Good Eats logo
|Created by||Alton Brown|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||14|
|No. of episodes||244 and 8 specials (list of episodes)|
|Running time||21½ minutes without commercials|
|Original channel||Food Network (1999–2011)
Cooking Channel (2011–2012)
1080i (seasons 9–14)
|Original release||July 7, 1999–February 10, 2012|
Good Eats is a former television cooking show, created and hosted by Alton Brown, which aired in North America on Food Network Cooking Channel. Likened to television science educators Mr. Wizard and Bill Nye, Brown explores the science and technique behind the cooking, the history of different foods, and the advantages of different kinds of cooking equipment. The show tends to focus on familiar dishes that can easily be made at home, and also features segments on choosing the right appliances, and getting the most out of inexpensive, multi-purpose tools. Each episode of Good Eats has a distinct theme, which is typically an ingredient or a certain cooking technique, but may also be a more general theme such as Thanksgiving. In the tenth anniversary episode, Alton Brown stated that the show was inspired by the idea of combining Julia Child, Mr. Wizard, and Monty Python. On May 11, 2011, Alton Brown announced that the series would come to a close, ending production at episode 249.
The show had a distinct visual style involving Dutch angles and shots from cameras placed inside and on various items in the kitchen, including the ovens, refrigerator, and microwave oven. In some episodes, Brown and other actors play various characters to tell the story of the food. For example, in the episode "The Big Chili", Brown played a cowboy trying to rustle up the ideal pot of chili. In the episode "Give Peas a Chance" (a parody of The Exorcist), Brown plays a Father Merrin-like character who tries to convince a "possessed" child to eat (and like) peas. In other episodes Brown is simply himself, but interacts with fictional characters such as his eggplant- and tomato-wielding neighbor Mr. McGregor, or a city councilman who refuses to eat fudge. He also uses various makeshift teaching aids to demonstrate scientific concepts. They also feature many episodes where the ingredients are portrayed as actors, represented by an agent who uses Alton to "gussy up" these foods for mainstream appeal.
Episodes of Good Eats typically began with an introductory monologue or skit that leads into the phrase "good eats." The show often closed with the phrase as well. For the first several seasons, Brown himself would say the words "good eats." Since approximately season seven, however, Brown avoids saying "good eats" at the end of the intro, stopping just short and allowing the main title graphics to complete the phrase.
Episodes were primarily set in the (fictional) kitchen of Brown's house, although his actual home kitchen was used in "Give Peas a Chance". In seasons 1–4, the episodes were shot in the actual home kitchen of Brown's original partners in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. In season 5, taping moved to the new home of the show's Line Producer (Dana Popoff) and Director of Photography (Marion Laney), in which they built a much larger and more versatile kitchen for taping. A 7 foot (2.1 m) section of the island was built for the show and placed on wheels, so it can be moved (or removed) for various shots, and a 12 sq ft (1.1 m2) grid of pipe was hung from the ceiling, for easier placement of cameras and microphones. Starting with season 7, the show moved yet again, this time to an exact replica of the previous kitchen and surrounding areas of the home, built on a sound stage. In the "Behind the Eats" special, Brown said that complaints by Popoff's neighbors (not adjacent neighbors but at the end of the block) prompted the move. The stove top and the sink are the only functioning pieces in this kitchen. Many of the other appliances have even had part of their backs removed, so shots of Brown can be taken from inside cabinets, ovens, and refrigerators. This change was generally not known until after season 7 started airing when the house used in season 5–6 was put on eBay for sale. It was then revealed that they had moved. It is generally thought that in the "Q" episode on barbecue that was taped in Brown's Airstream trailer, when Brown says that they are "building the set for Good Eats: The Motion Picture" this is in reality a reference to the new house set. The set was not officially unveiled on the show as a set until "Curious Yet Tasty Avocado Experiments".
Incidental music during the show is typically a variation of the show's theme, which in turn was inspired by music from the film Get Shorty. There are dozens of variations of the theme played throughout, crossing all genres of music, including the keypad tones in "Mission: Poachable" and nearly every incidence where a countdown of ten seconds is used. New music is composed for each episode by Patrick Belden of Belden Music and Sound. Brown met Belden while working on other projects before Brown's culinary training.
Each episode also featured tidbits, text pieces containing trivia related to the food or cooking technique featured in the episode. These are always shown just before ad breaks, and are often shown between major transitions in location or cooking action. The information presented is usually notes about the history of the food or technique, helpful cooking hints, or technical or scientific information which would be too detailed or dry to include as part of the show's live content.
