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We like to pay attention to glimmers here at MDK. Sometimes, the micro-moments of goodness sneak up on you. Sometimes, you have to seek them out. And sometimes, some things wind up being a mixture of both.

Somebody Feed Phil is that third flavor of glimmer.

If you’ve paid attention to American pop culture over the last 30 years, you know who Phil Rosenthal is, even if you don’t know you know. Rosenthal wrote and produced about a billion episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, a sitcom I personally did not love or really even like that much.

I figured I’d feel the same way about Somebody Feed Phil (and its precursor I’ll Have What Phil’s Having). I thought it would be sitcom-glib, full of trite observations about popular places like Tokyo or London or, even, Nashville. There would be no there, there.

I thought my heart only belonged to Anthony Bourdain when it comes to the globe-trotting-and-weird-delicacy-eating genre. Bourdain could capture the gritty spirit of a place in a way that made you fall in love because of said grit rather than despite it.

Where Bourdain was broody, Rosenthal is bright. He’s like Bourdain’s photo negative. Still witty, mind, but Phil approaches the world as the eternal optimist. Which is exactly what I need to spark my own joy.

His optimism isn’t because he is in denial about the darker parts of life. It’s more that Phil’s internal compass is always pointing to Here Now, even when here and now isn’t a whole lot of fun.

That embrace of life’s rich pageant is what makes Somebody Feed Phil so very, very glimmery. Even when we’ve seen a place on TV before, we haven’t seen it with Rosenthal, who takes such delight in every human, place, and food in his orbit that it is contagious.

It helps that the episodes are gorgeously shot. What helps more is how you get to know Phil and the rest of his family, from his brother who is one of the cameramen to his wife Monica who pops in occasionally to his parents, whose last years were captured in the video chats Phil had with them in each episode. First both of them on screen; then just one; then both gone.

By choosing to acknowledge their passing, Phil has done all of us a mitzvah, because life isn’t just about moving from pleasure to pleasure, it is also about moving through loss.

Which isn’t to say this travel and eating series is a meditation on grief. Instead, it’s about leaning into the good times when they are here, about seeing the glimmers when you get ’em.

In the early seasons, each episode would feature a joke from Phil’s dad, each more Borscht Belt-worthy than the last and so bad that you have to laugh. In the more recent seasons, comedian friends of Phil have taken on the role, unspooling groaners designed to remind you to just enjoy a laugh so that you can feel life as you are living it.

Or, if you’re so inclined, life as you are knitting to it.

About The Author

Adrienne Martini, the author of Somebody’s Gotta Do It, would love to talk with you about the importance of running for elected office or about all of the drama of holding a seat on the Board of Representatives in Otsego County, New York. Adrienne blogs when the spirit moves her at Martini Made.

20 Comments

  • I saw Phil interviewed at 92Y and he said his team is in fact the Bourdain team.

    • That makes total sense.

  • We have devoured all the seasons of Somebody Feed Phil! His joy in meeting people and tasting new foods is so beautiful and gives hope me for more people finding the glimmers.

  • Thank you for highlighting this series…I wasn’t aware of it. I’m putting this on our list to watch right after we finish Portrait and then Landscape Artist of the Year, other MDK recommendations that we’re loving.

  • It’s on Netflix.

    I think I’ve seen every episode of ‘Raymond’ and some are so true to life … it was great ‘daily watching while visiting at the nursing home’ tv. I think if that suitcase episode every time one of the males in my house walk by a laundry basket that needs taking up or down.

  • I think it’s the love, as well as the optimism, that makes this series so great. Just watch the episode with his development tally challenged cousin.

  • Ooo, I’ve had camels’ milk pudding and it was absolutely the best. I can only imagine how good camels’ milk chocolate would be! That series looks fabulous.

  • I have never heard of this series but now I have to watch it! Thank you for bringing this to us, Adrienne!

  • I have watched every episode of Phil and have kvelled( enjoyed ) all of them. He makes me laugh which is a good thing.

  • I have never seen this, but I am looking forward to watching it. Thanks for writing about it.

  • I just love this show! It had totally escaped my radar until recently! A friend told me to watch the episode about Iceland in preparation for our upcoming trip. We ended up going to several places Phil visited in Reykjavik (hot dog stand, cinnamon rolls, fish soup – all fabulous finds we may have altogether missed!) PS Iceland is a fabulous destination for knitters!!!! I met so many knitters during our stay, bought beautiful yarns and loved seeing gorgeous sweaters on everybody!!!! Now we are hooked on the show, enjoyed revisiting cities we’ve traveled to and those that might be in our future! Its the perfect after dinner, get out the knitting dessert!

  • Sounds like something I need to check out. Thank you.

  • I loved Bourdain, and have read many of his books, too. When we recently were in Hanoi, we ate at the restaurant where Bourdain and President Obama ate. We had what they now call the Obama special, a fried fish roll, bowl of pho with beef and a Hanoi beer. Delicious, and about $5. I have watched only a few episodes of Somebody Feed Phil, but really liked them. Thanks for reminding me to try it again!

  • I watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond pretty much every Sunday night when there’s nothing else that catches my eye, and they still make me laugh. What a family! I’ll Have What He’s Having ran on our local NYC PBS station and I never missed one. Now I watch Somebody Feed Phil regularly and I miss those awful-but-funny Borscht Belt jokes his dad used to tell. Phil seems like such a down-to-earth kind of guy who’s never forgotten his NYC roots and I loved his interactions with his parents. The only problem with shows like this is that they leave me really wanting a taste of whatever it is they’re eating.

  • I love this show! I’ve been following it as they come out, for all of its seasons. It’s like comfort food (get it?), in a tv show, except, for me, I would probably wind up hospitalized if I ate some of the things he does!

  • I’ve watched every episode and love them! Phil’s mom was so funny I miss their banter. I love that Phil just includes everyone no matter where he is and doesn’t care if he acts like an idiot because he’s enjoying life!

  • love SFP, esp the moments when Phil insists that the crew all taste whatever he’s having . the non-food adventures are always fun too.

  • This is one of my favorite shows to knit by. My only issue is that I always want what he’s having! I love Phil!

  • The best part of the show is the call with the parents!

  • ❤️❤️❤️

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