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Mmm, Doughnuts! ... And Other Menu Items on My Can't-Miss 'TV Dinners' Restaurant
January 18, 2012  | By David Bianculli



[UPDATED UPDATE: I'm leaving this up for another day. My son, Mark, won't stop suggesting entries for proposed 'TV Dinner' menu items, which I keep adding at the bottom of the column. And you readers also have added some great ones, which keep piling up as Comments.

So have fun, folks. We're here all week. Try the Veal of Fortune... - DB]

They laughed at me when I brought doughnuts into the Fresh Air with Terry Gross office in Philadelphia last Friday. Not because I brought doughnuts -- I always do that when I guest host.


They laughed because last week, I brought in special Dunkin' Donuts, offered in celebration of the 60th anniversary of NBC's Today show.

And more specifically, they laughed because the mere existence those doughnuts brought me such joy. But while they're laughing, I'm dreaming -- of a million-dollar idea for a theme restaurant built around TV shows. I think of it as a little place that's called, and serves, 'TV Dinners'...

But first, let's get back to the doughnuts.

Melody Kramer, the genial guru of all things online at Fresh Air, has made a habit of photographing and chronicling the Hawaiian shirts I wear Fridays when I guest host. I'd like to claim my wardrobe choices as a "Casual Fridays" thing -- but I can't. I'm dressed just as casually on Thursday. And Wednesday...

But this time, I asked Melody to take a picture -- of me holding a Today doughnut. She obliged, happily -- knowing it would be mere minutes before she's post the photo on Tumblr, or Jugglr, or TghtropeWalkr or whatever she does, and toss me out there to be chewed alive, like chum to the sharks.


One of the Fresh Air producers, John Myers, thought this particular photo session was ridiculous enough to photograph with his own digital phone camera (I'm surrounded by Zapruders!) -- which is how I'm able to show you not only Mel's photo of me above, holding the doughnut, but the one at right, taken by John, of Mel taking my picture.

(Reactions to that shot are at our own TV WORTH WATCHING Tumblr page -- yes, apparently we have one -- HERE.)

But look what happened next. Mel posted the picture on the Fresh Air Tumblr page HERE, and asked readers to suggest their own TV-themed doughnut flavors and designs. The results were not only voluminous, they sounded delicious -- and were flat-out clever.

My favorite, from Skipp (who has a Tumblr page called IllJustBeLike), responded to another poster's request for a Breaking Bad doughnut by imagining the perfect one: "Crumbled blue sugar crystals on top of plain white frosting." Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.


Another Tumblr poster, TheJungleNeverDies, suggested an Arrested Development doughnut with "banana frosting" -- a clever nod to the show's Bluth Frozen Banana stand. And there are plenty of other suggestions, which you can read on the aforementioned Fresh Air Tumblr site. Or begin a discussion on this aftermentioned Facebook page: the TV Worth Watching Facebook page. Apparently, we have a wall HERE, or at least a lean-to.

But enough social media sidetracking. The main event here is food and TV.

Doughnuts are what got us here, and they have a strong association and tradition with TV. When I think of TV and doughnuts, my mind goes back to ABC's Twin Peaks (see the photo at the top of this column), where the sheriff's conference table was decked out with doughnuts, stacked in tiny tasty towers of two.


Mmm, doughnuts.

Which reminds me -- The Simpsons, of course, has long presented doughnuts as Homer Simpson's favorite, saliva-inducing, mmm-generating treat. And the marketing people behind that show know well the power of doughnuts. When The Simpsons Movie was released, Sony sent (to some critics) specially made boxes of specially made Simpsons doughnuts, seen at right.

Why stop there? Why not offer them to everyone, all the time?

And why, for that matter, stop with doughnuts? Twin Peaks was as famous for its "damned good coffee" and its cherry pie as for its doughnuts. Why not have a Twin Peaks coffee-and-pie special on a restaurant menu?