During the show's first seasons, at the end of each episode Brown would give a summary of the important points covered during the episode; these points would be shown on the screen as he talked. These summaries still appear in later seasons from time to time, but rarely have the textual accompaniment. Brown also traveled to food manufacturing facilities frequently in the first few seasons to talk with experts about the foods being featured. In later seasons, he still visits farms, groves, and other places food is grown as well as processing plants and other factories, but less frequently.
Cast and crew
A staple feature of Good Eats is the presence of several recurring characters who play important roles on the show, from Brown's relatives and neighbors to various nemeses. In season 9, the episode "Behind the Eats" offered a backstage look at the show's production and revealed the origin of several characters. In the episode, Brown stated that all of the show's staff members have appeared on camera at some point.
Several members of Brown's real-life family have appeared on the show. His mother had a walk-on part; his daughter, Zoey, has appeared in several episodes; and his late grandmother, "Ma" Mae Skelton, co-hosted the biscuit episode "The Dough Also Rises". Even his Basset Hound and iguana have shown up in a couple of episodes. However, his wife DeAnna (who is also the show's executive producer) has never appeared in an episode, though she was mentioned in "Where There's Smoke, There's Fish". Specialists who hold real-life positions commonly appeared as themselves to provide Brown with useful information on the topic at hand.
|Character||Played by:||Role on the show|
|"W" (Vicki Wong)||Vickie Eng||A parody of James Bond's Q, "W" is a kitchen gear specialist. "W" is antisocial, sardonic, and finds Brown very annoying. Brown realizes this, and intentionally fools with gadgets and acts silly to get a rise out of her. He also likes to sabotage her attempts to make sales. Even so, she is the most reliable source of equipment for Brown, as she knows everything about kitchen tools and appliances. Her appearances are accompanied by a theme that sounds similar to those heard in the James Bond movies. "W"'s full name is revealed in the episode "Salad Daze II: The Long Arm Of the Slaw". In later episodes, "W" began working in the "Good Eats Testing Lab". In season 11, her role was interchanged with that of the "The Dungeon Master", especially for food gadgets that imply food disintegration such as blenders and meat cubers. She reappeared in season 12. "Behind the Eats" revealed that in real life, Vickie Eng is Brown's chiropractor. In "Behind the Bird" "W" is revealed to be a cyborg.|
|Marsha Brown-Brady||Merrilyn Crouch||Brown's older sister. Marsha is a constant source of annoyance to Brown (and, as revealed in some episodes, to members of the Good Eats production staff). She often tricks or cajoles Brown into cooking for her, which usually initiates the topic of that episode. For instance, in "Circle of Life", Marsha manages to talk Brown into making dozens of doughnuts for her Bunny Scout troop's bake sale, and then tricks him into buying them all back. She has been divorced more than once, as Brown referred to her ink not having dried on her LAST divorce "yet" in "Behind the Bird".|
|Elton Brady||John Herina||Marsha's son, therefore Brown's nephew. Elton is often featured as Brown's assistant, learning the ways of cooking in the process. Brown treats Elton almost like his own son, despite his and Marsha's constant bickering. Herina, who looks strikingly similar to Brown, also plays a young Brown when necessary, as in the introduction to the roulade-centered episode "Fit to be Tied", and also appeared in the 1996 movie Nightjohn as the character Homer Waller.|
|Alton Brown||Brown's usually nonverbal evil twin of sorts, who is sometimes seen wearing black or in a goatee. Brown uses camera tricks to appear as himself on one side of the screen and as his "brother" on the other. B.A. is often used in a manner similar to Goofus and Gallant to compare and contrast Brown's and B.A's cooking techniques and their results. In "American Pickle", for example, B.A. compares Brown's sweet pickled fruit to a recipe for extremely hot 'Firecracker' carrots. As shown in the episode "Sub Standards", he is Brown's identical twin in the Good Eats universe and can imitate Brown perfectly when he wants to.|
|Colonel Bob Boatwright||Alton Brown||A white-clad Southern gentleman based on Colonel Sanders, Colonel Boatwright demonstrates traditional Southern recipes such as mint julep, upside-down cake, and fried catfish.|
|Cousin Ray||Steve Rooney||Brown's cousin, who seems to be a bit of a redneck. Ray also appears to be either a con man or simply uneducated when it comes to food. In "Crustacean Nation", Ray claims that the shrimp he is selling are turning pink because they are happy to see Brown when actually, as Brown explains, they are cooking in their shells due to the heat. Steve Rooney also plays Brown's "Aunt Verna" who is seen at Brown's Thanksgiving dinner.|
