Past NFNS Finale Foul-ups
This Sunday night is the final of season six of the Next Food Network Star. The finalist are Aarti, Herb and Tom but I’m guessing you already knew that. The fact that the show has only produced one legitimate star in it’s first five tries has not stopped viewers from tuning in each week to follow the ups and downs of the contestants vying for the chance to be the second. NFNS remains the number one rated show on the Food Network.
That is strange because of the history of, let’s say, questionable endings to some of the past seasons. The first two seasons went OK, not much controversy but in season three the fireworks started. Set the way back machine:
Season one was historical in a couple of ways. It was the first such contest of it’s kind. Second, the winners were a gay couple which, too, made it ground breaking. Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh are bright and talented caterers from Chicago. Their winning show, Party Line with the Hearty Boys, was not very entertaining but that wasn’t as important as the standards set by that first season.
Season two yielded the only Next Food Network Star winner to ever actually become a Food Network star, Guy Fieri. And a star he has become. Those TGIFriday’s commercials speak to the California culinarians mass appeal. He has hosted Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off the Hook, Ultimate Recipe Showdown and another show you may have heard of, Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives.
Season three is where things started getting – what’s the word? -oh, yeah, suspicious. JAG would have won, should have won, but for the last minute revelation that he had exaggerated his resumé. This resulted in an 11th hour return of recently booted Amy Finley who, given a second chance, ended up winning the contest (just like in a Hollywood script).
Why is this suspicious? Having been through the NFNS process I know how thorough their background checks are. Honestly, it’s easier to slip something past the FBI than it is The Food Network. With that in mind the idea that FN hadn’t bothered to check the accuracy of resumés just doesn’t wash. I do know this, the inncident was huge for the ratings.
Season four the shinannigans were even more outlandish. A stand-up comedian who was so unfunny it was actually painful, a boorish elitest who described anyone who has ever eaten boxed macaroni and cheese as “white trash” and a chef who was scared of fish and stayed weeks too long because she was pretty and satisfied a missing demographic at TFN, Indian cuisine.
There were two contestants who blew away the competition every single week. Shane Lyons and Kelsey Nixon were both perfect packages, however the judges (Bob Tuschman in particular) kept harping on their youth. It didn’t matter how well they performed, they were too young to take seriously. That of course begs the question, why let them into the contest at all? Nixon, by the way, won TFN’s fan poll on their own web site in a land slide and is to this day one of the most popular talents in the Food Network stables.
After eliminating the two best contestants, in successive weeks no less, we were left with the trio of Liza Garza, Aaron McCargo Jr. and Adam Gertler. Garza arrived as a foppish diva with serious cooking chops who, more than anyone else on the show, listened to the judges and turned herself into exactly what they said they were looking for. Gertler was good on camera but had limited culinary skills. McCargo was a passable cook but was terrible on camera; still is.
In an episode designed to whittle it down to two contestants McCargo, who had been a model of mediocrity, bombed. He bombed hard. In fact, it was without a doubt the single worst performance in the history of the show. Adam was okay and Garza blew the doors off the studio. Easy choice right? Boot the guy who bombed, right? Nope, the judges decided to change the rules and bring all three back for the finale. Aaron should have been gone but given a second chance brought home victory (just like in a Hollywood script).
Speaking of Lisa Garza she recently announced that she has signed a contract for her own cooking show.
Then there was the slip on the web site. Apparently, some web geek accidentally revealed the outcome of the show days before the final episode was to premiere. The web fiasco turned into a boon as fans who had tuned out because of the questionable antics (the elimination of Kelsey Nixon, especially) tuned back in to see if the web screw-up was a publicity stunt.
Season five was a little more tame with the exception of contestant Debbie Lee. Considered by many to be the most vile and despicable person in the history of reality cooking shows, Lee cheated, back-stabbed and sabotaged herself all the way to the next-to-last episode. At least that’s how it appeared after a few days in the editing room anyway. Melissa D’Arabian won and as her reward was given a TV show called $10 Dinners. Which oddly enough was not the show concept that won her the NFNS title. Coincidentally there was a national casting call back in 2008 for a cooking show called $10 Dinners that was surprisingly similar to the show D’Arabian now hosts.
So that brings us to season six and who knows what stunts, if any, Food Network has up it’s metaphorical sleeve.