A Plea to the Food Network
While television is meant for zoning out, the Food Network is losing me--and I’ve been addicted a long time! In the past, I could while away hours no matter how terrible the dishes prepared. It was food, 24-7 food, all of it was comforting to me. Now, after years of the same tired programming and their refusal to get with current trends, it’s hard to tell if you are watching current episodes or shows that were filmed years ago. Food, like anything, evolves and changes, so where is the programming that speaks to these new and innovative ideas, culinary trends, the current restaurant world, or local and regional cuisines? I understand that celebrity chefdom is the channel’s moneymaker, and I’m all for Mario Batalli, Bobby Flay, and Paula Deen, but they’re stretched thin with too many repetitive and boring shows.
Have you seen Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee? Her 90’s suburban shabby-chic sets and depressing lighting collide with atrocious recipes, and if you are in the mood it can make for an entertaining ride if you are into watching train wrecks. Lee’s Cordon Bleu education taught her gimmicks that use store-bought, ready-made ingredients to make it look like you spent hours preparing a homemade meal. Her real talent however, lies in the fact that she’s about the only person in the world who has a cooking show that can actually move the viewer to physical discomfort and nausea. For instance, I recently saw Lee dump the contents of a canned apple pie filling into the center of a store-bought angel food cake and then frost it with a canned frosting. She slapped this together and called it the "Kwanzaa Celebration Cake." Also, the fact that she puts "ceviche" into quotations should also make you very nervous.
Rachel Ray’s excruciating spunk seems to dominate the network with three shows currently on air and back-to-back episodes. She’s always up for a good time, and always up to offer her useless palette. You can take that girl anywhere in the country, give her a bite of anything you can find and she has the exact same reaction. She has even created her own language. I can’t stand her abbreviations for things like extra virgin olive oil, spelling out E-V-O-O to save time. I find it very distracting that while trying to give you tips on a making a quick meal for the whole family, her voice is hoarse and she looks like she’s been at a kegger all night. I am sure she is just overworked filming her many shows-- maybe it’s time for a well-deserved vacation or early retirement?
The latest shows that attempt to speak to a more "modern" audience are both patronizing and boring. Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello seems to be the network’s attempt at sophistication. Watching him entertain his straight, white yuppie friends makes you never want to go to another cocktail party for as long as you live (?), let alone think about hosting your own. He brands himself as the man behind "Napa-style," but the show is all about very pedestrian Italian food.
Which takes us to another Italian problem, Everyday Italian. Giada Di Laurentis looks like she’s never had a bite in her entire life. I know thin women who are just born that way, but that’s not who you want to see making luscious meals. I also can’t understand how someone has made a booming business off a show that basically just boils pasta and over annunciates "proscuitto" and "mozzarella." Her cleavage can’t even save the show. The only watchable women on this network are Paula Deen, Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson because they look like they eat! You believe their food tastes good based on the circumference of their thighs.
I am waiting for the food network to up the ante with their programming. Thank you for completely losing touch with your audience. It’s obvious with successful shows on other networks like Top Chef on Bravo, where flavored foams have become passé, that TV viewers are up for some sophisticated cuisine, if not, some scandalous reality TV. Give us a show about ingredients, the growers, or how to cook local, fresh seasonal food. Have a show that talks about all different kinds of fish, let us see into the small great restaurants all over our country, and show us the trends.
- Amra Brooks