|The Mad French Chef||Steve Rooney||Brown's nemesis, who is stereotypically snobbish toward all non-French forms of cooking, and berates Brown for not using French techniques. Over the course of the series, the Chef seems to become more angry, as his title in different episodes changes to "Really Mad French Chef" and beyond. The Chef is currently voiced by Brown, as he is no longer seen on-screen except for one "appearance" as an oven mitt/puppet in the episode "Crepe Expectations".|
|Thing||usually Paul Merchant or Todd Bailey||Named after Thing from The Addams Family, Thing is a hand that appears in random locations to hand Brown ingredients and tools, to which Brown replies, "Thank you, Thing." or "That's a good idea, Thing." In "Behind the Eats", it was "revealed" that Brown's Thing is the son of the Addams Family Thing. Thing is rather mischievous, sneaking in a mouse trap in Alton Brown's tin storage in "Great Balls of Meat", or tossing Brown a mandolin when he is actually referring to the mandoline.|
|Paul||Paul Merchant||Paul is Brown's apprentice and intern. Paul is generally incompetent and quite often seems to stress out regarding food-related issues. Brown often uses Paul as a human guinea pig for demonstrations, as in "Chile's Angels".|
|Lactose Man||Paul Merchant||While appearing to be a superhero, he is in fact a nemesis to Brown, keeping him from sharing his dairy creations with those afflicted with lactose intolerance. Lactose Man usually appears in dairy product-based episodes. A variation of the Lactose Man character, Lever Man (albeit in the same costume) appeared in "Mussel Bound", which is dedicated to mussels. Brown may or may not know the true identity of Lactose Man, as he identified Lever Man as being his apprentice, Paul. The Lever Man costume was revamped for use as Lactose Man. Brown himself is not lactose intolerant, which he revealed in "Breakfast Eats II".|
|Chuck||Daniel Pettrow||Chuck is Brown's 'Butcher Neighbor'. He has appeared in several episodes, such as "Bean Stalker", "Squid Pro Quo", "Stew Romance", and "A Chuck For Chuck". Chuck also appears in "Romancing the Bird: A Good Eats Thanksgiving", where he drives a 'Turkey Truck' and explains the difference between fresh, frozen, and refrigerated turkeys. In "Chops Ahoy", Chuck abducts Brown's charcoal grill 'Fireball' in order to convince Brown to buy a new propane grill.|
|Frances Andersen||Widdi Turner||Frances (a parody of Annie Wilkes from Misery) is Brown's self-proclaimed biggest fan. She has a collection of many of the show's props that she purchased from the internet. Brown first encounters Frances in "This Spud's For You Too" after his truck breaks down, and she holds Brown hostage in "Ill Gotten Grains" after he loses his memory in a fender-bender.|
|Farmer McGregor||Bill Greeley||An elderly man who has a farm near Brown's home, he prides himself on his home-grown produce and enters them regularly in county fair food contests. Brown used to pilfer from McGregor's prized tomato patch, but soon stopped when McGregor realized the tomato dishes Brown gave him were made with his own tomatoes. McGregor also has the skills to produce larger-than-average produce, making a potato that weighed 29 lb (13 kg), although it lost in the "Big Food" contest to Brown's modest olive. McGregor also appears in the eggplant episode and brings Brown too many eggplants to use, often using wheelbarrows and cardboard boxes as delivery methods. The name of this character is most likely a nod to Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit children's books.|
|Coco Carl||Bart Hansard||Carl is the symbol of conglomerate chocolate manufacturers like Hershey. In "Art of Darkness II: Cocoa", he is seen peddling his products to people on the streets and does his best to force them down people's throats. After encountering Carl, Brown becomes fed up with Carl's inferior products and sets out to produce his own homemade versions, but not before declaring that Carl's cocoa has toxic ingredients. Carl is on the run from the law because of this. In "Puddin' Head Blues", Carl disguises himself as "Auntie Puddin'" and is arrested at the end of the episode for his "crimes." In "Power Trip" Brown visits Coco Carl in a solitary confinement cell in a parody of The Silence of the Lambs.|
|Sid Maxburg||Bart Hansard||Sid is a bombastic entertainment agent who is usually seen trying to revamp the images of allegedly forgotten foods like vanilla ("My Pod"), sweet potatoes ("Potato, My Sweet"), and okra ("Okraphobia").|
|The Dungeon Master||Lucky Yates||Brown's personal dungeon master (a parody of Igor and Sméagol), who appears in "Tort(illa) Reform", "Cubing A Round", "Fruit Ten from Outer Space", and "There will be Oil". Brown usually disapproves of his loose grip on reality; for example, in "Cubing A Round" he spends $1,500 on a Swiss mechanical steak cuber using "the little plastic thing with the numbers on it" (AB's credit card).|
