Two of my favorite online shows, Freezerburns and the Nostalgia Critic, have recently made their return to the internet. While the latter, still charismatically portrayed by Doug Walker, remains in tried and true form, the former has undergone some noticeable adjustments. As you’ve probably guessed, I feel compelled to acknowledge and address them.
For those who are unfamiliar, Freezerburns was a show dedicated to providing frozen food reviews. These included “Fro-downs,” where similar dishes from various companies were compared, to testing certain meals when deep fried, to personal Top 5 lists, including the best frozen foods for when you’re snowed in. However, when Greg, the show’s host and creator, took up the “Food Stamp Challenge,” things slowed down and change started to come in a way that fans are definitely reacting to.
The show is turning into a different iteration, called “Freezerburns +1.” It appears that, for each episode, Greg will be taking a frozen meal and adding one “fresh” ingredient to make it better. Our first taste (pun intended) has been through the addition of green peppers to a Newman’s Own skillet meal.
First, let’s run through what’s good about Freezerburns +1. For starters, the production has definitely gone up. Everything from the captured footage to the editing and instructions is clean and clear-cut. The idea of adding something different to a meal so it can be improved is certainly interesting and creates a lot of potential. However, this is also where the fundamental problem with the show’s new direction comes in.
Fans have already commented about how the look and feel of the show is different and (severely) lacking a key factor: Greg. The man is someone who’s just enjoyable to watch. He’s fun, oftentimes charismatic, descriptive and leaves an impression of someone who’s informed but also among the common crowd. An everyday person could watch his videos and see exactly where he was coming from. It was all the more reason Freezerburns worked and continued to bring in subscribers.
This new format, on the other hand, is incredibly formal and, dare I say, commercial. Based on what we have so far, it’s less entertainment and more infomercial. And I want to address the show’s new core issue in the concept of adding one ingredient to a frozen meal. This isn’t an interesting, eye-catching premise. Anyone can add a single ingredient. It doesn’t make for interesting material. The videos themselves seem like they’re going to be incredibly limited too. The +1 in the show’s new title suggests that the inclusion of only one ingredient will be used and tested, which is hardly riveting. I would suggest experimenting and relaying the results of multiple ingredients one at a time in a single video, but that would be time-consuming, not to mention hard on the wallet.
One more reason I can’t see this new format taking off is because really, if you’re going to add ingredients like green peppers (with olive oil, mind you), why don’t you just make the dish yourself? You’re already taking the necessary steps by doing so with the green peppers in a separate skillet, so there’s little to deter anyone from going all-out. Many times the reason people buy frozen meals is because they’re convenient and the closest we can get to affordable variants of the “real deal.” Like many people, I work in retail and only get a half hour break per shift. I don’t like buying fast food or ordering from nearby eateries since it’s often time-consuming, more expensive, and even worse for me. Thus, I resort to frozen food meals that are relatively quick and convenient, by comparison. Am I going to have the time or resources to do something similar to what was depicted in this latest episode? Not in an everyday breakroom, I won’t.
My concerns for the future of Freezerburns (+1) are quite high. People got excited to see the show come back because they thought they’d be getting a new and improved version of something they knew, something that worked. The show functioned fine on its own and, thanks to an ever-changing and expanding supply of frozen food entrees, it meant there was never any concern for new material. Freezerburns had personality and a unique flavor (again, pun intended), this does not. This is more makeshift cooking from home than it is actual input on stuff people use and buy. Sometimes changes can be interesting, but as both fans and Doug Walker himself learned with Demo Reel, “interesting” isn’t synonymous with “good.”