FIRST THINGS FIRST! There have been so many responses to my recent I Love Television™ poll--concerning what readers would lower themselves to do on television (up to and including allowing Jon Bon Jovi to drool in their mouths)--that my Commodore 64 computer had a mainframe meltdown. Not to worry, though! I've hired a troupe of illegal Japanese immigrants to do my calculations, and we'll have the results of this very important poll next week! Hurrah!

Oh yeah! And speaking of the Japanese, they are now my favorite global minority. Why? Because when it comes to producing television shows, they have not an ounce of subtlety--and as we all know, I despise subtlety. Subtlety is a completely useless affectation, which is often used by those too timid to just haul off and kick somebody in the nuts. Anyway. Japanese TV shows are out-of-fawking control, and Americans (though generally perfect in every way) could learn a thing or two from Japan's greatest creation--Iron Chef.

If you've been too stupid to get cable, then prepare yourself to feel a whole lot stupider. Iron Chef (Food Network, Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 7 & 10 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m.) takes the normally genteel act of preparing food and turns it into a baroque version of the WWF. Here's the setup (which starts out weird, but don't worry--it'll get weirder): The show's emcee is Takeshi Kaga, an incredibly wealthy gourmand who lives in a castle staffed with three "Iron" chefs--all of them masters in their respective cuisines. Kaga's main goal in life is to sit around in ornate Liberace-styled robes, and organize culinary "battles" where chefs from around the world compete against his hot-shit cooks.

The visiting challenger may choose which Iron Chef he will compete against, but... ah, HA! It is Kaga who chooses the secret ingredient the chefs must use in their creations. For example, if Kaga is feeling especially cruel, he may uncover a tank of conger eels! The audience emits an audible gasp as "Battle Conger Eel" (or, depending on the episode, "Battle Abalone," "Battle Foie Gras," or even "Battle Egg") begins!

The competing chefs then dash off to the castle's kitchens, and have an hour to complete multiple dinner courses--each containing the featured ingredient. As they furiously prepare the feast, announcers breathily comment on the action: "Iron Chef's marvelous presentation is widely regarded as.... Oh, no! Iron Chef is reducing his caviar sauce much too quickly! Such a mistake will surely cost him points!" When the allotted time expires, the gong sounds, and each dish is judged by a somewhat unillustrious panel, including a washed-up actor, a food critic, and a giggling, orgasmic ingenue. The votes are tallied... and almost every time, Iron Chef emerges victorious!

Needless to say, Iron Chef makes all those ordinary cooking shows look like a plate of dog crap marinade, and at least in my case, leaves me absolutely starving! So if you'll excuse me, I must check the fridge for today's secret ingredient. Ah, HA! "Battle Baloney Sandwich"!