Hi Food Network. It’s time we had a talk.
I’ve been largely stuck in the house for the past 6 months with the birth of my twins, and I’ve watched a lot of Food Network in that time. I think you need to reevaluate what types of shows you are now putting on your air. Seriously. You only have 4 basic types of shows anymore and you just rehash them over and over. I want to like you, but you make it really difficult. I present to you your programming in nutshell.
1. Competition shows where someone gets eliminated
Offending shows: Next Food Network Star, Worst Cooks in America, Chopped, Iron Chef America (sort of)…
Is there anything more tired and played out than the episodic shows where people (possibly in 2 teams) compete and someone gets eliminated every week? (ie. Star and Cooks). I know it’s not just you, it’s every single network on TV. Still, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it ok for you to do. I’m fairly certain I can’t take another show in that “Survivor/Apprentice” vein. Honestly. Next Food Network Star is always exactly the same. People struggle with talking and cooking simultaneously and get nervous on camera. We get it. But, I’m assuming like a lot of your shows, it’s cheap to produce and gets ratings. For the record, I think “Worst Cooks” was completely rigged and those people were all actors… bad ones at that.
“Chopped” is strangely addictive but it’s not perfect. One of the main problems is the same with Iron Chef… at least half of the “secret ingredients” I have no idea what the hell they taste like. Most of the time, I’ve never even heard of them. When you pull out some sheep testicle and dried tambaqui I have absolutely no basis for reference for what that might taste like. I’m sure you do that deliberately to make it tough for the competitors, but it makes it a bit less interesting for me. The only interesting ICA battles to me are when they get a common ingredient and are forced to use it creatively. At least I know what cheddar cheese or hamburger tastes like, so I can appreciate what the chefs are doing to it.
Best part of ICA? Alton Brown. Worst part? “Champion of battle XXX… Iron Chef XXX“. I know the Iron Chefs are good, but if they win every single time, it ceases to be interesting.
2. Shows where all of the drama comes from some arbitrary time limit
Offending shows: Dinner: Impossible, Restaurant: Impossible, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Challenge, Chopped, ICA, Cupcake Wars, Worst Cooks in America
Why? Why must everything have some clock ticking down to create forced drama? I know that in restaurants speed is very important. But you know what? I’d guess that a full 95% of your viewers don’t work in restaurants, have never worked in restaurants and will never become a line cook. Why must everything be so rushed and be on such a deadline? I’m pretty sure that when I’m cooking at home, the recipe doesn’t start with , “Ok, you only have 23 minutes and 17 seconds to finish this! Starting…NOW!” Why can’t the food be the star and we the viewer be treated to watching a true master take their time to create something special? My life moves fast enough. I don’t need to watch people sweating a timer for my enjoyment. If anything, it may be adding a vague subconscious stress to my life that I just don’t need. Maybe if it was just one show using this trick that would be fine. But when it’s used over and over again. Ugh.
I feel it needs to be said. Your show “Challenge” is only very tangentially related to food at all. Just because they are using chocolate and sugar to create another 4-foot tall princess castle, nobody is going to eat it. If nobody cares what it tastes like, it ceases to be food at that point. There really is no difference in using sugar than using any other cast-able, brittle substance. But I digress.
I think one of the worst offenders of the “time limit drama” is Restaurant: Impossible. I like Robert Irvine. I like that he doesn’t take crap from anyone and tells these delusional restaurant owners that their places suck and he’s gonna fix it. Why on earth does he get stuck with that arbitrary 2 day limit? Why can’t he have all the time he needs to get everything done he needs to really help those people out? I mean, this is these peoples’ livelihoods. And just because the producers set an arbitrary 2 day limit, the resulting product may not be everything it could have been.
3. Shows where you visit restaurants around the country and show what’s good
Offending shows: Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, Best Thing I Ever Ate, Kid in a Candy Store, Meat and Potatoes, Outrageous Food, any Giada or Rachel Ray show
Now, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with these shows. I’ve enjoyed them. I’m sure if anything I’ve watched them a little too much. Here is my major problem with these. I would be willing to bet that a full 99.9% of the places you feature in these shows I will never EVER make it to. Once I realized that, I couldn’t watch the shows with the same enthusiasm. Now every time I see one all it does is make me hungry for something I won’t get and remind me that chances are very good I will never end up in the town you’re visiting. Not to mention, even if I do visit said town, the chances of my remembering that there was a specific dish at some specific restaurant that I wanted to try are pretty friggin slim.
