off the air

Food Network Canceled?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
04/01/12

POPULAR FOOD NETWORK TO CEASE PROGRAMMING AT MONTH’S END

Alton BrownNew York City – The E.W. Scripps Company announced today that after 19 years in production their popular Food Network will cease programming at the end of April. The move took many in assembly by surprise. The press conference was held at Chelsea Market on 75 9th Avenue, home of the Food Network Studios.

Milton Funderburk, Acting Assistant Vice-Chairman of Cable Programming for Scripps was asked why the media conglomerate was closing the doors on its most popular cable franchise, “The time is right. After all when we purchased TFN back in ’97 we thought it would fail miserably.  That was the plan.

“We acquired the Network as a tax right off. We never dreamed anyone would actually watch it. Our thought was why would anyone want to watch someone else cooking on TV? I mean if they wanted to see someone cook, they could just go cook something.  Apparently we under estimated the American public’s desire to live vicariously.”

Comments from Guy Fieri on Food Network’s pending demise.  Article continues below.

Since the Food Network began programming in 1993 viewership has continued to grow though it was shaky in the beginning.  Those first shows featured chefs who were virtual unknowns like Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Emeril Legasse.  Now it is one of the most successful cable channels in television history which fueled more questions about why Scripps was giving TFN the axe.

Funderburk explained, “It wasn’t long after we took the Network over that we realized, we may have stumbled onto something here.  Viewership was growing exponentially and other vicariousity networks were springing up.  Not only were viewers watching people cooking instead of cooking themselves but they were watching the Travel Channel instead of going on vacation, eschewing exercise for the Fitness Channel and watching HGTV in living rooms that were literally falling apart around them.  I’ve heard that Time Warner is actually planning on unveiling the Sleeping Channel for people who are too lazy to fall asleep for themselves.

“The trend even crossed over into mainstream media.  Instead of keeping up with politics America was watching The West Wing.  There was no reason to invite the annoying neighbor over when you could tune into Jay Leno.  Why watch fact-based news programming when there was MSNBC?”

When asked about the future of Food Network Canada Funderburk replied, “That’s toast, too.  Not that anyone will notice, it’s Canada.  I know it’s the largest state in the US but hardly anyone lives there.  Let’s be honest if it wasn’t for the band Rush America would have never bought Canada from the Alaskans.”

The ultimate reason Funderburk offered for 86’ing their most popular holding was it’s very popularity.  The demand for food programming is so high that not only have other cable channels like Bravo and TLC entered the market but so have mainstream networks NBC and FOX.

Funderburk, noticeably angry, proclaimed, “If there is one thing I can’t stand it is being copied.  If everyone is going to dabble with food programming then we’ll just wash our hands of the whole thing.  It doesn’t matter to us.  We’ve always got our newspaper division.  That’s not going anywhere.”

MORE ON THIS STORY

Our thought was why would anyone want to watch someone cook.  I mean if they wanted to see that, they could just go cook something.

Crave with Troy Johnson Canceled?

Troy Johnson of CraveTwo months ago I did a review of a new series on the Food Network called Crave which was hosted by senior editor at Modern Luxury’s Riviera magazine Troy Johnson.  The host’s Dennis Miller-ian dry, brainy humor was the perfect venue for exploring the perfect versions of the foods all of us crave.

Since the show began I’ve tweeted a number of times with Troy and the other day he had sad news, Food Network has decided not to pick up Crave for a second season.  Hopefully you will find this just as disappointing as I do.  As I said in my review:

As far as the show itself, Crave has many of the best elements of previous food/travel shows like Unwrapped, The Secret Life Of and yes Triple D.  It will also appeal to fans of nerdy (for lack of a better word) shows like Food Detectives and the recently mothballed Good Eats.  That is where Johnson’s pension for meticulous research pays off for the viewer.  He covers each episode’s theme from both a historical and a scientific perspective.  And best of all he does it with an irreverent (dare I say raunchy) sense of humor not scene on the Food Network since Anthony Bourdain.

To be perfectly honest, I kind of saw the handwriting on the wall before Troy told me the bad news.  I don’t feel that the Network really gave Crave a chance.  Look at it’s time-slot, Mondays at 8:30PM.  In case that doesn’t jump out at you that means Crave was up against CBS’ highly popular comedy line-up, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and the ratings juggernaut Monday Night Football.

Further evidence lie in the lack of re-broadcasts.  For the unindoctrinated, Food Network usually shows four hours of prime time programing most nights which are usually repeated immediately after the original broadcast and then once or twice more that week.

Take for instance Iron Chef America which airs Sunday nights at 9PM, is rebroadcast again at 1AM Monday morning, Thursday it again airs at 9PM then again 1AM Friday and finally it airs again on Saturday afternoon.  That’s five broadcasts in one week of each new episode – two in prime time, two in late night and once Saturday afternoon.  Often in runs a second time on Saturday during prime time but not always.

Conversely, Crave received only three airings – once in prime time, once in extreme late night (3AM on Tuesdays) and once on Sunday afternoon again against another NFL game.  It was never given a fair shot.  In the restaurant world we would call that “setting it up for failure.”

This irks me because it was such a smart show and they wouldn’t air it in a time slot where people might see it and then canceled it after one run while ratings duds like Big Daddy’s House ran for six seasons.  Hell, The Barefoot Contessa is still on the air and star Ina Garten is on record as hating children with terminal diseases.