|Brown, Marshall Millard, others||These characters occasionally appear to deliver legal information pertaining to the food(s) featured in an episode. The 'government agents' appear as 'Men in Black', mostly from the FDA or USDA, who give information about government quality standards for certain foods, speaking in a stereotypical loud, fast-paced, overly-serious tone. At times, they also claim that Brown's food does not meet government regulations, and as a consequence confiscate what he's cooked. Sometimes[when?], Brown's aforementioned evil twin acts as a single "agent"; at other times, Brown and two other "agents" (generally played by members of the production crew) appear. In "Churn Baby Churn 2", Nic Sims of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a fan whose kitchen was remodeled by Brown in All Star Kitchen Makeover, played one of the 'Agents', who were dressed as soda jerks.|
|Itchy & Twitchy||Brett Soll and Jim Pace||Alton Brown's two lawyers, always dressed in business suits and carrying briefcases. They appear when AB is about to break some culinary law, saying, "Well, if it isn't my lawyers, Itchy and Twitchy." In the episode "Pretzel Logic", they direct Brown not to use lye in order to give color to his pretzels. Neither of the two lawyers talks, instead they open their briefcases and hand Brown papers which he reads and complains about, giving brief descriptions of the law. The joke goes on when the two are constantly handing Alton many papers. Sometimes, Alton is beaten by the system and must find an alternative way to cook food, and in other cases Alton uses his own method as a loophole. In "Orange Aid", it is revealed that Itchy can talk, as heard when he had a brain freeze from AB's orange ice cream. The duo reappeared during "Alton Brown Live: The Edible Inevitable Tour," once again as Alton's lawyers. In addition to work as his lawyer, Pace accompanies Brown during the show's musical numbers playing percussion or the role of "DJ Itchy."|
|Refrigerator Gnome||voiced by Alton Brown||A garden gnome with a stereotypical accent that lives in Alton's refrigerator and teaches the safety of refrigerator management, usually poking fun at AB for bad sanitation.|
|Name||Specialty||Role on the show|
|Shirley Corriher||Author, chef, self-labeled "mad" food scientist||Shirley appears on the show to help explain the scientific processes behind cooking. She is the author of CookWise, the Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, which won the 1998 James Beard Award for Food Reference and Technique. Whereas Brown tends to use comedy around the other experts, particularly Deborah Duchon, he generally plays straight with Corriher.|
|Deborah Duchon||Nutritional anthropologist||Duchon is from the Department of Anthropology and Geography at Georgia State University, who helps explore the history of the episode's topic. In later seasons she tends to appear out of nowhere, with Brown reacting in mock fear to the words "nutritional anthropologist" appearing in the script. She is probably the most featured expert on Good Eats, appearing in many episodes since part of the show is normally dedicated to exploring the history of a food. Generally, Brown ends his scenes with Duchon by asking her, "how do you like your (food of the day)?" One fourth season episode ("Chile's Angels") featured a character called "Debbie Duchon" who was supposed to be Duchon's daughter. In fact, she was Brown's fictional creation when Duchon was not available for filming. The character led to a bemused reaction from Duchon when fans of the show asked her about her "daughter."|
|Caroline Connell||Nutritionist, dietitian||Connell (and other similar experts) tend to appear on episodes where Brown features a food that has positive health effects, and uses nutritionist's data as evidence. She appears many times in the first seasons, but now it seems that Brown retrieves his information from many specialists who only come on the show once or twice.|
The Lady of the Refrigerator
|Dietitian||O'Neil is a dietitian who occasionally shows up to discuss nutritional value of foods with Brown. She also plays The Lady of the Refrigerator (a parody of The Lady of the Lake), who occasionally appears in Brown's refrigerator to impart information about the food or cooking technique covered in the episode, and to tease and needle Brown.|
|"Ma" Mae Skelton||Brown's grandmother||In addition to being referenced by Brown in several episodes, she appeared in "The Dough Also Rises," and baked biscuits alongside Brown. She also appeared in the first episode of season 2, "It's a Wonderful Cake" as number 7 of the secret food organization, mimicking SPECTRE from the James Bond movies, and gave Brown the idea for a fruit cake. She died in 2001.|
Brown plays other roles from time to time, often consisting of him explaining something in the foreground while another Brown demonstrates in the background (similar to the technique used to present B.A. Brown). Sometimes he participates in an on-screen skit to re-enact such topics as cavemen discovering cooking techniques, while providing a voice-over narrative. At other times Brown talks to another character played by himself, with the camera cutting between the two as each delivers his lines, for instance, when he is (also) playing a Government Agent.
