Best TV Channel Tournament Primer: Food Network?

August 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

I continue my look through the world of television channels by stopping by one of the more unconventional options: The Food Network.

Like basically every other channel, The Food Network has changed quite a bit over the years, transforming from a station directed towards a specific niche audience into one that conforms more to programming for the rest of us.  While the daytime programming is still geared towards educational cooking shows like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen, Food Network at night has reality and competition programs that appeal to another niche audience:

People that eat food.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to say that everybody watches or likes the Food Network, because that’s definitely not true, but for whatever reason I find myself looking to see what’s on Food Network more often than ever.  Sure, I love food, but why should I really care what other people are eating or watch food being made that I’ll never be able to taste?

Because that’s how much people love food.  We love it to the point where calling it “Food porn” is not an exaggeration.  In many cases we are watching experts beautifully paint on a canvas with materials we love.

“Oh damn, Bobby.  What are you going to do with that steak?!”

“Stop, hold up.  Is that?  Is it?  Oh shit, it is.  He’s got the garlic salt!”

“Paula, you dirty dirty dirty old woman.  But can I substitute your 12 sticks of butter with like, 2 sticks of butter?”

I have said before on this blog that when I lost 150 pounds after college, I spent basically my entire day watching the Food Network.  It would seem like the opposite of what you’d want to do if you were trying to lose weight and eat less, but it was more like a healthy substitute.  I could imagine what it was like to eat what they were making, but with zero calories.

Food porn.

At that time, they were still mostly just doing the cooking shows and not the competitions or finding the best food and restaurants in America, so it was easy to just stop watching at a certain point.  It’s what I’ve referred to earlier as “throw-away television” or “expendable television.”  It’s something that was mostly a time-waster and not educational or especially entertaining.  It was just something to do.

That has changed in recent years though.  Now I find many of the shows to be highly entertaining and I really find myself excited when I know that one of my favorite shows is going to be on Food Network in the evening.  Here’s a brief rundown of those shows:

Chopped

Probably my new favorite thing to watch, Chopped basically takes the best part of Top Chef (the cooking) and condenses it into one hour, where we don’t have to follow the contestants for a whole season.  The idea behind Chopped, the fact that not only do the contestants not know the ingredients but that the ingredients provide a certain level of difficulty, adds to the excitement level.

Yeah, watching people cook is exciting!

It’s also pretty fun that we see regular failures on Chopped.  Whereas in many shows it seems like these chefs can do no wrong, I’ve gotten to see some pretty terrible foods prepared on Chopped.  Like… literally inedible foods and these are professional chefs.  I’m happy that they don’t cut it down to just the good stuff.  These guys fail a lot and that’s part of what keeps me watching.

I just wish that people would stop saying that they’re being underestimated.  Literally every chef seems to either think that the other contestants are going to underestimate them, or they’re incredibly over-confident.  If everybody assumes that they’re being underestimated, then obviously nobody is being underestimated.

And stop doing crazy shit with your hair, chefs.  The only thing that I want to see in your hair is a hairnet when you’re making my food.

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

There probably isn’t a more annoying or douchy host in America than Guy Fieri, but the concept of this show is so good that I will watch any episode I haven’t seen before and sometimes re-watch the same episode multiple times.

Perhaps part of the charm is that Guy is such a douche.

But the real star of the show is the Diners (I almost have never seen and Drive-Ins or Dives but I guess “Single D” wouldn’t have been a good name for the show) and it’s cool that they find places you can actually go eat and not $100 a plate restaurants in Manhattan.  This is where the comfort food is.  This is where the attainable $7 meals are.  This is how the regular person ended up making it in the food industry.

That’s what makes the show watchable despite the fact that a 44-year-old man is still sporting the same hairdo I had in the 7th grade.  I made terrible decisions in 7th grade, Guy, why are you still making them?

My favorite restaurant in LA is only a couple of blocks away from me.  I was sooooo excited when I saw Gloria’s Mexican Cafe on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Really gave that show some more credibility for me.  Just want to throw that out there.

Good Eats

The show ran for 14 seasons but finally came to an end earlier this year.  It’s not a traditional cooking show, instead explaining the science of food, which is probably why it was so integral as a part of why the Food Network is what it is today.

Good Eats was one of the first shows I ever watched on the Food Network with regularity and started to break down the barrier that “Only mom’s watch Food Network” when I noticed a lot of my guy friends in college watching it.  Alton Brown is like a modern-day Bill Nye!

Iron Chef America

Alton Brown!

Iron Chef America is basically like Chopped except that they do use world-renowned chefs and they have an hour to cook a five-dish meal with one special, secret ingredient.

Iron Chef in Japan opened up the way for Iron Chef USA (which failed) and then finally Iron Chef America which opened the door for shows like Chopped and so on and so forth.  This is the show that made people realize that they just liked to watch people cook great food and then be judged for it.

We really like to judge people.

Sweet Genius

And Sweet Genius is basically exactly like Chopped except that we have desserts and Ron Ben-Isreal.

I’ve said before why I like this show.

In Conclusion!

Anyways, that’s a quick rundown of the shows I watch on The Food Network.  I actually think I’m forgetting one or two, but oh well!  I’m not actually giving the channel a spot in my Best TV Channel Tournament because it has no real shot without actually having original scripted programming (how interesting could a Sopranos-style food drama be?) but I wanted to note it’s existence and how much I like watching it now.

There’s a lot of good stuff on the Food Network, but I won’t be able to nominate it until Smell-o-Vision and Taste-o-Vision are real things.

I can’t believe I went the entire article without saying this, but Giada De Laurentiis is my hearts song.  Feed me, Giada:

 

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