Remember the final week of school before winter break? Remember how every second spent doing something that was NOT writing your papers or studying for exams was pure ecstasy? How even the most mundane household task – scrubbing the toilet, sewing up holes in your kitchen towels, bleaching the porch steps – took on new thrilling dimensions of fascination simply because it didn’t involve reading about how clever Michel Foucault was?
If you do recall the special thrill of illicit exam week activity, you can doubtless sympathize with my current situation. I’m working full-time at a demanding job AND taking 2 grad school courses at night, so every second of stolen leisure takes on the heightened sensation of having procrastination crack cooked into it. For the past two days, my time-wasting drug of choice has been Kamikaze Cookery.
I admit, I’m a latecomer; brought in along with the herd of yahoos who migrated following their mention on BoingBoing. But I’ve latched on to the show with particular vigor because the three characters who run it remind me fondly of the many British geeks I know and love. I passed the link on to
Although they’re still finding their voice and learning about the medium of video, working rough and tumble without too much scripting and experimenting with what to film, where to film and for how long, using handheld cameras in kitchens with minimal space and less lighting (except Paul & Jehane’s kitchen, which has a bit too much light), I have high hopes for these guys. Season Zero is a big learning curve for them, although I worry that making one show per week is going to strain their resources, since there have been a few duds (*cough*HealthGrills*cough*) since the first, most excellent “How to cook a steak using a vacuum and blowtorch” video.
My totally unsolicited analysis of Kamikaze Cookery’s pros and cons
Disclaimer: I recognize the lads are doing this purely for the sheer joy of the thing and don’t need or want any of my unsolicited, unwelcome advice, but I can’t help but pick this apart a little – analyzing social and viral media is what I do at work (and, sort of, at school), so my brain won’t shut up until I write all this down.
Here’s what I think they’re doing right:
* Crowd Sourcing! Open comments on all videos and blog posts means a community is building on their site. They’re doing a great job of listening and responding to what their viewers are saying, and incorporating as much constructive advice as possible into the show. This is how to launch pilot projects; you’ll never get more honest, valuable feedback than from an audience who can contribute at the click of a button, and who never have to meet you face to face for a potential slapping.
* Honesty! Unshaved, unabashed, often unsober, the feckless confidence and bravado of these geeks is one of their most lovable aspects. No shame! They admit ignorance, they mock one another, they swear, they wear cloaks, they show readers shots of their overflowing bookshelves and untidy kitchens. They are really and truly *genuine*. You can’t fake this stuff, and it creates a terrific bond of ambient intimacy with the viewer.
* Fun! Love the amusing and irreverent graphic animations that describe the scientific concepts they’re exploring in each episode. Eisenstein must be rolling in his grave, but I think they’re fast, funny little mashups.
* Community Involvement! Great use of guest hosts, especially the ladies and Johnny; Morag and Jehane are feisty, fun and play well with the boys, delivering the perfect degree of mocking abuse to offset the male ranting and/or awkwardness. Nice to know that the show is queer positive and feminist, as well as geeky. Johnny was also a good guest chef with excellent dry comedic delivery; should win an Oscar for best hungover performance.
* The Queen’s English! Comments, titles and blogs by all three presenters are blissfully free from excessive typos. Rules of grammar and proper punctuation are in place, and although there’s a fair bit of l33t, lolcat and other geek languages being referenced, they try their best to keep it to win/fail type popular webspeak for non-nerd viewers.
Here’s where I hope they improve:
* Framing! Shooting people from below, exposing chins and nostrils, is NEVER flattering. Sometimes, if you do it from too close, it’s actually quite scary. Buy a tripod or find a taller videographer.
* Editing! Hai, establish a set episode duration plsthx. Ranging from “mini” 2 minute episodes to epic 14 minute episodes, a tad more scripting is required to get these down to a nice consistent 8-10 minutes each. Save the rest for the blooper reel.
* Rants! Yes, the Internet is built for ranting, cooking elicits ranting, and it’s fun to take the piss and attack celebs, but I think perhaps some of the celeb chef episodes go a bit overboard in their vehemence. I cringed a bit: my preference is for a lighter, more mocking tone with a smidge less hatred. I’m sure these rants come off brilliantly in person, but don’t translate well to video. Aim for Lenny Henry in Chef, not Gordon Ramsay.
* Mimickry! If you’re going to say you’re like Top Gear, really think about what that means. Yes, Top Gear’s recipe for success is built on the playful camaraderie between three very different male characters with obstinately-held differences of opinion. But their formula also includes testing a mix of showcasing unobtainable dream material (foie gras) and affordable daily grunge (dried pasta); doing speed trials (?); competition between the 3 presenters to see whose choice or performance is best (haven’t tried this yet) and lush cinematography of the product in question (why no pr0n of the steaming, juicy finished blowtorch steak?). Can’t figure out which of Alex, Paul & Hugh are supposed to be James, Clarkson or the Hamster. Wait, does this make Jehane the Stig?
* Marketing! I know part of the fun of this show it its made-in-my-garage aesthetic, but the trick is to keep that devil-may-care attitude in the show’s production, while branding the living crap out of one’s online presence. These days you have to spread your image out across the Interwebs on multiple platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc). The KKCookery guys need a simpler, cleaner, sexier, easy-to-read and recognize logo (current logo looks like it says “amikaze oikery” due to font/image overlap and bad black/grey/blue colour contrast), and to take some time crafting their social media outreach into a more unified, integrated marketing campaign. YouTube channel and Twitter page should be wallpapered to mimic website, logo should be everywhere, etc.
Enough blather. Now I have to return to the dreadful task of writing my dreadful papers on project management for the web (oh, the irony!) and information and communication technologies and how they’re revolutionizing the world (aren’t I getting paid to do just that at work?). Why did I decide I needed a second Master’s degree again? Boredom, was it?