Martha and I are such fans of “Somebody Feed Phil” (even back to its PBS predecessor, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”) that when the third season was released on Netflix, we binged all five episodes in a day. Part food show, part travelogue, Phil Rosenthal’s show is a great diversion from our current headlines and a flashback to when we could not only travel to far-off places, but sit near other diners in restaurants, too.
This time, Phil goes to Marrakesh, Chicago, Montreal, Seoul, and London, where — as usual — he finds meals that make his eyes open wide with joy. We’re not into everything he samples — no seafood and nothing spicy for us, please — but it’s still nice to go along with his adventures, especially when he encounters kids, with whom he strikes up an instant rapport with his expressive face and joking demeanor.
One of the highlights of “Somebody Feed Phil” has always been the moment towards the end of an episode when Phil checks in with his parents, Helen and Max, via Skype. He often compares his visits to various cities to those his parents had when they were younger. Sadly, Helen — who was the inspiration for Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the sitcom Phil created and exec-produced — developed ALS last year, so she only appeared in one sequence before her death last October at age 86. Without her presence, the Skype scenes aren’t quite as joyous, although Phil’s wife (Monica Horan) appears with Max, who can’t resist telling jokes.
Unfortunately, season three of “Somebody Feed Phil” only has five hour-long episodes (instead of six). Fortunately, Phil and his crew were able to shoot a fourth season before COVID-19 closed the world, so now we’re looking forward to seeing that, hopefully in the fall, and with a full complement of shows.
Speaking of the pandemic, I can’t help but wonder how many of the restaurants that get such wide exposure on “Somebody Feed Phil” have managed to survive during the lockdowns, and whether they’ll have enough customers in the coming months to allow business to return to anything approaching normal.