With eating competitions, stuffing it all in is what matters. On G4’s new food-shoveling game show, Hurl!, the object is keeping it down. Needless to say, the ancient governments of Rome would have approved. Debuting next Tuesday, Hurl! introduces five contestants — usually young, pudgy frat-boy types of dubious wage-earning prowess and bearing unearned smirks of confidence — to individual mounds of one type of food (chicken potpie, mac and cheese, clam chowder, etc.), of which they are instructed to eat as much as they can in a short span of time. The top three speed gluttons must then submit to an extreme physical endurance test — while strapped to equilibrium-upending gyroscopes, spun in carnival teacups, or rolled in human bowling balls — during which the urge to regurge must be submerged, while ride operators or show assistants in the vicinity wear hazmat suits just in case. Two voice-over commentators offer fast-paced patter on competition techniques, like “the vent” (strategic belching) and “the psych-out” (pretending to near-barf next to an opponent), as well as helpful rule notations, including the key distinction that if one’s haul revisits the mouth, that’s okay, but seeing the light of day again is a no-no.
I won’t lie. I have no “end of Western civilization” feelings about Hurl! I enjoyed it. More than perhaps any other game show ever, Hurl! has a laboratory-like interest in the mood shifts of the human face — which is the show’s secret appeal, I think — but when it comes to what brings a man down, it’s strangely demure, preferring to digitally cover up the more raucous, geyserlike streams of puke. (I guess even spew has its bleep-worthy parallels when it comes to broadcast standards.) But I also like that the show isn’t done in a studio under massive lights and in front of a seated audience but instead is filmed guerrilla-style in mostly outdoor locations at night around Los Angeles, giving the whole enterprise the appropriate feel of something permitless, prankishly ephemeral and meant only for those with specialized tastes. Sorry, I didn’t mean to use the word tastes.