Wait, remember when I said there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with these shows? I take it back. There is… and it’s name is Guy Feiri. The host of the show I refer to as “Diners, Drive-ins and Douchebags”. In the beginning, he was ok… in small doses. But anymore, you’ve got this guy on your air in 2 hour blocks and that shtick runs pretty thin after a while. I think I’ve had enough sweatbands and frosted tips for a while. But again, I know that show is probably ridiculously cheap to produce, with the major expenses being hair care products and transporting his convertible all over the country.
Finally, the worst type of show on your air…
4. Shows about cake
Offending shows: Ace of Cakes (which I’m assuming started this trend), Cupcake Wars, Challenge, Have Cake Will Travel, Last Cake Standing
C’mon. Seriously. ENOUGH with the friggin cake. The absolute last thing that anyone on this planet needs is yet another show about cake. These shows aren’t even about how to make a good cake… they are about how to make a cake look like anything BUT a cake. Ultimately, there are simply glorified design shows. If I wanted to watch design shows, I could go to Bravo or TLC. I go to Food Network because I want to watch shows about food. Cake, although delicious, is not in need of this much PR. A few years ago, I enjoyed Ace of Cakes. It was new. The people were kinda interesting. Duff was kinda fun. But, after a season or 2 I realized that it’s all just brightly colored fondant (which is largely inedible by the way) molded into shapes. Over and over. I’m assuming Duff realized it too and mercifully killed his show.
Honestly, I can’t even comment on any of the other cake shows you are currently running in endless loops. I boycott them on general principle. That, and watching that commercial of some chick carrying a cake while wading through a fountain certainly doesn’t scream “food” to me.
Please. I beg you. No… More… Cake…
Now, you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned your actual, you know, cooking shows. That’s because you cram all of those in the mornings when I, and most normal people, are working. I’ve watched a couple of them and sometimes they’re good… except for that amazing fraud Sandra Lee. But, you have long since gotten rid of my sole favorite of this genre: Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. You never even bother to replay the old episodes you have. A shame.
Don’t even get me started on what the hell “Ice Brigade” has to do with food. Read this description and tell me honestly that sounds like something that should be on a “Food Network”. The only way ice approaches food status is if it’s going into a mixed drink. Even then, it’s barely more “food” than the glass is.
There is another thing about your network that bothers me as well. So, while watching an evening of your programming, you are basically telling us about outstanding food and that there are a lot of great restaurants in this country and how good local food is, so on and so forth (of which I wholeheartedly agree). Then you cut to commercial and it’s a never ending parade of Applebees, Outback Steakhouse, and TGIFridays peddling their new “dynamite chicken flingers!”. Don’t you find that odd? Don’t you find that just a touch hypocritical? I’m fairly certain I haven’t seen ol’ Guy Feiri roll into some town and say, “Ya know… we should hit up the local Olive Garden!”. Chain restaurants are the lowest common denominator. The change from watching, say Iron Chef America, then cutting to a Red Lobster commercial is quite jarring… to say the least. If only your and/or broadcasters could figure out how to serve up targeted local advertising over a national network so, those small restaurants could advertise to the people most likely to visit them. That is what something like Food Network should be doing.
All of which gets me thinking… what show do I see listed on Food Network when I’m scanning through my DirecTV guide makes me excited and want to stop on your channel… Turns out there is only one show left that does that. Good Eats.
Unfortunately, it appears you no longer care about Good Eats since according to this, it’s ending and you never even bother to show repeats. According to your website, between now and June 6th, you are showing a grand total of 5 different episodes. That is pathetic. You’re showing 5 different episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives by tomorrow. Good Eats is the show that got me watching Food Network in the first place. More importantly, it was the show that made me want to start cooking. If it really is coming to an end, I hope you put the entire series out on DVD so I can buy it and just not bother to turn on Food Network ever again.
I suppose I just need to set my DVR to PBS and record a bunch of America’s Test Kitchen, since that’s the last bastion of entertaining and informative food programming left.
At least if they make a cake, they actually care about what it tastes like.