Marc Summers’ television career began in the 1970’s in Los Angeles, and he’s been on the small screen ever since. To the children of the 1990’s, he’s the host of Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare.” To Food Network junkies, he’s the host of “Unwrapped,” the show that revealed the making of America’s favorite snacks, breakfast cereals and candy. Today, he’s a judge on “Rewrapped,” a food competition spinoff of “Unwrapped.” The Indianapolis native sat down with us to talk about his top spots in Philly and his travel must-haves.
You grew up in Indianapolis and found your first job in television in LA. What brought you to Philadelphia?
I found Philly in 1986 when “Double Dare” started on Nickelodeon. They didn’t have enough money to shoot in New York or LA and WHYY—the PBS station—wanted to get into the production business so they cut a secret deal with Nickelodeon. We shot the first couple years of “Double Dare” here in Philly and I fell in love with the city. I felt at home instantaneously. The nicest people in the country live in this city.
Did you always want to be a game show host?
It’s all I ever wanted to do. I came out of the womb saying I wanted to do that. I used to watch Bob Barker when he did a show called, “Truth or Consequences” on NBC, and then my first job in television was writing on that show in 1974. I’m sort of doing everything I ever wanted to do.
So working with Food Network wasn’t ever a part of the plan?
It was a major turn. I was unemployed [after] the head of programming at Lifetime, shall we say, fired me. I was doing a talk show and it wasn’t doing well. Then I read in one of the Hollywood trade papers that she had moved over to Food Network. I called her up and said I will pay you to get me back on television. She gave me a job called, “It’s A Surprise!” The surprise was that no one was watching but then we started doing “Unwrapped.” Now it’s the longest running show on Food Network.
Let’s talk about “Rewrapped,” where you’re a head judge and Joey Fatone is the host.
“Rewrapped” is “Chopped” with junk food basically. You take America’s favorite snack treats—Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, Goldfish—and in round one [the chefs] have to recreate that particular item perfectly. In round two, they have to take that item and do something sweet or savory with it, which is where it gets really creative. The show has done so well, we just got picked up and we’re doing 13 more [episodes] starting in August.
You also own your own production company. What other projects are you working on?
I’m doing a special in Cuba for the Discovery Channel—though I can’t talk too much about it. I’m starting to do a lot of personal appearances again. It runs in waves. Every day is a little different.
What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
I think I’m pretty much the same guy on and off camera. I never did this to get rich and famous and sign autographs. I just had a passion for it. I’ve never felt like I worked a day in my life.
You travel a lot between your home in LA and your home in Philly. When flying, do you prefer the window or aisle seat?
Always the aisle. Easy access in and out. Otherwise, when you’re sitting next to the window and you have to go to the bathroom, you sometimes wait forever because you don’t want to disturb the person sitting next to you.
What is something you never leave home without?
My iPad. I have 400 CDs on it so I have a lot of music. I mix it up a lot. I listen to a lot of Broadway and Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. I like The Four Seasons and James Taylor. I have an eclectic taste in music.
What are your favorite Philadelphia attractions?
Certainly Independence Hall, where it all got started. I go to lectures at The National Constitution Center fairly often. 30th Street Station is one of the most fantastic stations left in the country. I went to Alcatraz years ago and got caught up in the whole old-school prison thing and nothing is more old school than Eastern State Penitentiary. I love that place.
What is the best souvenir to take home from Philly?
The memories. I think people spend too much time taking pictures and they don’t really see what’s in front of them. Instead, absorb what’s going on around you and leave it in your memories. There’s history everywhere.
If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be?
Hawaii. No question. Hawaii is the only place in the world where I can just relax.