Thursday, August 10, 2006

Food Network Summer Programs: Hot, Hotter and Hottest

Three new Food Network shows have premiered in the last couple of weeks.

Hot: Road Tasted

Featuring the spawn of Paula Deen, Road Tasted consists of Jamie and Bobby Dean traveling around the country to taste different kinds of food. They visit locally owned, small restaurants, a la Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels or $40 a Day. What with the travel aspect and the let's-turn-the-Southern-charm-up-to-eleven aspect, I fully expected to hate this show. Surprisingly, I've grown to like the Deen boys and this light little show. Jamie and Bobby truly are charming and personable - sort of like the Paula Deen of yesteryear*. I enjoy the banter between the brothers ("Brother!"), and they are kind and easygoing with the guests. It's not the best thing I've ever seen on the Food Network, but it's nice, light summer fare.

Hotter: Feasting on Asphalt

When I heard that Alton Brown was doing a cross-country road trip on his motorcycle, I was excited. Good Eats is one of the best shows on the Food Network and I couldn't wait to see how Alton would put his spin on the traveling food show genre. Plus, "Feasting on Asphalt" is so poetic, so Alton, that I had high expectations. The scenery is great, Alton busts out his knowledge at every turn, and the food choices have been predictably quirky (brains - ew!). However, the show is somewhat of a letdown due to poor pacing and the realization that Alton is human, after all. Look, the show is pretty darn good, but when you're talking about Alton Brown you expect great things. There are only a few episodes left and I will continue to watch them, but I wish I had lowered my expectations before viewing this show.

Hottest: Throwdown with Bobby Flay

I can't believe it either! How is Bobby Flay, my nemesis, most arrogant cook on the planet, hosting my favorite Food Network show of the summer season? I couldn't wait to watch Flay bust out his smarm on the common man so I could bust out the snark on Flay, but instead he's been humble, funny, and sincere. The ultra-competitive Iron Chef Flay is nowhere to be found, and instead he seems like he enjoys meeting the amateurs and is genuinely having a good time. I started to like Flay during the last Next Food Network Star season because he gave the contestants solid advice and criticism, but this show has cemented it for me: I am now a (mild) fan of Bobby Flay.

The challenger cooks have been good-natured and up to the challenge; indeed, most of them have whupped on Flay. I was concerned that Food Network would play these amateurs for laughs or that it would seem like they were being duped, but all of the cooks seem eager to challenge Bobby Flay. The contestants believe that they are taping a profile for Food Network, and that's essentially what they do for much of the show, before Flay enters the picture. However, I'm not totally convinced that the bait-and-switch is necessary, because I think plenty of cooks would want the challenge (and exposure) of going mano y mano with Flay. At any rate, this show is more of a showcase for the amateur's talent than a show about Flay or even the competition itself.

Still, Flay's good, the contestants are good, the food's good, but the key to this show is Flay's two soux chefs, Miriam and Stephanie. They keep him in line and aren't afraid to let him know when he's screwing up a recipe, running out of time, or just generally being a chump. I could see a Three's Company remake starring Flay and those two women. But who would play Mr. Furley?

*I'm currently trying to compose my thoughts for a monster post about the downfall of Paula Deen. It's been painful to watch, as my favorite Food Network host has turned into a cariacture of herself, alternating between amped-up bawdiness and sedated melancholy. It's truly terrifying.


Writeprocrastinator said...

"But who would play Mr. Furley?"

Donald Rumsfeld?

SharonZ said...

I just turned Paula Deen's show on--she looks like she's afraid someone is going to make her eat the cranberry sauce gelatin salad she's making!

Chris said...

I agree with you about the downfall of Paula Dean... so sad. She used to be so fun and cute, now she seems unbalanced.

I completely disagree with you on Bobby Flay: I can't stand him in the least.

I haven't had a chance to watch Feasting on Asphalt, but I have TiVo'd it. Even bad Alton is better than good Bobby.

M. Alice said...

Just found this blog: brilliant!

"Road Tasted" is kind of nice. Those Dean boys are surprisingly likable, and they've a good rapport.

I sort of share your feelings on "Feasting". The pacing is just a bit *off*. I DVR the episodes and end up fast-forwarding through a lot. I really like "Good Eats", though the corny "bits" do grate on me somewhat. I appreciate that this special series dispenses with that stuff -- it allows you to get Alton without all the frosting -- but the flow is a bit stilted.

I'm torn on "Throwdown" and Mr. Flay. I really despised him with the whole (Japanese) IRON CHEF fiasco. Then I kind of warmed up to him through some of his bits on "Next Food Network Star" and his own shows. I just don't like that they dupe these "amateurs" into thinking that they're going to tape profiles when it turns out to be a competition. And it seems even more arrogant that Flay walks in out of nowhere and challenges them with their own specialty that they've been crafting for years. If he'd won that "wedding cake" challenge, I would have puked.

Elaine wanna-be said...

I'm looking forward to reading your post about Paula Deen. I am concerned for her because she seems to look so haggard nowadays and I fear she is spreading herself too thin. I love her and sure do hate to see that happen
to her!

I have yet to see "Road Tasted" because it comes on too late for me on Tuesday nights and everytime I see it on the guide, it's just about to go off. I have not seen "Feasting on Asphalt" or "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" either. I do agree with m. alice though about the cheesy bits on "Good Eats". They tend to grate on my nerves as well. But he has an understanding of the science behind food that is astounding.

Anyways, looking forward to your thoughts on Paula!

Mrs. James McGloin said...

I found your site, hilariously enough, Googling to try and locate a blog post about how Alton Brown and Tyler Florence defended Giada at some food television panel.

I am DELIGHTED to have found your blog, particularly because I have been harassing friends with grody amounts of gushing over Alton's "Feasting on Asphalt," (which you don't seem quite as jazzed about! But that's okay! You're watching it!)

Do you have an LJ feed for your blog? I'm lazy.

Seriously, you rock! I've enjoyed going through your history/favorite posts for the past hour!

Here is what I wrote about Dave Lieberman...your entry about him making you nervous made me chortle.

bloghungryscleaninglady said...

These shows are caliente, but the Bloghungry sex tape on my site is mucho mas caliente!

Amandarama said...

I've been enjoying "Feasting on Asphalt", but I agree with you about the new Bobby Flay show - I was caught off guard that he could ever come across as likeable or humble.

If I didn't know that Paula Dean was married and a dog person I could totally see her becoming a crazy old lady who lived only with cats in the not too distant future. Sitting in her rocking chair babbling about mayonaise and packaged cake mix. Drooling.

is that so wrong? said...

I do believe I spotted a clip from a repetitive Food Network commerical of Paula Deen slurping from a chocolate fountain. The woman is a ticking timebomb. Maybe she took a tip from Sandra Lee and chases prescription medication with tequila before she goes on camera.

JordanBaker said...

Road Tasted has actually caused me to change my opinion about which Deen boy is hotter. Bobby's so much more engaging and articulate; Jamie's cute, but he's too willing to be a buffoon.

And I get at least three google searches a day of the "what's wrong with Paula Deen" variety, so I can't wait to hear your thoughts