Monday, July 17, 2006

food network programming déjà vu

So far this summer when I'm not working or reading in Riverside Park or excessively loitering in bookstores or touring happy hours at my-kind-doesn't-belong-here swanky bars throughout the city, the television is likely on in my apartment. When it is on, it's usually tuned to the Food Network. Since I sacrificed my cable (and regained $40 a month), the basic package left behind mercifully includes the Food Network, aside from the other standard big 4 and a surprising number of Spanish-language stations, but that's about it. I don't really watch much TV currently because there's nothing to watch during the summer.... so for now it's serving mostly as a conduit for background noise. I've noticed, though, that if there's one thing the Food Network doesn't have, it's variety in its commercials.

With their commercials comes relentless advertising for a slough of new programming. Why, oh why are there so many travel-'n'-eating shows on the Food Network? What happened to good old cooking shows? It looks like the Food Network is slowly changing along the same lines as what happened to MTV, where MTV slowly shed everything that had to do with music to programming things only tangentially related to music (and now, not even that, I guess). Worse yet.... all these shows seem to be re-hashes of shows past. Out with the old, in with the new?

If the opening volley of Rachael Ray travel-'n'-eating shows from the past few years was a hint, now it seems like you can't watch a show without somebody traveling somewhere and relating it to food. The network is no stranger to this kind of show (citing now-golden oldies like "The Best Of..." and "Food Finds"), but I think they're approaching some kind of overkill. Keep in mind I haven't seen any of these new shows, because their commercials are already enough for me and I only like traditional cooking shows anyway.

Paula Deen's hunky sons get to tour the country on the Food Network's dime with "Road Tasted" (who gets paid to name these shows anyway?). They travel in a likely-it's-not-theirs vintage convertible and eat in mom-'n'-pop joints from coast to coast and tell you (yes, you!) the viewer how you can get these tasty treats at home. Wait a minute.... didn't the Food Network already have this covered with "Food Finds"? What's the matter.... Sandra Pinckney suddenly lost her charm? Also: has any one else noticed that the Deen brood's accents tend to be a bit uneven? That southern charm is part of their contract, people.

I'm not sure why Bobby Flay seems to be so popular; he must be testing extremely well in whatever markets the Food Network analysts are zeroing in on. Alas, "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" is yet another show where he gets to gloat about his cooking skills, and this time challenge you (yes, you!), America on how you cook your own down-home dishes. Doesn't Bobby Flay just seem mean? Maybe it's the perma-grimace. Maybe Food Network doesn't want to buy him out of his contract. A less invasive cousin of this show was in "Tyler's Ultimate", a relatively enjoyable variations-on-a-theme cooking show where Tyler Florence (gone extremely low profile as of late) globetrots and learns how real Italians make lasagna, real Spaniards make paella, and then sees how he matches up to par in is million dollar Manhattan kitchen.

Now for Alton Brown. Sometimes "Good Eats" can be charming and quite informative, but more often not it's like the Anal Retentive Guide to Cooking. Sometimes he just gets so tightly wound on how you (yes, you) MUST do what he says in the kitchen, and then goes overboard with self-consciously kitschy skits, that I can't stomach the show for weeks on end. Hopefully this won't be the case for "Feasting on Asphalt" (again, how much does this person get paid to come up with a sucky title like that?). Alton Brown tours the country on a motorcycle and acts as a one-man wikipedia on what food-related items he comes across. Food Network's first video blog, maybe?

Meanwhile, Rachael Ray's non-Food network talk show is picking up advertising steam; armchair cook cracks me up about this. I don't believe the Food Network is obligated to promote this future syndicated gabfest, so they don't.... but that doesn't stop local ABC networks from advertising how you can be a part of the show! (and with Rachael Ray suddenly calling herself "Rach") I just can't seem to warm up to the idea.... something about it is ringing fake all over the place for me. Maybe it's the fact that all talk shows ring fake. Maybe it's the promotional photographs of her in front of a wind machine mounting a motorcycle anchored to a sound stage.


Taylor Lauren said...

To keep it short: Bobby Flay is a whiny bitch of a Food Network personality, I hate the travel shows, and love The Secret Life Of, Unwrapped, Iron Chef, and the Food Network Challenges.

Am addicted to the channel, and I get teary when I remember that I don't get it at school (instead I'm subjected to 5 EPSNs).

Writeprocrastinator said...

"I've noticed, though, that if there's one thing the Food Network doesn't have, it's variety in its commercials."

That's the thing with basic cable and it's much worse with the cartoon channels. You get tired of Kidz Bop, cereals and Barbie, reeealll fast. At least FN got rid of that disgusting pet mess neutralizer/remover that couldn't have been too good for business.

Anthony Bourdain had a falling out with FN over them wanting to send him to those little festivals like that cat in the mobile home. He predicted two years ago that they would devolve into the direction they're going now.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"Throwdown with Bobby Flay" is yet another show where he gets to gloat about his cooking skills, and this time challenge you (yes, you!), America on how you cook your own down-home dishes."

Hopefully he won't jump onto kitchen counter tops if he beats the people on the show, ala his Japanese Iron Chef appearances.

Todd Robb said...

That is definitely true about the commercials, It seems they don't want to foot the bill to put their commercials on any other network.

Food Network Online

Josh Kellogg said...

writeprocrastinator has hit the nail on the money... Bobby Flay's an arrogant a-hole. His appearance on Iron Chef was gross, and so is his cooking. He exudes this ulta-hip, don't-touch-me metrosexual vibe, and it's sickening. Don't get me started.

Resident Advisor said...

I dont have as much of a problem with Bobby Flay as his recipes are actually edible unlike the ditz Sandra Lee who makes more cocktails then food, dont even get me started on that tablescape crap. They need to have more tyler florence and dave lieberman in my opinion as they are the only two good chefs they have on that network.

is that so wrong? said...

RA -- All things Sandra Lee deserve a blog post of their own.... that woman is frightening on so many levels. Aside from trying to give her guests alcohol poisoning, I have major qualms with Food Network's idea of having a cooking show based on things made from cake mix and premade packaged goods.