It's not like it hasn't been done before, many times. ABC's Pushing Daisies was set at a mouth-watering pastry diner called "The Pie Hole." To publicize the show's second season, ABC rigged up a portable "Pie Hole," and hit the streets of Southern California trying to drum up viewers while slicing up pie.

Even HBO's True Blood has gotten into the game, marketing not only uniforms and mugs and beer glasses from Merlotte's, the show's fictional bar. The show even approved the marketing of a crimson-red brew called Tru Blood -- named after the synthetic blood sold to well-behaved vampires in that fictional bayou town.


So can I bayou a brew? Sure -- if it's blood red.

And what of the Boston Beacon Hill bar once known as the Bull & Finch Pub? That place was the inspiration for the bar in NBC's Cheers -- and when that sitcom proved so overwhelmingly popular, the Bull & Finch eventually bowed to the cultural tsunami and changed its name, officially, to Cheers Beacon Hill. Play it again, Sam Malone...

My TV Dinners restaurant idea, though, isn't centered on a single show -- but celebrates all of TV at the same time. Maybe we'd have to pay the culinary equivalent of royalties to the various studios and program owners, but so what? That'd still leave room for enough profit, and enough creativity, to make it a fun place to run -- and to visit.

Think of your favorite shows, and the associations that come with them, and help me plan a menu:


Aunt Bee's fried chicken from The Andy Griffith Show!

Pork sandwiches and meatball "gravy" from The Sopranos!

Bree's pineapple upside-down cake from Desperate Housewives!

Steak tartare from The Walking Dead!

And what about home-made M*A*S*H Potatoes?

Charlie's Angel Food Cake?

Gunsmoke-d salmon?

Prime Rib Suspect?

The Mickey Mouse Club Sandwich?

77 Sunset Strip Steak?

I await your suggestions...

[UPDATE: My son, Mark, who insists he still writes for this site (most evidence to the contrary), caught wind of my TV Dinners restaurant theme and rose instantly to snap the bait. This is, after all, the young man who contributed to a list of classic literature-related meats by providing, among others, "Filet Miserables," "Porterhouse-Five" and "To Grill a Mockingbird."

So, in annoyingly short time, Mark relayed back these TV Dinners menu suggestions:

South Pork
Bonanza Cream Pie
Sponge Cake Square Pants
Kebob Newhart
The Twilight Scone
Leeks and Geeks
Grill More Girls
I Love Sushi
Chex & The City
Sandwich and Son
The West Wings (too easy, perhaps)
Coffee the Vampire Slayer

Makes a father proud. - DB]

[Second update, sent after his lunch break on the West Coast:

Mary Tyler Mortadella
Mary Tyler Smores
Ally McVeal
Murphy Brownie
Brie's Company
Slaw & Order
Dukes of Haggis
Fantasy Eye-round
The Toast Whisperer
Mad About Stew
Malcolm in the Griddle Cakes
How I Met Your Mutton
All My Chitlins
Pork and Mindy
Bread Like Me
Hash Gordon
Dennis the Venison
My Favorite Margarine
Gossip Grill
Saved by the Bell Peppers
Have Bun Will Travel
Fudging Amy

-- Makes a father worried. - DB]

Third and decidedly final update from alleged TVWW The Son Also Criticizes contributor Mark Bianculli, sent later:

The Flax of Life
Logan's Rum Cake
Laverne and Shirley Fries
La Femme Ni-Pitas (ouch, sorry, had to try)
The Big Meringue Theory
Rescue Meat



DerikB said:

Oh, MASH would have to be homemade gin martinis!

[Absolutely! I'll drink to that! - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 10:07 AM

Ashley said:

Parks & Rec Savory Waffle Burger (with a side of Salger, of course).

[Mmm -- waffles. When I drive to Pittsburgh and Latrobe, I stop at the Coal Miner's Cafe for homemade waffles and turkey. Glorious. Like their cobbler. I should add that combo to the TV Dinner restaurant: Cobbler and Gobbler. - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 12:40 PM

Len F. said:

60 Minutes rice
Howdy Doodles
Hill Street Blue Cheese Dressing
The Brady Bunch Bananas
Candy Candy canes
The Banana Splits
The Magic Garden salad
Polka Dot Door prizes
Vegetable Soup mix
Wheel of Fortune cookies

Bon Appetit!!!

