Surfing the Menu-Episodes 1-8 (Series 1) (2003)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 212:19 (Case: 208)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Geoff Bennett
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Curtis Stone
Ben O'Donoghue
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Surfing the Menu is the latest release in the growing genre of "cooking" DVDs. This one features two expat Aussie chefs as they return to Australia from their respective restaurants in London. The show is currently running on ABC television, so it is somewhat surprising to see the DVD appearing quite so soon. As a fairly avid watcher of cooking shows, and given that this features a namesake (Ben O'Donoghue), I was intrigued to see what new twist Ben and compatriot Curtis Stone would add to the burgeoning list of such titles. The lads travel around Australia, meeting the locals and cooking a number of dishes for your delectation. Sounds great on paper, so why does it fail to deliver in reality?

    Unfortunately, for me, the answer is that it serves up little more than an appetiser, and leaves you feeling hungry and unsatisfied by the end of the service. I believe the series fails to really deliver overall, and it falls between two stools. What we are presented with is much more of a travelogue than a cooking lesson - the DVD blurb suggests "one part travel adventure, two parts cooking show" - I would suggest one part cooking and three parts travel myself. The structure of each episode is disjointed and hard to follow - having two chefs cooking two different meals at the same time may seem like an innovation but in actuality makes it nigh on impossible to follow either recipe properly.

    To its credit, the show does eschew endless obvious shots of the Coathanger, the Big Pineapple and koalas along with the other obvious Australian targets - choosing instead to visit much more esoteric destinations. Alas, the two chefs simply do not have the charisma of Jamie Oliver, lack the raw sex appeal of the buxom Nigella Lawson and cannot match the wealth of useful, detailed technical information supplied by Neil Perry. The lads do have some larrikin charm and there are a couple of quite touching family reunions present in the series, but strewth...if I had heard them say "mate" one more time, I swear the DVD would have gone into the bin!

    All eight episodes from the (first) series are presented as follows:

    Surfing the Menu is mildly entertaining television in the travelogue vein, but is not a good example of a cooking DVD. It provides too little in the way of culinary education, along with disjointed recipes which makes them very difficult - if not impossible - to follow. The lack of printable (or even on-screen) recipes is a definite oversight. One word of warning for those who want to watch this with children - there are a couple of instances in which slightly coarse dialogue made me wince - breast size references and a tasteless rugby song spring to mind. Overall, this is a pale imitation of the various Jamie Oliver shows. If you are a fan of television cooking shows, then this series will provide some light entertainment but if you need a much more substantial cooking DVD, try Oliver's Twist or Food Source instead.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is very good - even given the fact that it is such a recent television series.

    The series is presented in a 16x9 enhanced ratio of 1.78:1, which is the original (digital) televised aspect ratio. The video transfer is very sharp throughout and there is nothing significant in the way of pixelization or graininess on show.

    Colours are very clean and well rendered, with a nice bright transfer featuring some vivid primary colours, appetising food shots and natural skin tones throughout. Colour bleeding is not an issue. Black levels are acceptable with no low level noise and, where needed, acceptable shadow detail.

    The transfer does occasionally show some minor digital artefacting, but so rarely that it fails to detract from the overall high quality of the video transfer. Fleeting examples can be seen in the opening titles and sporadically through the series. There is some noticeable aliasing which crops up from time to time (for example on the stack of plates at 2:13 in the Margaret River episode, on the edge of various mixing bowls and in the opening titles) but it is generally brief and not overly distracting on a progressive scan system. Edge enhancement was not a problem, even on a large projected image.

    The transfer is free from scratches, flecks and other blemishes - a very clean source.

    There are no subtitles present on the disc, which really is rather unforgivable.

    Both discs in the set are single layered, single sided (DVD 5) formatted discs, so there is no layer change to disrupt the flow.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is generally very good.

    The sole audio track is in English, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, encoded at 224 kbps.

    Dialogue is always clear and there are no issues with audio sync.

    Original music is credited to Tim Count and Keith Van Geyzel - and quite a catchy little tune the theme song is too. Other than the title music there is, unsurprisingly, no significant musical presence with the exception of the odd folk song performed by some of the characters they stumble across.

    The surrounds and subwoofer are unused per-se, but if you have Pro Logic II enabled then you will get some activity from your rear speakers (musical track and the odd bit of oceanic ambience) - not that it adds too much given the nature of the show.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are, somewhat shamefully, absolutely no extras on the disc.

Menu

    The menu is a silent and static picture of ...a menu. It allows you to choose individual episodes and...err that's about it. There are chapter stops available within each episode but they are not selectable or identifiable from the menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc does not appear to be available in either Region 1 or Region 2 yet.

Summary

    Surfing the Menu is reasonably entertaining but not particularly educational due to the haphazard intercutting between two recipes at the same time. Not a patch on some other cooking shows, this is more of a travelogue with food than a cooking show. Worth watching on television perhaps, but I cannot honestly recommend purchase of a DVD which provides no recipes and absolutely no extras. A half-hearted attempt in my book. Buy anything featuring Jamie Oliver or Neil Perry instead.

    The video quality is good, with only minor aliasing issues.

    The audio transfer is technically good.

    There are absolutely no extras present.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Friday, February 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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