Daily Archives: April 25, 2008

Tenacious T

Those who find nothing but foolishness and despair in local TV news may find a bit of redemption now. When Randy Travis of WAGA’s I-Team is on his game, there’s nothing better. He’s at his best now. Travis is doing a two-night investigation of Atlanta sushi restaurants. While the topic may seem dangerously close to WGCL’s silly restaurant ratings franchise, Travis executes solidly. He’s not claiming that the restaurants are dangerous or dirty– but convincingly makes a case that five out of seven tested are just plain dishonest.

In his buildup, Travis hints that this is not an original idea– but rather, one lifted from another investigative unit elsewhere in the country. This is pretty common. TV stations trade / steal ideas all the time. Whatever the origin, it led Travis to send pieces of Red Snapper sushi to a lab for DNA testing. The results showed that reputable sushi restaurants were serving much-cheaper Talapia for menu items listed as Red Snapper.

Travis shows up at these restaurants with a camera afterward. In one case, he gets the classic hand-over-the-lens treatment from a caught-in-the-act restauranteur. But two others are much more fun to watch. In one instance, Travis asks the restaurant manager to show him the original box in which the “red snapper” was shipped. The apparently English-challenged manager produces a box with the word “talapia” on it. This results in a hilarious exchange:

Travis: See, this word here is “talapia.” (He carefully enunciates each syllable.)

Restauranteur: Talapia?

T: Talapia. You see?

R: Uh huh.

T: This is not snapper.

R: Not snapper?

T: No.

In the second instance, the deer-in-the-headlights look on the face of the confronted restaurant manager at Ru San’s is priceless.

Travis’s demeanor is that of a tenacious college professor rather than an attack-dog journalist. It gives this investigative piece an appropriate tone. Travis leaves open the possibility that some of these restaurants “overlooked” the truth about their sushi, while firmly making the case that this is highly unlikely.

And it doesn’t hurt that Travis is one of the best writers and storytellers in town. This is worthwhile viewing, produced by one of local TV’s best.