[They are sound good, Len -- but damn, Wheel of Fortune cookies is Einstein-level brilliant! - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 12:44 PM

Graham said:

I'm not too hungry, so how about Justifried Egg?

[That's great!!! I was thinking, myself, of ordering a simple dish: Justified Chicken. Warped minds think alike. - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 1:11 PM

Tom said:

Oysters 30 Rock(efeller); Lee J Cobb salad with the This Old House dressing; How I Mettwurst Your Mother; Big Bang Popcorn; Bob Newharts of Palm Salad; A&E BLT; Ernest T. Seabass; Kilgore Trout almondine; Penne and Teller; Search for the marrow; .... and Bobby Flay of Sole.

[Oh, my, Tom -- these are a delight. Oysters 30 Rock(efeller)? That's clever, feller. And Penne and Teller -- Yummy. - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 4:40 PM

Stewart said:

I am reminded of the Frasier episode in which Niles gives Martin a coveted box of five different meats from Hickory Farms, which Martin refers to as the "Slaughterhouse Five".

[I'd forgotten that! Great one. And as a treat, here's one more of my son's meat/literature mashups: The Diary of Anne Frankfurter. - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 10:41 PM

Eileen said:

What about the Wait Staff --

Sid Ceasar Salad.
Imogene Cocanuts.
Judith Light & Fluffy.
Art Chile Con Carney.
Betty Egg White.
Brad Pitt-a Bread.
Paulie Walnuts Sundae.
Hawkeye Rib Eye.

[Eileen!!! Betty Egg White is a stroke of genius. And how did Sid Ceasar salad get by all of us??? Wonderful!!! - DB]

Comment posted on January 18, 2012 10:55 PM

Michael said:

Limited Late Night Menu:

Ketel One with a side of Snyder's Pretzels.
Talk Soup.
Grilled Jack Cheese.
Johnny Cakes.
Ed McMuffins.
Jimmy's Roots Beer Float.
Dave's Canned Ham Sandwiches.
Scrambled Craigs.
Steverino's Hi-Ho Ho-Hos.
Coconan Custard Pie.
Americone Dream Ice Cream with Jimmies.

[Michael -- Wow. First of all, the concept of four different menus -- Morning Shows, Daytime, Prime-Time and Late Night -- is the uber-idea that just might push us over the edge, in a good way. Amazingly inspired!!

And Ed McMuffins is SO good, it has to make the Morning menu as well. Hilarious. And Snyder's pretzels... we could serve those straight from the bag. Great. Thanks for playing. You get a copy of our home game. Whatever that is. - DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 3:14 AM

jimac51 said:

See what you started. Now, find Mary Ann Madden and get her out of retirement to judge this sucker. First prize - the home game. Second prize - two home games.
My breakfast at the TV Dinner Diner would be: fried chip beef with onions and Cheez Whiz, a bagel with a shmear of Philly Cream Cheese and two eggs, yolks up 'cause, as everyone knows, they're always sunny with Philadelphia. Mmm, sounds so good and junky, I might run that by the Philly area Wawa convenience stores for consideration.They at least have the decency to call their sandwiches "hoagies" and not "subs". One and a half cheeses in a breakfast platter from hell - any heart surgeon will love that, for job security.

[Well done. And it could be served by Yakov Shmearnoff... - DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 9:23 AM

Mac said:

Another comment, and, as always, you don't have to print either. Do you think the Dunkin joints repackaged the unsold Today donuts as "Yesterday's Today Donuts"? And if they celebrate Tom Snyder's old NBC late night show with a cruller, they could sell Tomorrow donuts today and the unsold ones Yesterday's Tomorrow Donuts? My brain is starting to hurt.

