Review: Chipotle’s ‘Farmed and Dangerous’

Farmed and Dangerous Hulu

A Hulu mini-series about food integrity? Don't have a cow, dude

Chipotle is hardly the first sponsor to brave the programming game – indeed, not even for Hulu, since Subway underwrote a comedy pilot dubbed “The 4 to 9ers.” Still, “Farmed and Dangerous” does mark an unusual entry into production for the restaurant chain, inasmuch as it mixes pointed satire about corporate greed with wonky dissertations about food policy. The result is a four-episode series with more tang than one might have anticipated given the pabulum often churned out in ad-supported vehicles, yet which ultimately falls into a sort of narrative no-man’s land that’s neither fish nor fowl.

In pitch-meeting terms, the show’s money shot comes in the opening sequence, when PR/image guru Buck Marshall (Ray Wise) is receiving a demonstration of the newest product from Animoil, which involves feeding a petroleum-based substance directly to cattle to lower costs. The main side effect of the PetroPellet, he’s told by the CEO (Eric Pierpoint) and the company’s German scientist (Thomas Mikusz), is that the cows occasionally explode – which is precisely what this one does.

So Buck faces the rather uphill task of putting lipstick on this particular cow, enlisting his daughter and newest employee (Karynn Moore) to help him. She enthusiastically dives in, which includes trying to win over an advocate for sustainable farming (John Sloan), who pushes back against the corner-cutting maneuvers employed by Animoil and its distasteful implications for the food supply.

The sparring banter between these two beef-crossed characters is a lot older than Chipotle, down to the complication of her sneering country-club boyfriend. But their exchanges are often woefully stilted, feeling as much like a public-service announcement as an actual series.

“Farmed” fares somewhat better when Wise (“Twin Peaks”) commands center stage, strategizing with his minions at the Industrial Food Image Bureau about how to, say, downplay a YouTube video of the aforementioned cow, with the head of digital expressing relief that it “wasn’t on TV.”

What makes “Farmed and Dangerous” mildly interesting is seeing some of these Occupy Wall Street-type sentiments articulated through the prism of a corporate-commissioned TV show, one that mentions Chipotle – which employs the slogan “Food with integrity” – precisely once in a later chapter, yet which conveys an implied slight to other fast-food chains throughout.

Traditionally, advertisers have gone into programming to create what they see as a hospitable environment for their commercial messages. Here, the company approaches production with more ambition, but also slightly suspect aims, given how inseparable the message is from the messenger.

The marriage between advertisers and programming, in other words, remains an awkward one, even if their heart appears to be in the right place. Because “Why buy the cow when the milk’s laced with a petroleum-like substance?” could just as easily be read as “Why sit through a food-integrity lecture from a company that clearly has a dog in the fight, even if they sugar-coat the packaging?”

Review: Chipotle's 'Farmed and Dangerous'

(Limited series; Hulu, Mon. Feb. 17)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Piro and Chipotle.

Crew

Executive producers, Mark Crumpacker, William Espey, Tim Piper, Daniel Rosenberg; producer, Natalie Galazka; director, Piper; writers, Rosenberg, Piper, Mike Dieffenbach, Jeremy Pisker; camera, Marc Laliberte Else; production designer, Bruton Jones; editor, Ross Baldisserotto; music, Deetown; casting, Joanna Colbert. 22 MIN.

Cast

Ray Wise, Eric Pierpoint, John Sloan, Karynn Moore

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  1. Leonard Mehlmauer says:

    This isn’t about whether this or that actor is worse or better than big-name stars. This is about how a company (Chipotle) has the courage to make a film that stands up against Big Corporate. Hooray for everyone involved in this production! Keep it going!

  2. I go to Chipotle 300x each year.

    I couldn’t even make it through the first half of Farmed and Dangerous. The plot is awful. The satire is painful. In fact, I just got done eating a burrito bowl before watching it and my stomach now hurts.

  3. Kevin says:

    When Ray Wise stumbled on his lines twice in the first scene I knew it was going to be all downhill from there. I kinda liked John Sloan’s performance, reminded a lot John Krasinski in Promised Land. I enjoy farcical entertainment as much as the next person. However, when the antagonists are represented purely with cliche and hyperbole, while the charming protagonists gets to play it entirely straight, it just gets boring. I appreciate what Chipotle is trying to do with this series (improving their bottom line by making people take more of an interest with where their food comes from). I just wish they could have done it better. Frankly, the only part in the entire show that struck me as smart was the inclusion of a plug for the documentary “Food Inc” in the intro, which unlike their show is actually worth watching.

  4. Yeats says:

    Brian was being too kind when he referred to the dialogue in scenes between the Chip and Sophia characters as “stilted.” I don’t think that even begins to cover it. This felt like it was scripted by student contributors for NPR, not professional comedy writers. And story/character establishing scenes were done so ham-fistedly there should have been workmen in the background literally laying pipe just in case there was a viewer who wasn’t clear about what was going on. Like Mr. Lowry, I believe this show has its heart in the right place though as he points out, Chipotle’s involvement isn’t exactly altruistic. It’s just too bad that F n D’s execution falls so short of its ideals.

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