The creative jump between doing a YouTube series and a regular television show is somewhat equal to the one between a half-hour series and a feature film. Lots of people have the creative chops to make the leap and many do. But each platform requires a specific set of skills and the ability to thrive in one doesn’t guarantee success in another.
The YouTube series “Epic Meal Time” has been a distinctive and fun web series and if you watch a couple of the episodes, it’s easy to see why a network might think this would be the basis for a good TV series. Each three-minute or so episode features a group of guys constructing some insanely decadent monster dish that combines a lot of rich ingredients into one insane, artery-clogging masterpiece.
Those videos are the inspiration for the new fyi series “Epic Meal Empire,” a half-hour series that tries to expand those videos into an actual TV show.
The good news is that the over-the-top culinary inspirations are still in evidence, including a “lasagna” made with bacon, cheeseburgers and lots of cheese sauce. But the rest of the show is still a bit of a creative mess and it’s enough of a problem to keep me from recommending the show.
The premise of the show is that the “Epic Meal Time” gang are trying to put together a real business and viewers are introduced to the new headquarters, a new female co-worker and a tricked-out ambulance painted all black with a “meat cannon” mounted on the roof.
Parts of the episode are funny and/or over-the-top. But much of it just seems forced and awkwardly staged. The main task of the episode involves making an over-the-top item for a class full of kids. The resulting Tatorbot is “epic,” but being asked to do it in the first place just seems unlikely. And for a group trying to build a business, expending so much time and effort on a task for a young school teacher just doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile idea. It’s one of those ideas that really only makes sense to the TV viewers who’ll be watching later.
I can only review what I’ve seen so far, which is episode one. But as much as I like the idea of the show and the people involved, “Epic Meal Empire” comes off more as an attempt to create things that look good on television rather than being a show about some talented folks that just happen to be on camera. It’s a distinction that might seem subtle, but it’s the difference between a show that works creatively and one that just seems like a series of scenes randomly edited together.
“Epic Meal Empire” airs on fyi Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. ET.