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Sep 9, 2008 10:54 AM

Are we really outnumbered?

With respect to chowhounds request to stop bashing chefs on the food network, I am hoping to start a discussion on why the food network has decided to go in this direction. It seems like 3/4 of the new programs focus around the theme of improving already prepared foods. Every other host is using a can opener more than a chefs knife. Since the channel has been around for a while, it seems as though they have information that the majority of their viewers are not serious cooks. I'm not sure why there are so many people who don't cook watching the food network. Are there enough serious cooks to support a few shows? Or, am I just being naive. It really doesn't matter if serious cooks are in the majority, because you can't sell them as much. They want to make it themselves.

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  1. I am one of maybe three or four homes left in this universe that has no cable or satellite, and only view it when I'm at a friend's, my parents, or maybe at a hotel. I'ts amazing how much FN has devolved in my opinion. On our recent vacation, I had access to cable at one of our stays. It had been a while since I last saw a show on FN, and I was appalled at the level of consumerism, shameless sponsorism, and relatively low level of production value as well as the significance of the stories. C'mon, do I really care about the largest Dairy Queen Flurry in the world? Who but Dairy Queen is going to make it? And the misdirection of such a large amount of food could only happen in this country. And needless to say, the spokesman for DQ is far too BIG a fan of their products - another symptom of what is so wrong about or food culture.

    Certain celebrity chefs, homemaker personalities, etc., are making bank on shows like these, and of course on endorsements. Their reputation is obviously elevated by more exposure, and with each cycle, the size of the circle gets bigger and so does the $$. I am sure sales of the sponsors' products are way up as well. It's very hard to successfully argue against and do battle with mass consumerism on their terms.

    I think what you address is like a lot of mass-programming in general - LCD - Lowest Common Denominator. FN probably makes a ton more profits with this formula, the average consumer's relatively low expectations are met with that, and the machine keeps churning. Keep supporting media like PBS, NPR and their affiliates, and hopefully our smaller niche will continue to be given some love...

    10 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      >>LCD - Lowest Common Denominator. FN probably makes a ton more profits with this formula

      Yup. But not from me.

      If Alton Brown sans motorcycle isn't on, I surf on by.

      1. re: bulavinaka

        I too have no cable and don't miss it as long as my roof top aerial brings in Public tele. Yikes digital in "09! Might just pack it in.

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          If your TV is need of a converter, get it - you'd be amazed at how many more stations you'll pick up. We picked up a new TV at the end of '07 - it has digital built in, and when we plugged it in and performed the channel search, we felt we hit the jackpot! Most stations are now split off into multiple digitized substations (my terminology), i.e., 28.1, 28.2, 28.3, and so on. We used to have 3 PBS analog stations, but now have 11 PBS substations, almost every single one has their own unique programming. Prior to this discovery, we were seriously considering sat/cable, but the additional stations have quelled our desire for more stations - for now...

          1. re: bulavinaka

            Hey, I live at the end of an iceberg in Maine. All our signals come out of that Pennobscot County megatropolis, Bangor! Great hunting and fishing, though. Oh, excuse me, that barbaric stuff ain't on the food channel.
            First frost tonight!

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              Brrrr... never been to Maine, but an acquaintance here in LA religiously slots out one month each summer and brings his family to a beach house in Maine to gas off... Says it's some of the most beautiful and peaceful times in his life... Frost? FROST? I'm not worthy...

        2. re: bulavinaka

          I have no cable tv either so you are not the only chowhound with no cable. I only hear about the food channel from my friend John. He loves it. He doesn't really know how to cook. I'm suprised that chowhounds aren't allowed to bash the chefs though. Takes away the fun I'd think.

          1. re: givemecarbs

            It would be fun as some probably deserve it but at the same time, I appreciate the moderation as I can and have gone a little overboard at times. And when I see the kind of trashing that goes on at other sites in general, CH really is at a much higher level in my eyes...

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I agree about chowhound being at a very high level. I've been to some Live Journal and gaming forums and chowhound is the best! But we are very passionate people here, and skewering or roasting a well-deserved target adds spice to life! Now I want to read all your posts where you have gone overboard. Somehow this reminds me of the novel Good Omens where they try to open up Burger Lords in France and the corporate representatives are shot to death within an hour and a half of arriving on French soil. He he he!

