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Nov 17, 2006 07:33 PM

Can a Cooking Show "Jump the Shark"?

We're having a discussion on Home Cooking about the recent ridiculous Good Eats Episode where Alton Fries a Turkey. Needless to say, I still hold to my belief that Alton owns a good chunk of Home Depot stock...

Nevertheless, someone made a comment about this show being the one where Alton Jumps the Shark.... I laughed and then started thinking... Can a Cooking Show "Jump the Shark"? Any examples of those who have?


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  1. I think all cooking shows have a limited shelf life. After a certain number of episodes it becomes clear that the recipes are no longer the chef's own. The most egregious example is Emeril Live. He cooks about 5 dishes a night. Even if there are only 50 episodes filmed that makes 250 recipes. Does anyone think any chef has 250 recipes?

    The PBS models for cooking shows are much better because there are such a limited number of shows.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KTinNYC

      I agree completely - esp about the ewok - he jumped the shark a long time ago when he had a show about Chinese. He had it wrong in about 20 different ways - but even if he had nailed it, why would anybody want to hear him talk about Chinese rather than say, Martin Yan? What makes a chef think he knows everything, or that he would be good at presenting everything to the public (after his assistants do a bit of research). When's the last time you saw Yan cooking a Jumbalaya?

      AB is, actually, a lot better than the ewok. I don't know if AB jumped the shark in any particular show, but he gets too much credit for a so-called "scientific" approach that has always been much more subjective (and often inventive) than truly scientific. The existence of a particular chemical or physical reaction doesn't, in and of itself, mean that a particular method is always better than another - there are a lot of variables in cooking, and there are a lot of traditions that have come about over the years from trial and error. Science is a good thing to know and apply, but a lot of psuedo-science lingers in the shadows. When AB contradicts a well known Julia Child or Cordon Bleu technique or recipe in the name of science, you wonder if has really nailed down the entire picture.

      Even when Corriher and other experts are used in his show, they are often simplified to the point of being meaningless. His giant foam molecules and other such devices are really, really old - I mean, is he shooting for the Jr. High Home Ec class, or is he making a show for home cooks?

      Other than his psuedo-science, he's just a chef presenting his ideas like anyone else. He's usually entertaining and his recipes are usually workable, although he periodically gets too much salt or sugar in them. It's just the air of superiority or righteousness due to his own interpretation of his psuedo-science (and history) that bugs me.

      I enjoy him best on ICA - he fits the Hattori role to a "t". And there, the psuedo-science/history pontifications are just part of the color.

    2. Pardon me for being behind the times re current jargon, but could someone explain to me the following references:
      ---Jump the Shark

      3 Replies
      1. re: Sharuf

        Jumping the Shark is a TV reference meaning the point where a Television show has used up all its good Ideas and has ventured off into the ridiculous in terms of plot line, script or gimmicks only to keep the franchise of the show going despite declining ratings. Jumping the Shark refers to an episode of Happy Days where the Fonz Water Skis and actually jumps a shark. Henry Winkler has said Happy Days did not go downhill until way after that point but he doesn't mind the reference because when they show a picture of that scene he is in the best shape of his life and proud to let people see those pictures

        More info at

        As for the Ewok comment apparently Anthony Bourdain once called Emeril a "fury little Ewok".

        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA


          On detective shows (e.g. "Mannix") you knew they were scraping bottom when they gave the hero a case of amnesia, and the plot line centered around whether he could get his head screwed back on.

        2. The turkey-frying episode of Good Eats is excellent.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            That's a joke, right?
            I love AB but his Rube Goldberg approach to deep frying turkey was too much. I deep fry turkeys too so I know his ladder/pulley/rope/ carabiner was pure showmanship. All you need is common sense and a sober hand!

            1. re: Tee

              Turkey-frying amateurs start fires and get rushed to the emergency room with serious burns every year. That's why Brown's local fire department was happy to cooperate in his demonstration.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                After watching the show I had the same impression. AB reaches a large audience and hopefully he prevented a few disasters this holiday.

                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                  Yes, I've read that the number of fires related to people attempting to deep fry their turkeys goes up every year. The show was a bit goofy, but it was worth it if it got through to any people who were going to deep fry without considering any of the safety issues.

                  1. re: nicolars

                    What really shocked me was how shoddy the turkey-fryer kit's stand was.