[My side hurts, too -- from me laughing. And Beatles fans could work out a combination pack of the two, offering day-old talk-show baked goods as "Yesterday's Today and Tomorrow." Nice job. - DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 9:34 AM

Eileen said:

How about

The Three Stewges.
MacNeil/Lehrer Cake.
The Wild, Wild Western Omelet.
One Life to Liver & Onions.
Hogan's Heroes.
The Price is Rice Pilaf.
Once Upon a Thyme.
Boardwalk Empire Kosher Franks.
Gingerbread House.
Dick Cabbage Show.
Reading Rainbow Sherbet.
I Remember Mama('s) Meatballs.

[Eileen, you have some MAJR winners here! Well, they'd be winners if this were a contest -- but my, my. The Price is Rice Pilaf! And the sheer simple genius of Hogan's Heroes! The more ideas I hear, the more I want to run this restaurant. And you'll always have a corner booth. - DB]

Mark was brilliant. Must do a father proud...

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 3:44 PM

Phillip R. Crabb said:

Humbly offering my lame attempts...(If I duplicated previous, apologies, did not read them all...)

Smucker's Brothers.
..and its summer replacement
Glen Campbell's Soup
...singing "Brownstone Cowboy"
(may have to be from Jersey for above)

Saturday Night Chives.
Crusader Rabbit Stew.
Tubby the Tuba-Steak.
(say previous w/ a thick Italian accent..)
My Favorite Meringue.
Doh-Hoagie Gillis.
Gilligan's Thousand Island
featuring the Captain, Alan Ginger Hale

Mr. Magoo-Goo-Gai Pan
..starring musical guests the Poo-Poo Platters

My Mother the Escargot.

Will stop while ahead...

Franklin, NJ..

Ooooh!...Ooooh!...Ooooh! One more...

Welcome Back Fodder with Horschackadish sauce!

[Wonderful, Phil! My Mother the Escargot is a CLASSIC!!! And Gilligan's Thousand Island is indeed a fine salad dressing option. Nice! - DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 6:26 PM

Pam Clark said:

Oh my LORD, he is his father's son.. I am laughing so hard I can't breathe... But I will pass the challenge on to my mom, to see if she may top the prodigal son :) xoxo

[Dear Pam -- Mark will be glad, as always, to hear he made you laugh. What else are nephews for? -- DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 6:55 PM

Laura said:

My daughter, Pam Clark, sent me your web site link and challenged me to send some menu items:
Sex and the Ziti
Wheel of Formaggio
Sunrise at Portabello
Petit Four Junction
Rizotto and Isles
Don't know if any of these are duplicates
I just started reading Dangerously Funny. Great reading so far.

[Glad to have you aboard! And Sex and the Ziti is fabulous -- as is Risotto and Isles. How did those get pasta everybody else? Great work -- and you have a great daughter, by the way. - DB]

Comment posted on January 19, 2012 11:02 PM

Graham said:

This really is too much fun to be legal.
Herman's Head Cheese
Cop Rock Shrimp
Mr Beans and Rice
Small Wonderbread PB&J
Mutton, She Wrote
Mad About Au Jus

[Great, Graham -- and you saved the best for last! - DB]

Comment posted on January 20, 2012 5:04 AM

Phillip R. Crabb said:

..glutton for punishment...

Rowan and Martin's Pilaf-In.

Atlantic City: Donut Pass Go.

The Croquet Show with Matt Flour.

Broadcast Mousse.

The Beatlemania Special: "All we are saying, is give peas a chance."

[Uh-oh, Phillip. Nice ones -- but what a can of peas you've opened there. My son already has his own list of Beatle meals, as well as other musical concoctions. Many years ago, he grabbed the first four herbs from my herb garden, used them as a crust to cook fish fillets on the grill, and came up with the perfect name for the recipe. The herbs, in order so I would remember them, were parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Mark's name for his four-herb-encrusted grilled fish? Salmon & Garfunkel.

Gotta love him. At least I do. - DB]

Comment posted on January 20, 2012 10:35 AM


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