              1. re: givemecarbs

                What a GREAT book that is! Thanks for reminding me to move it to the "re-read" stack!

            2. re: givemecarbs

              My idea of fun is finding and eating something delicious. :)

          2. I think you're wrong, actually. Which new shows are more oriented towards prepared foods than fresh foods? The Cooking Loft seems more about cooking skills and fresh foods, Jamie at Home, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef...

            Certainly Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee focuses on prepared foods (by definition) but 30 Minute Meals lately has far more fresh foods (she uses boxed broths and canned tomatoes and beans, but I think a fair number of people who consider themselves serious cooks do as well). Even the older shows (I took a look at the weekly schedule) include Essence of Emeril, an occasional Molto Mario, Barefoot Contessa, Tyler's Ultimate, various Bobby Flay shows and Michael Chiarello's show; all of which focus on fresh foods almost entirely.

            I can certainly understand not liking a lot of the shows but of the shows that feature actual food preparation, many are focused on fresh foods and those that focus mostly on prepared foods are few (Semi-Homemade, Quick Fix Meals sometimes).

            3 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              I think viewers' perceptions of what's on the Food Network is going to depend on when they tune in. I think most of the "real food/real cooking" shows are on during the day or early evening. If you're like me, and you don't usually turn on the TV until 8 p.m., then you're not going to be seeing much cooking at all on Food Network.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                I agree completely with that. My general disagreement with the OP still holds; that there isn't a lot of improving prepared foods being featured compared with cooking fresh foods. Not necessarily a lot of cooking on the whole by percentage of total hours shown, though.

              2. re: ccbweb

                I don't think they concentrate on pre-prepared foods. one or two shows, yes, but not the rest. What the network concentrates on is entertainment. Guy Fieri (a local boy, by the way) started with really new ideas. (Brining potatoes to bake!) I was impressed, now the network has him doing everything but pratfalls to get attention. I don't hold the talent at fault for this. The company saw what they had in Paula and the attention she attracted and just built on that. I think they call that show biz. What they can't do with outlandishness they do by lowering the decolletage.
                Mario, Tyler, Jamie at home, Chiarello are good shows. I don't know about Mario, but the later two hold control over their shows. Bobby Flay knows his stuff, but is being directed into odd places. The new Cooking Loft I have only seen once and thought she had something to contribute. The Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, seen once, turned me off. Using a slag term for bodily function while cooking was one count, the second was putting the tasting spoon back in the pot. Two strikes were enough here.
                I don't need a new recipe... the internet has more than I could ever cook. So, if I'm not going to learn something, my time is wasted.

              3. I am hoping to start a discussion on why the food network has decided to go in this direction. It seems like 3/4 of the new programs focus around the theme of improving already prepared foods.
                Plain and simple - those companies that make the "already prepared foods" are paying the majority of the advertising dollars. So creating shows around those products and using those products on air pays the bills. And the stockholder bonuses.

                Having RR use one of her RR pans on her own show has people buying those RR pots and pans; bringing yet more dollars into TFN, as they own the product line.

                Having the icky Marc Summers talking about how candy bars are made in a Mars candy plant brings in Mars sponsorship dollars.

                As bulavinka said - hard to argue with the mass consumerism and the dollars it brings in.

                4 Replies
                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Media groups like PBS advertise their corp contributors/sponsors by need - I can accept it especially since it is kept to a relative minimum.

                  One does see the shows' chefs using and giving subtle endorsement to their sponsors' products, like Lidia Bastianich pouring liquids into an OXO measuring cup - they sponsor her and she uses their products (when logical) in return. Now if she was waving it in the air and saying how great her OXO measuring cup was while wearing her OXO-emblazened apron (I just realized what OXO would look like on her torso), I'd be put off (and not because of the apron). I like a lot of OXO's products so I have no issue with this. And in general, my impression of most of the sponsors who back most of PBS's cooking shows do have quality products overall or at least for their specific market, so for the most part, I don't mind seeing their companies' tags before/after the show, or their products being used on the shows.

