You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb can really chow down. So much so that cable’s Food Network has made a show out of watching Loeb and her longtime boyfriend, Dweezil Zappa, eat. In one episode of Dweezil & Lisa—which follows the couple, documentary-style, as they tour different locales—the petite vegetarian single-handedly attacks an enormous ice cream sundae, along with an assortment of cupcakes, whoopi pies, s’mores, and other goods, at a premier Chicago sweet shop. (No wonder Loeb titled her 2002 album Cake and Pie.) “Music is our business,” she explains in the show’s opening, but, Zappa adds, “our passion is food.”
Dweezil & Lisa is the Food Network’s answer to the rock ’n’ roll-couple reality show. As the thinking person’s Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, Zappa and Loeb aren’t chefs or food experts, but adorable, hand-holding Gen-X rockers in search of culinary adventures. These range from learning to make conch egg rolls at a five-star Puerto Rican restaurant to stopping at a homemade doughnut shop en route to Palm Springs. Along the way, they meet up with celebrity friends (the Indigo Girls in Atlanta, Bill Murray in Chicago), and explore side interests (shopping for Lisa, golfing for Dweezil). Part travelogue, part cooking show, part celebrity voyeurism, it’s all designed to look hip and quirky, with odd camera angles and fast-paced editing.
In many ways, Zappa and Loeb are the perfect couple to bring the Food Network to the MTV generation. After all, Zappa is a former veejay, and the pair met when Loeb made an appearance on a show Zappa was hosting. But beneath Loeb’s trademark cat-eye glasses and Zappa’s lightning-bolt sideburns, the pair often plays it a little too straight. The show relies heavily on voice-over narration, and their after-the-fact reflections can feel generic. “We had an amazing time and all the food was really good!” lobs Loeb at the end of one episode. She does better in more spontaneous moments. When wisecracking Bill Murray suggests Loeb’s dessert decoration looks more like a pig than a cat, Loeb defiantly writes “Meow!” on the bottom of the plate.
Dweezil & Lisa will need more of this spirit for the show to fly with Food Network junkies hooked on such super-sized personalities as Emeril Lagasse. Loeb can be tentative in the kitchen, and for a self-proclaimed fried-food lover she’s awfully timid around hot oil. (“I’m going to stand back a little,” she says whenever the skillet heats up, hiding behind Zappa.) Then there’s her vegetarianism. How many times are we going to want to watch her turn up her nose at meat ? Partner Zappa is hands-on with the chefs, but unlike his late father, Frank, he’s so mild-mannered that he can seem too passive.
Still, Loeb and Zappa are undeniably likable, and a half hour of traveling and eating vicariously through them goes down easy. Not surprisingly, the couple’s real charm comes across best during the show’s brief musical segments. A trip to a shop selling cuatros, four-stringed Puerto Rican guitars, proves the highlight of one episode. In time the stars of Dweezil & Lisa may grow into their TV roles, becoming as comfortable behind the stove as they are behind their guitars. In the meantime, let’s hope for a little less voice-over and a lot more rock ’n’ roll.
Michelle Walson studies film and television at Boston University.