Film and TV

Reality Bites: Chug

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Who doesn't like to drink? Recovering alcoholics, I guess. Also people who are allergic to it. Oh, and those of you who don't like the way it makes you feel, or the taste, or the fact you flunked out of college because you discovered tequila your freshman year and spent the next two years in a haze of keg stands and impromptu road trips to Señor Frogs.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like *my* freshman year.

So fine, plenty of you don't like to drink, but plenty still do, and for those people (who also have ample disposable income), there's Chug, National Geographic's new travel drinking show. Because what could possibly go wrong when you get drunk overseas?

I'll give host Zane Lamprey this: He has a weird-ass name. Wait, that's not what I meant. I mean, yes, it sounds like his parents were big Monty Python fans, but there's little doubt Lamprey's been milking his time in the alcohol space to maximum effect.

"Alcohol space" apparently refers to any booze-related entertainment and may or may not have been coined by Lamprey himself.

Starting out as a stand-up comedian, Lamprey is perhaps best known for hosting SpikeTV's Three Sheets, which from its description sounds a lot like a more sloshed version of Insomniac with Dave Attell. He also did Drinking Made Easy on HDNet. There's a definite theme to the guy's work.

Chug was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, making it the first series funded by that site to air on TV. In this case, Nat Geo, which is a definite contrast to those boring old magazine articles about climate change and dying civilizations.

In the Episode I Watched, Lamprey travels to Vienna, Austria. Europe is always fun for drinking and/or travel shows, not just in terms of historical alcoholism but because of the opportunity for checking out whatever groovy landmarks have survived all the wars. We get some of this in Chug, though Lamprey is largely hemmed in by the show's format, which at a scant 30 minutes doesn't really allow for much cultural reflection amid all the requisite boozing.

Lamprey's Austrian adventure starts in Salzburg, with visits to the Augustiner Bräu and St. Paul's Stub'n, a brewery and a beer garden, respectively (sensing a theme?). From there, he's off to Vienna proper, birthplace (?) of so-called "cafe culture" and Cafe Sperl, where Lamprey learns the secrets of a "Viennese Sunday." Actually, it's not much of a secret: Combining coffee and alcohol allows you to mellow out the rest of your weekend. Sounds like a recipe for Monday hangovers, but that's those lazy Europeans for you.

There's also a brief digression into beer purity laws, more famously known as the "Reinheitsgebot," originally a German regulation stipulating beer can only be made with barley, hops, yeast and water. Personally speaking, I've had plenty of German beer brewed under the regulation, and it's damn fine stuff.

There's wine, too. And discussions with local brewers and vintners. Chug is a perfectly fine show, and Lamprey isn't nearly as obnoxious as his name would suggest, but there's little here we haven't seen before. And like any other shows of its ilk, it just made me want to travel overseas and get hammered.

Then again, most shows make me want to do that. Local news, even.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar