Piercing Thoughts
by Pierce Thorne

To Go... Where... No Man Has... Gone... Before?

I saw something really scary last night on TV.

So scary, in fact, I had to turn it away. I couldn't watch it for more than a few seconds.

Two guys nestled up high in a TV studio, dressed like sportscasters. Yellow blazers, big awkward headsets with boom mikes, the whole bit. They were bantering about some competitive feat, and about to turn things over to the "chairman."

Celebrity Deathmatch goes live-action?

No, it's worse than that. Much worse.

Three figures appear on the studio stage in the background. The camera cuts to a close-up. The two on either side are dressed in gaudy chef's get-ups. The guy in the middle, silver-haired and barrel-chested, sporting a loud paisley vest, was embracing both as a father might, waiting to see which son was about to win Star Search.

That's right. You guessed.

Iron Chef. American. The Pilot.

(Tonight, the part of Kaga Takeshi will be played by William Shatner.)

Like I said, I couldn't watch anymore. It was just too frightening.

The Japanese are frequently attributed (and unfairly so) with lacking originality. "They're lousy innovators, but great imitators," the misinformed statement goes.

Iron Chef Original, campy as it is, is proof that it's not true. I remember flipping through the channels and sticking with it. Two celebrity chefs battle it out in a Japanese drama of life and death -- knives and ohashi flashing -- hoping to please the celebrity panel of judges who offer running commentary as the dishes are prepared. Some versions of the show even had English subtitles.

Of course, whenever the challenger was non-Japanese, one could almost be certain of the outcome. But that got to be part of the show. Those few times when the challenging Italian chef, for example, actually beat Iron Chef Italian at an Italian spread were rare moments for celebration.

Then they messed with it. The Food Network started carrying it, but insisted on English voiceovers. (They also did something sleazy, I think, because that other channel stopped carrying the original...) The voiceovers were just too affected. Every giggle of the woman judge, every grunt and groan of surprise and amazement, faithfully translated for English-speakers.

It was terrible!

So now there's Iron Chef American. Or is that Iron Chef meets Monday Night Football? Just... how much...worse... can it... get?

It seems that Admiral Kirk, Mr. Priceline himself, is Master of Ceremonies. What's with that? I can only imagine what the phone call with his agent was like:

"Hey, Billy-baby, man, have I got something for you! You're gonna love this!"

"Like the last time? They went under and they still owe me for those commercials. I hate singing. And that beat-poet thing, it's just not my scene."

"You're not still bitter about that are you? I'm out my ten percent, too. But Bill, my man, you know I'm always looking out for you. I've got something. Something big!"

"Yeah? What."

"You ever see Iron Chef?"


"I don't cook."

"No, Bill, not cook. Em-Cee."

"Does that mean I have to wear that goofy Liberace getup? Frilly shirts and stuff?"

"Yeah. That's part of the licensing agreement."

"And do I have to have that goofy grin, biting into a pepper at the beginning?"

"I think we have some flexibility there. You wouldn't have to grin."


"I don't know. Can't we do another Star Trek remake? Prequels are hot. Can't we make a prequel?"

"Billy-baby, you know I'm so with you on that, but we've got to look at the facts. Deforest is dust, Leonard is busy doing voiceovers, Magel's in tight with the TV folks, George is cleaning up on the fan-cons. There's nobody left to make a movie. And I gotta level with ya, Bill, nobody's gonna buy you as a young Kirk."

"Well, how about a sequel with flashbacks. I've got it all here. Kirk goes back to Talos IV, and lives out his memories. We can get some other actor to do the young Kirk scenes, and...."

"Look, babe, you know I'd love to, but it's been done! Don't you remember? You repackaged the original pilot and sent Captain Pike there. That two-parter thing in the first season.

"Oh yeah. I forgot." Pause. "And you've got nothing else?"


Long pause.

"Okay. I'll do it."

"Fan-tastic, baby. I'll have the paperwork over to you tomorrow! Love ya...."

And so the American entertainment industry turned Teppan-grill TV into a TV dinner. Hardly what I call innovative. Just who is the imitator now?

Like I said, it was too scary to watch.

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