                    Boiling oil used to be a weapon!

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      FUD, FUD, FUD....

                      The 60 minutes from the 1980's that showed the "how not to fry a turkey" tape from the fire department has been around for over 20 years! What exactly was Alton adding to the message, other than fear, uncertainty and doubt!

                      I don't know what the actual risk percentages are - but I bet they're no higher than crossing the street in many places. I guess someone ought to do a public service message about fabricating yourself a tank for crossing the street with. Yes, there are more people hurting themselves, as more people try this - but the rate is not necessarily higher.

                      I'm not saying that it's not a good thing to remind people that it is an inherently dangerous thing, and that certain precautions ought to be kept in mind. But this program was typical Alton schlock - the guy is not an engineer, he's not a scientist, he's just the cook.

                      I fried my first turkey using one of those kits about 10 years ago. Amazingly, the only thing that remains of that original kit is the stand - which I use to start my chimmney full of charcoal. Its sits next to my weber kettle. Even after careful measurement and very slow insertion, the oil bubbled over. I was doing this on a concrete pad in my back yard, well away from the house. I stepped back, grabbed my fire extinguisher and watched carefully, as the bubbles settled down. Had it started to burn, I would have used the extinguisher. I'm certainly glad that I saw that 60 minutes segment, but it turned out perfectly fine. I've fried several times since then, with excellent results - I do recommend one item, which is a gas regulator with a thermostat. There are electric units with built-in thermostats, but they are smaller, more expensive, and take a much longer time to warm up and to come up to the right temp after the original insertion.

                      I would recommend that anyone doing this do it on a driveway or ground, clear from anything flammable and that they have a fire extinguisher (class b or dry chemical type for oil/gas fires) - you should already have a b/c extinguisher in your kitchen... you don't? Then obviously, you should watch some more Alton Brown!

                      But come on guys - you don't need to build a Rube Goldberg apparatus to fry your Turkey!

                      Let's try to filter out the schlock from the need to know, with our own common sense. I know that AB is someone's hero - but geez, the guy doesn't even know how to ride his bimmer in gravel! It's a Food Network show! It's entertainment!

                      1. re: applehome

                        Given the high potential danger presented by several gallons of boiling oil in an open-topped container with a high center of gravity, personally I'd be inclined to invest $20 worth of hardware in reducing the risk of burn to zero.

                        1. re: applehome

                          I honestly wish everyone had as much common sense as you do; however, I work for traffic court and as a result, I never underestimate the number of people out there that lack good judgment.

            2. That's (one of the many reasons) why "Cooking Live" with Sara Moulton was so great; she had guests to keep things going.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Up With Olives

                What was the show she did with the guest chefs? I remember one where two guys were on and got FACED. They even caught a kitchen towel on fire. It was a kick watching Sara as they got drunker and drunker...

              2. Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee jumped the shark at the first episode.

                4 Replies
                1. re: QueenB

                  Funny!! I have never seen her entire show- but yesterday I saw her plating two concoctions- one involved green beans and peas, and one was supposed to be mashed pototoes. DId not see how she made either- but they both looked terrible. The mashed potaotes were really horrible- and as I did not see the beginning of the show, I cant imagine how you can have semi homemade mashed potatoes. BUt I am probably better off not kowing!!

                  1. re: macca

                    I can answer that, b/c I watched it and nearly threw up. She used frozen roasted potatoes, that she mashed up with packaged Alfredo sauce and other prepacked stuff. Disgusting.
                    I have to say that while I'm not an Amanda Hesser fan, she wrote a very critical article about the receipes of Sandra Lee in the NY Times, and basically bashed the whole idea of "Semi Homemade" cooking as being wholly unhealthy.

                    1. re: macca

                      Yep, anna banana is right. Pre-packaged roasted potatoes, garlic salt, alfredo sauce, butter and milk I think. A sodium nightmare I would believe.

                      I don't even remember what was in the green beans and peas but I believe it involved an Italian dressing seasoning packet.

                      Macca, I don't recommend watching her show, for anything but the WTF? factor.

                      1. re: QueenB

                        AnnaBanan and QueenB- thanks for the info. What a horrible recipe for the potatoes- no wonder they looked so foul. But now my interest is piqued- and I probably will have to tune in for the WTF factor!