Epic Meal Time, the insanely popular YouTube sensation that has everyone on the Internet clamoring for bacon, has leveled up their business from online videos to a television show on the network FYI. Their new show, Epic Meal Empire, which began airing on July 26th along with YouTube releases of their episodes – their allegiance to their original fanbase is evident – is similar to the online content, except with normal TV length episodes (22 minutes, roughly), and some production upgrades. And although many think the crazy bacon foodie Canadians have completely sold out, I believe their artistic merit has never been more solid.
Before Epic Meal Empire, host Harley Morenstein and his crew were regular dudes living in Canada. One day, according to interviews with Morenstein (now called the Sauce Boss) and other cast and crewmembers, they had a booze-inspired idea to cram a pile of fast food on top of a pizza and eat it for the entire Internet to see. That was in 2010. Now, the guys behind hundreds of meat abominations – the current cast is Ameer “Prince” Atari, Josh “EpicMook” Elkin, Dave Heuff, Morenstein, and newcomer Natalie Forte – are bringing their insane creations to the people of L.A.
The main difference between the old YouTube show and this new venture, besides a ridiculously expensive looking kitchen studio with a wall of knives and swords, is that on Epic Meal Empire the guys deliver their epic meals to different places around L.A. Forte; a ratings-friendly female character (sorry, all females, but this seems deliberate on the part of studios, those jerks) acts as publicist and agent, finding locations for the crew to which they may introduce their particularly bacon laden constructions. The first episode features the Epic Meal Time guys fabricating a “Tater Bot,” a robot made out of grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, tater tots, and other treats children enjoy, to an elementary school classroom. It’s a hilarious massacre.
After watching the first episode, I can see why some critics are unhappy with the TV move, as television is nowhere near as free a platform as the vast Internet. Much of the charm of Epic Meal Time is all the pure dumbness and drunken bacon decisions. That, and the production of reality TV always looks incredibly staged and inhuman. Epic Meal Empire definitely suffers a little from being on cable, but after all’s said and done, the show is still as epic as ever. The artistry of these guys is that they’ve never quite lost their enjoyment of all things bacon, and just want to do dumb stuff other people would never do. Most people can relate to them, even through the unreal lens of the reality TV show.
What’s even better is their tongue-in-cheek attitude toward their success. Their “selling out” isn’t about following the fold of all other reality stars, but funneling cash either into charities or ridiculous set pieces for their show. They’re incredibly dedicated to making every bit of content more epic than the last bit of viewable material. No other show has a fast food cannon, an ambulance outfitted with a fast food cannon, a “sword wall,” Jack Daniels shots taken only slightly off camera, and a bunch of dudes unapologetically initiating new members of the team (Forte) by making them eat cheeseburger lasagna. TV bigwigs have bought in to the Epic Meal Time vision, but the vision has stayed more or less the same: make stupid piles of food while talking nonsense, drinking whiskey (even if not in the direct camera line), and sharing the delight of being remarkably unhealthy. Beyond the overindulgent editing and production style lie the same gaggle of lumberjack men who fancy themselves “drunk bacon gods.”
I believe we are to expect epically dumb and dumbly epic things from the cast and crew of Epic Meal Empire. As long as they never cease to be uncompromising in their vision of insane bacon consumption, ridiculous lingo, and content we can live vicariously through, they’ll continue to gain success as some of the few entertainers who actually successfully defy body image and care nothing about health food trends (all of this accidental, again, because they’re just a bunch of dudes who love the shit out of meat). Epic Meal Empire may be the most honest reality show on television, and that bodes nightmarishly for anyone who thinks they’re above the bacon.