                  The strong impression I get of FN is that for the most part, they are after cold hard cash - not so much like PBS to better serve and inform the general public. I don't mean to sound like some socialist holdover by my last statement or in general, but it seems that based on poster Ruth's statement, the prime-time programming is saved for those who can afford these timeslots, which means that instead of airing a small but quality show sponsored by some olive oil producer or the Andalucia Tourism Board, prime-time will be bought by some show sponsored by Castle & Cooke or Nestle's and we will be shown how to mix glop and goop together to make gloop, which in essence labels a lot of us Chow-folk as the outnumbered.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    So tasteful advertising of products you like = just fine. More emphatic advertising of products you don't like = greedy capitalism.

                    I'm pretty sure that OXO is business to make cold hard cash. I agree, their products are superior in many (in my experience, virtually all) cases but they're not in business to better serve and inform the general public.

                    And, again, there aren't that many shows focusing on using prepared foods. In the 8-11pm viewing hours (Eastern time, anyway) this week, you get Good Eats (as PBS-y as anything on the Food Network), Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Diners Drive Ins and Dives, Ace of Cakes, Dinner Impossible, Road Tasted with the Neelys, Iron Chef America, Unwrapped, Rachel's Travels, and (short run show) Feasting on Waves.

                    I'm not arguing all of these are good shows, necessarily; but, none of them focus primarily on using prepared or packaged foods. Certainly Alton Brown, Bobby Flay, the Neelys and the Chefs on Iron Chef America use packaged items at times, but not frequently by any stretch. Several of the shows are clearly not geared toward teaching anyone how to cook anything at home (Diners, Road Tasted, Rachel's Travels and so on). I don't honestly see how these shows are detrimental by virtue of their content, though.

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      LIke I said, I don't want to sound like a Marxist but... Of course it's my opinion, and I don't regularly view FN, but for the few hours that I did surf on cable while on vacation, I was very very disappointed with this channel...

                      By the by - I've seen OXO featured on a few business programs/articles. They are an extraordinary company - no Mother Teresa but not Castle & Cooke either. They have received numerous design awards and I think they're still a <50 employee company. They take their designing very seriously, like we take food (maybe this is why I admire them) - and stayed small so they could stay dynamic. Like you and me, companies like OXO of course need to make a living. I guess it's a matter of a company's intentions and level of commitment to create a product that truly is good that makes me like them and others of their ilk. And by supporting shows that regularly appear on PBS, I think their intentions are very good. And by the nature of their products, they are in the business to better serve the public...

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        You have to sell a few ads to pay the bills and stay in business yes?
                        It is a business after all. Even PBS has to pay the bills and make payroll.
                        I've watched FoodNetwork from almost the beginning when it was stilled called TVFN, and the line up was mostly 30 minute cooking shows. I loved it! But I think that was because their budget couldn't afford anything else back in those days.
                        Following this thread made me think of something: A Station must attract new viewers to stay in business, as well as retain the current viewers. A program schedule appealing to a very narrow base of those of us who are kinda "psycho about cooking" <G> to quote another poster, would be the end of the FoodNetwork. I have to agree with ccbweb. I don't see how the non-serious, non-teaching shows are detrimental. I like the fact that I can turn on the FoodNetwork anytime, and something about food or cooking will be on. If people see food and cooking as fun, maybe they will attempt to watch some of the more serious cooking shows. If viewers are exposed to all kinds of different foods, they may be tempted to try them and to like them and maybe want to learn to cook it. I think it would be great if the FoodNetwork powers that be would consider showing movies on food, like Tampopo, Chocolat, etc. I am sure it is quite impossible, but it would be nice to know that I could tune into the network to see these movies. Or have a show that is a news show on food: they had one a long time ago with Rosengarten and a woman reporting and discussing Food News.
                        Don't get me wrong. I do miss the early days...I miss David Rosengarten, Chef De Jour, the old How To Boil Water, etc.
                        Thank you for a very interesting thread.

                  2. I'll bet there are millions and millions of people who are not cooks---- but have to anyway... Working 9-5...
                    I'm a cooking psycho myself, but I imagine lots of folks really appreciate a good shortcut...

                    1. I use to watch FN on a daily basis. Now, I don't. I'm one little cheese goldfish in the bowl and FN doens't need me.

                      I now get my cooking fixes on PBS. Jose Andres, Rick Bayless, Mario.. etc. etc. etc.