a role in your happiest recollections of life. They’re important, and they make us smile.
Producer/writer Phil Rosenthal knows a thing or two about what makes people smile and laugh, having been one of the two major creative forces behind television’s Everybody Loves Raymond (yes, along with his collaborative partner Ray Romano).
Phil Rosenthal’s love of food and his appreciation for its social and emotional importance in our lives drives the show. Each episode finds him landed in some corner of the world (including American locales, like the Mississippi Delta, Hawaii, Chicago) and hungry for the kind of food a resident or visitor might find there if they went out to a place that offers food for sale—assuming of course that they want something incredibly delicious. When it comes to travel eating, his advice is to trust the local people, to go where they go when they want comfort food.
Thanks to beautiful photography, we follow Phil as he works up an appetite in intriguing locations by zip-lining down a mountainside or engaging in lighter forms of travel exploration, then grabbing a bite at a street vendor’s stand, sampling munchies in a market, popping into a hole in the wall spot that offers the greatest looking ice cream or steaming fried somethings you’ve ever seen, or sitting down to dinner in a restaurant you now dream of visiting. Actually, you pretty much dream of every humble or fancy stop he makes.
Each show features a video-phone “check-in” back home. Up until his newest season, these involved his brief but hilarious and endearing interactions with his aged parents back in New York. Since his mother’s passing in 2019, his wife Monica Horan now joins Phil’s dad for these little family interludes. For fans of Everybody Loves Raymond, she was the actress who played Raymond’s sister-in-law.
Another regular feature is an end-of-episode dinner with a number of the guides that Phil has met along the way. They might have been strangers before the show’s shooting, but now we watch them laugh and eat together. Somebody Feed Phil is not food porn. This bonding of his guides provides a fitting end to a show created by someone who truly knows as much about people as he does about food.
As we all drag our way through these various stages of COVID-ity, I find myself wanting very much to travel again, to eat what the locals eat—and to enjoy companionship with the local people. Many restaurant and food service workers and business owners have suffered in this last year. In this not-quite-done stage of COVID, let’s make sure we show some love and appreciation for the food people in our own communities.
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Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on nedbachus.com and on his OPEN ADMISSIONS Facebook Page. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.