×

TV Review: ‘I’ll Have What Phil’s Having’

With:
With: Phil Rosenthal

As Woody Allen famously complained, “My mother spent my childhood putting the chicken through the de-flavorizer.” Apparently Phil Rosenthal, creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” can relate. He maintains he also grew up eating meals devoid of taste. So why would PBS give him his own six-part food show, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having?” For one, Rosenthal is a very relatable guy and uses his everyman shtick to entertaining effect as he travels to destinations such as Barcelona, Hong Kong and Los Angeles in search of fun and delicious food experiences. While he won’t garner fans from the hipster sriracha flavor of the month club, he’s sure to be a hit with the Viking Cruise set.

In fact, fans of Rosenthal’s popular TV series should feel quite at home with the format of the show. It’s sort of like a very special episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” His wife and kids make appearances. His brother is one of the producers. He Skypes with his parents every episode. Ray Romano even makes a guest appearance in the Los Angeles episode. Being his kibitzing self is what makes the show appealing. Rosenthal is infectiously enthusiastic about food, and his show reflects the typical travel experience that most people yearn for — a general sense of local flavor, people and culture.

By incorporating travel segments, confessional style talks with the camera and special guests, some of whom are big-name Hollywood stars, the show explores not just food, but the experience of, say, tasting freshly made crema gelato out of an antique machine in Florence, Italy. Hint: Rosenthal actually gets a little verklempt after the first bite. It’s that good. In L.A., he tastes a taco so delicious, he jokes that he wants to follow the food truck like a Grateful Dead fan.

Episodes with a greater personal connection play the best. In fact, the L.A. segment, peppered with personal friends and stars, is the epicurean equivalent to Randy Newman’s “I Love LA.” Rosenthal, a transplant from Queens, took a while to warm up to Los Angeles. It was through the culinary scene that he found a sense of community. He makes a great case for it at the Grand Central Market, Koreatown, and L.A.’s oldest open air farmer’s market, among others.

Like fellow gastronomic guru Anthony Bordain, Rosenthal can be an acquired taste. He’s not edgy, political or even all that gourmet — although there are definitely high-end culinary concepts explored, especially in the Tokyo episode. At that city’s Narisawa restaurant, Rosenthal experiences a Forest Floor dinner, complete with a live audio feed from, yes, the forest floor. There are a few queasy moments as Rosenthal is game to try sushi so fresh he eats shrimp meat that’s still twitching.

The slick production value includes impressive scenery, personal touches and plenty of mouth-watering shots of food. Overall, the show could benefit from more judicious editing. At one point, Rosenthal reluctantly tries an Italian street meat sandwich made from a cow’s fourth stomach. (The first three stomachs are no good, he jokes; it’s the fourth you want). Ultimately, the focus is simple: trying something unexpected and sharing it with friends. If PBS plans to extend the limited run, a travel companion guide would seem like a natural fit.

TV Review: 'I'll Have What Phil's Having'

(Series; PBS, Mon. Sept. 28, 8 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Zero Point Zero Production, Inc., Lucky Bastard, Inc., and Studio Six @ WGBH Boston.

Crew: Executive producers, Phil Rosenthal, Richard Rosenthal, John Bedolis, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Craig H. Shepherd, David Beebe, Laurie Donnelly; director, John Bedolis. 60 MIN.

Cast: With: Phil Rosenthal

More TV

  • Orange is the New Black

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Changed TV Forever (Column)

    When Netflix debuted “House of Cards” in 2013, it seemed like streaming was going to mimic premium as we already knew it. The premiere of “Orange Is the New Black” five months later ended that notion for good. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, the show ostensibly followed Piper (played by Taylor Schilling), a bright but [...]

  • Kian Lawley Starring in Finnish Comedy

    Kian Lawley, Katherine C. Hughes Starring in Finnish Comedy 'Perfect Commando'

    Kian Lawley, who was dropped from movie “The Hate U Give” last year after a video resurfaced of him that included racist comments, has landed a starring role alongside Katherine C. Hughes (“Blue Bloods”) in the Finnish comedy “Perfect Commando.” The series is the latest original for Elisa Viihde’s Aitio streaming service, and will be [...]

  • Chris Hardwick Aziz Ansari MeToo Comeback

    Aziz Ansari, Chris Hardwick's Reemergence Complicate the #MeToo Conversation

    Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix stand-up special “Right Now” marks the comedian’s return to the spotlight more than a year after being publicly accused of sexual impropriety, an allegation that has proved to be divisive, fueling discussions about what is considered consent and what constitutes sexual assault. His isn’t the only redemptive arc forming at the [...]

  • Jenji Kohan with two-time Emmy winner

    Inside 'Orange Is the New Black's' Unlikely Journey to Become Netflix's Most-Watched Original

    Before “Netflix and chill” entered the cultural lexicon, before the streaming platform won its first Emmy, before it started inking deals with major showrunners, Netflix in the early 2010s was testing out a hypothesis about the public’s appetite for premium-quality television shows on the internet. It had recently recovered from the Qwikster debacle — an [...]

  • John Malone

    Liberty Global and Vodafone's $21.5 Billion Cable Deal Cleared by European Authorities

    The European Commission has approved Vodafone’s $21.5 billion deal for a raft of Liberty Global assets in Europe, with conditions attached. The commission had investigated the deal on the grounds that it could reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. It concluded, however, that the deal could go ahead with conditions. These include [...]

  • Harlots

    ITV Takes Majority Stake in ‘Harlots’ Producer Monumental Television

    ITV Studios now has a controlling stake in Monumental Television, the production company that makes Hulu series “Harlots” and that was founded by Oscar-nominated film producers Alison Owen and Debra Hayward. ITV first bought into the company in 2015 and has upped its stake from 26% to 51%. Julian Bellamy, managing director of ITV Studios, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content