The show was discovered by Food Network when an executive saw a clip of the show on the Eastman Kodak website which used the clip to showcase a new type of film stock sold by the company. The show was picked up in July 1999 by Food Network, which then owned exclusive rights to the show. The back catalog of shows were added to the repeat rotation of sister network Cooking Channel in the fall of 2011, and Brown announced that his contract with Food Network had expired and moved to Cooking Channel in 2011
New episodes aired on Wednesdays in the late evenings from 1999—2007, when they were moved to Mondays at 8 p.m. From July 9, 2007, until Summer 2009, at least two different episodes aired each weeknight (8 p.m. and 11 p.m., along with late-night replays at 2 a.m.), with a third airing on Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m.; additional episodes were occasionally added (usually coinciding with a Food Network series or event).
On October 10, 2009, Good Eats celebrated its 10th anniversary with an hour-long live stage show aired on the Food Network. Guests included Ted Allen of Food Detectives and Chopped. One of the demonstrations in the show proved that a fire extinguisher was not a unitasker, as Brown constantly repeated in regular episodes that the fire extinguisher was the only unitasker in the kitchen.
On the January 4, 2010 episode, Good Eats revealed Alton Brown's changed eating habits that led to his losing 50 pounds in 9 months. Brown emphasized that he was not on a diet; in spite of this claim, however, Brown went on to describe a regimen that prescribes certain healthful foods with specific degrees of regularity (daily, once every two days, etc.) while proscribing unhealthy foods. He did, however, make clear that this was not a diet in the modern American sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning. Prescribed foods included breakfast every day (usually a fruit smoothie), oily fish, whole grains, etc. The episode comically claimed the entire story was in Brown's new book, Buff Like Me.
Good Eats was nominated for the James Beard Foundation's "Best T.V. Food Journalism Award" in 2000, and the series earned a Peabody Award in 2006. "Rarely has science been taught on TV in such an entertaining – and appetizing – manner as it is in Alton Brown's goofy, tirelessly inventive series."
In 2011, Alton Brown was given the James Beard Award for Best TV Food Personality for his work on Good Eats.
The end of Good Eats
On May 9, 2011, Alton Brown announced via his Twitter that he is "retiring" the show after 249 episodes, and there will be three new one-hour episodes to be produced and premiered in 2011. The back catalog of shows were added to the repeat rotation of sister network Cooking Channel in the fall of 2011, and Brown announced that his contract with Food Network has expired and moved to Cooking Channel in 2011. The crew of the show with their families are shown at the end of the first hour-long episodes ("Right On Q") eating BBQ while Alton narrates that truly a BBQ is just an event meant to be shared with friends and family. In the special Thanksgiving episode of 2011, "Reromancing the Bird", favorite characters of the show — sister Marsha, niece Marsha Jr., neighbor Chuck, the southerner Uncle Colonel Bob Boatwright, the food agent Sid, Frances Andersen portraying Uncle Bob's nurse, and the Dungeon Master — reappeared for a last time as a final tribute to their contribution to the show. At the end of the final episode, for the first time in years, Alton Brown did not finish the show with the line "see you next time on Good Eats". Instead, he said, "Stay dark, America", snapped his fingers, and the screen went dark.
The final episode of Good Eats, titled "Turn on the Dark", was aired February 10, 2012. Alton Brown announced the following statement via Facebook earlier that day at approximately 2:00 PM EST:
Tonight at 8pm: The final, oh so special installment of Good Eats. It's an hour-long ep called "Turn on the Dark". Chocolate fans take note. Repeats at 3am on the 11th, then Feb 12 at 7pm then Feb 13 at 11am. "And yes, I'm kinda sad.—Alton Brown via Facebook at approximately 2:00 PM EST
When asked about the end of the show on the August 29, 2012 episode of The Nerdist Podcast, Brown stated "I've put Good Eats into cryogenic holding. I'm not saying it's gone. I didn't shoot it in the head, I didn't kill it, but after 13 solid years of production, I needed a break." 
UPDATE: According to TheBraiser.com, Alton Brown said "I crossed the 250 episode line, and I realized that I was tired. It was a very stressful show to make; it was completely scripted, we did between 300 and 600 pages of research. I can only 22 a year, because they were very involved. We shot them like movies, single-camera … I crossed that line, and I also kind of saw the writing on the wall, I think, which was that the era of the instructional or educational culinary show was frankly coming to an end in primetime. I think I saw that primetime food shows were going to go to competitions and reality. … I would have rather put it out to pasture that be cancelled."
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