When I lived in Chicago, PBS show Check, Please! was a beloved institution amongst the city’s dining enthusiasts (including a charismatic state senator named Barack Obama). Later when I moved to San Francisco, the show’s Bay Area incarnation was a helpful educational tool in navigating a new city’s restaurants. Now the Chicago-based creators of Check, Please! have confirmed the show is expanding to Seattle. The first episode of Check, Please! Northwest will air on Thursday, March 8 at 7pm on KCTS 9.
The gist of the show is this: An episode features three guests, a varied trio of public television viewers, sitting down over a glass of wine to discuss their favorite restaurants. Each member of the group must dine at everyone else’s favorite establishment before the taping so guests can compare experiences. The format lends itself to some fish out of water hilarity, be it a rotund cop at a vegan restaurant, or a staid matron forced to endure thumpy club music at a sleek sushi lounge. However it also produces some diverse restaurant commentary, decorous debate, and a spotlight for unsung local establishments that get obscured by buzzier places. Check, Please! is a hyperlocal reality show that dates back to the days when that term referred to actual reality. And unlike Top Chef, nobody gets sent home.
The show (also in South Florida, Kansas City and Phoenix) is an absurdly good fit for Seattle, given our dual love of public programming and talking about food. If Check, Please! Northwest captures one tenth of the restaurant discourse that lives on Twitter, it will be compelling indeed.
David Manilow, the show’s creator, has long been eyeing our city. "I love Seattle," he says. "The city’s beautiful and interesting, the restaurant scene is vibrant and creative, and the people are smart and discerning. I think that will be reflected on Check, Please!"
Manilow says the local production team is still in the early planning stages, but one of the first things to ponder will be signing on a host, usually a telegenic member of the local food community. Judging by other cities’ hosts, an affinity for wine doesn’t hurt either. Let the prognosticating begin.
According to KCTS 9 producer Nicole Metcalf, anyone interested in 30 minutes of local television fame can write to [email protected] or visit the application page at www.kcts9.org/checkplease. Each guest gets a meal stipend (supplied by Check, Please! sponsors) but appearing on the show isn’t exactly a meal ticket. Participants usually end up shelling out some cash of their own.