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Jul 2, 2012 01:05 PM

When did FoodTV begin?

Continuing a discussion begun here:

When do you feel that Food TV began?

Food network?
Some seminal show?
PBS Saturdays?
A particular chef?

I don't mean "what was the first televised cooking segment/ program/ series"— I mean, when did the American (maybe North American) cultural consciousness develop the concept that there was Food TV?

What's the REVERSE of Jump The Shark? That genesis moment- when the meme took hold. That's what I mean.

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  1. IMHO, it was Julia Child and her show "The French Chef".

    7 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies

      The French Chef was an early entry. I don't know how popular it was in it's day in the early 60s.

      You may not remember the Galloping Gourmet back in the late 60s, early 70s. He was drunk most of the time, funny, and not a bad cook.

      When I think this really took hold was right after 911 and people wanted to watch something that wasn't depressing.

      1. re: chicgail

        Graham Kerr!!
        I only saw him in "the reformed years" after the Mrs (Trudie?) had serious health issues.

      2. re: iluvcookies

        I 'seem' to recall watching Julia Child when I lived in San Francisco in 1970, and it was part of a weekly ritual at another couple's house. I don't know how it fit in or how often, then we'd go to an art exhibit, opening or something cultural. It was part of a scenario different than today where one sets the recorder and watches it later, usually by oneself when one has the time. Well, I'm speaking for myself!

        1. re: Rella

          In the late 70's Julia Child was on daily at noon on Chicago's PBS station, we would always leave work to get home and watch it while having lunch. Also important during that time was Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, Graham Kerr and Justin Wilson the Cajun chef. PBS really took the lead with cooking shows before Food Network was ever thought of.

          1. re: LikestoEatout

            According to Wikipedia the show began as a local show in 1963 at WGBH in Boston. I do not know when the rest of PBS picked it up, but I remember watching it with my family in the kitchen on a B&W tv with rabbit ears in the late sixties early seventies.

            1. re: cwdonald

              OP here- I'm really wondering more about when "food" became an American TV category-- you know, like sports, news, talk shows.
              I'm tempted to say that as long as there has been PBS, there has been food programming.
              I was really wanting commentary that would discuss all those cliched terms like "game changer" or "paradigm shift" with real examples from culture.

              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                Kris, the question may be when food programming morphed into a TV category, as you say, like sports, news, etc. And again, I would have to say with the advent of the Food Network, but it's always hard to pinpoint that moment when a trend becomes a genuine shift in the conversation.

      3. The GREATS were on public TV... back in 60's. Vividly remember Julia swinging a strainer basket of some kind greens over her head... seem to remember he saying this was the uickest way to get rid of excess water... water literally dripping across camera lens. For Jeff Smith... "hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick" and NOT banging metal implements on the edge of GLASS bowls. Never realized, at the time, that Graham Kerr was DRUNK most of the time... just informative and funny. I like savory/salt stuff but even I cringed at the amount of salt Justine Wilson added to things... most HAD to have been totally inedible?!? Liked Yan Can Cook.. and so can YOU!

        Used to watch a lot of food network... now it's nothing but cupcake "challenges" and reruns of reruns. I REALLY miss Good Eats with AB!

        Now I watch more publictv shows to learn something new... Marianne Esposito, Lydia B, Cooks Country.

        1. You're not going to like the real objective answer. Because when the numbers really began to spike -- when viewership really began to expand beyond those of of who really watched to learn something -- was when Emeril started doing the Live show on FN with the band around 1997 and Food TV became more than the dump and stir shows, as they called them, and FN decided there was more money to be made with Food As Entertainment. Julia legitimized the genre but Emeril kicked it up a notch.

          Not coincidentally, pretty much all the original creators/runners of FN were gone by the end of 1998, by which time Scripps had fully taken over the running of the Network. It was then the numbers really took off, whether we really approve of the direction they went in or not. Since then, aside from the usual quarterly cyclical ups and downs, the numbers have continued to climb pretty well, with record annual revenue increases, and the declines in income from traditional daytime cooking shows being more than offset by the gains made in the primetime non-cooking lineup.

          5 Replies
          1. re: acgold7

            Great answers!
            Yes- I do want "culture" answers, not foodie answers. I was wondering where magazines -particularly the cheaper grocery store check out ones— would fit into this mix.
            I've been out of The States for nearly a decade, and while I was able to keep up with many tv series, I wasn't attuned to "culture"— thus all these cupcakes and reality tv cook offs are quite unexpected!!

            1. re: acgold7

              Yes, it was in 1997 that a friend of mine predicted that TV chefs would soon be like rock stars. For me, that was the tipping point.

              1. re: acgold7

                I absolutely agree - that's the tipping point, based on my very own experience.

                1. re: breadchick

                  SO- Emeril? Who's the 1st?
                  What about, say, Paul Prudhomme? Wikipedia calls him "an American celebrity chef," but I'm trying to think of someone who's more "show" and less "chef."

                  This is from 2005 and interesting:

                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                    IMO Anthony Bourdain is more show and less chef. Was he not on the foodnetwork at one time? No matter. When is the last time you saw him cook anything.

              2. Depends on what you mean by "Food TV." If you mean television shows about cooking, the earliest I can think of is "The French Chef" (1963-1973). But you say you don't mean that. So I should think the concept that there was Food TV developed when there was indeed Food TV, meaning the Food Network, which was launched in 1993. What more do you want?

                6 Replies
                1. re: John Francis

                  Some network used to call themselves "destination tv"—that's what I mean. As I was trying to say in my op,
                  "I don't mean "what was the first televised cooking segment/ program/ series"— I mean, when did the American (maybe North American) cultural consciousness develop the concept that there was Food TV?"

                  So I'm inquiring more about //thought processes// than programming choices.
                  When FN began, wasn't it just a specialty channel like The Golf Network?

                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                    I think it has a lot to do with the move to cable TV. With over the air TV there were a limited number of channels available. But once cable (and then satellite) began to get a significant number of viewers, it was posible to offer many more channels. Therefore, the idea that you could have specialized channels devoted to one topic.

                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                      I still don't understand what you mean by "the concept that there was food tv." But maybe others do and I'll leave it to them.

                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                        Food Network is still a specialty channel. It just morphed from having more instruction-based show to a reality-type format. It's still pretty specialized. I think.

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          Yes-- FN is still specialty, but now there're food shows All Over The Place.

                      2. re: John Francis

                        Maybe it's a which came first, 'the chicken or the egg.' Americans can't be grouped together to decide when we want anything, or come together to culturally fit into a mold that this was the day or year or event that the people from Kansas decided, when the people from NY decided - or shall we do a mean, or an average of each state after we decide?

                        Next, comes: when did we discover Internet online Food videos/youtube! Well, it's been around a while, and it hasn't come into its own yet - or has it --