The ideal time slot for Crave  was Friday nights at 9:30 PM right behind Heat Seekers.  That seemed an obvious pairing but apparently someone at Chelsea Market couldn’t see it.  Hopefully the Network will have a change of heart or at the very least send Troy over to the Cooking Channel for a second season.  It might help if we all stop by the Food Network site and leave a comment saying, “Please bring Crave back.  It didn’t suck at all.”

Big Daddy’s House Canceled?

Perhaps a better title for this post is “Food Network Nixes Big Daddy; Nixon Gets a Third Series” or even “Bob Tuschman Owes Me an Apology.”

Kelsey NixonThree years ago America watched as a young culinary graduate named Kelsey Nixon wiped the floor with the other contestants of Food Network Star 4.  America also watched as Aaron McCargo Jr. mumbled his way through an unremarkable performance on the same series.  The most common adjective for Nixon’s performance that season was “perfect” while for McCargo it was “uncomfortable.”

But in the cesspool that is “reality” TV Nixon was booted and McCargo won.  Season four of Star was so obviously rigged that you could smell it from the moon.  From day one Kelsey had established herself as the best contestant in the cast and every week she left the competition behind like Lance Armstrong through the Pyrenees.  As for Aaron, had he not won the only thing anyone would remember about him is that he seemed like a nice guy.

Rumors abounded on the Online about why the season’s outcome was rigged, some absurd, some were probably more accurate than anyone wants to admit.  And though there were numerous theories the prevailing opinion was that Kelsey should have won.  She ran away with the fan poll on the Food Network’s own site.  That was embarrassing.

To make amends Kelsey was given a web series alongside cheflebrity Spike Mendelsohn of Next Iron Chef 4.  The podcast is the purple participation ribbon of reality TV, a consolation prize.  The problem was that people actually watched Kelsey & Spike Cook.  The same cannot be said for McCargo’s series Big Daddy’s House.

When the Cooking Channel went online in May of 2010 Food Network finally had a venue for their Star finalists who deserved their own show.  Kelsey’s Essentials soon premiered and quickly established itself as one of the best new stand-and-stir shows in years.  A year later and Kelsey has been tabbed to host yet another Cooking Channel series, The Perfect 3 which has just rapped it’s first 13 episode run.

Although McCargo’s highly controversial win sparked a huge viewer turnout Tom Pizzicafor the premiere episode of Big Daddy’s House only people named McCargo saw the 60 episodes that followed.  Aaron was additionally given the opportunity to host a food/travel pilot called Outrageous Food.  The show tested well with audiences but the host did not as it went into production last year but not with McCargo.  Rather with a Star season 6 runner-up at the helm.  Tom Pizzica made the show a hit and only a pissing contest between Food Network and Page Productions over another show has delayed a third season.

There has been a new rumor floating recently that Big Daddy’s House has mercifully been canceled.  Intrigued, I reached out to see if the rumor had any teeth.  Aaron McCargo Jr. Big Daddy's House CanceledWell yesterday I received formal confirmation that Follow Productions who films Big Daddy’s House (as well as Down Home with the Neely’s and Paula’s Best Dishes) plans no future episodes of McCargo’s show.  The word came directly from the Food Network itself. I asked if there would be a new season of Big Daddy’s House.  The simple one sentence response on my question was, “No, the show is no longer in production.”

So to review the fallout from Star season four: Kevin Roberts (booted in week two) has a show on TLC/Planet Green that is up for a Taste Award, Adam Gertler has had two prime-time Food Network shows, Kelsey Nixon has three series and Aaron McCargo Jr. has been added to the ever-skyrocketing unemployment numbers.

Luckily Aaron was able to squeeze a book deal out of his 15 minutes so that should help as our economy continues to spiral towards third world status.  Additionally, we can expect to see Aaron guesting on ABC’s The Chew as it is produced by Follow Productions.  Aaron is also a regular guest on the Nate Berkus Show so I wouldn’t worry about him; plus he’s a great guy.  And though McCargo’s fan base is very small they are also very devout so I would not be surprised to find him with a new show one day on another network.

A quick review of FNS winners:

  1. Party Time with the Hearty Boys got six episodes then was canceled.  Was brought back for 13 episodes and then canceled again.
  2. Guy’s Big Bite is still in production after 120 plus episodes.
  3. The Gourmet Next Door got six episodes then was canceled.  Reportedly Food Network offered host Amy Finley 13 more episodes but she declined and moved to another country.
  4. Big Daddy’s House despite atrocious ratings was given 61 episodes before being canceled after five seasons.
  5. Ten Dollar Dinners has to date produced 32 episodes over three seasons.  Currently filming season four.  New episodes continue to air on Sundays while older episodes join the M-F daytime line-up beginning Sept. 26th.  The move to the daily line-up is a strong sign that Food Network plans to make many, many more episodes of Ten Dollar Dinners.
  6. Aarti’s Party produced 28 episodes over three seasons.  The ratings were quite good but Food Network has moved it to the Cooking Channel in re-runs only.  Aarti has a new show in the works.
  7. The Sandwich King premiered to great reviews and a second season is already in the works.

Just for the record, during season four I repeatedly said Nixon had star written all over her and that McCargo, though a very nice person, was not star material.  That makes it Stuart Reb Donald 1, Bob Tuschman 0.  I await my apology, Bob.  You’ve got my number.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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