Sunday, June 22, 2008

Next Food Network Star

So the episode today is annoying Rebecca and I -- so I've decided to share our pain.

First of all, the first challenge is ridiculous. They're simply judged on too many things: show off your expertise on a random technique that you may or may not know. In 1 minute. Engaging with the camera. And demonstrating your authority. Some of the contestants, understandably, didn't know the technique they were asked to demonstrate. So, what are they expected to do? Fake it, apparently. At which point, Tyler Florence tells them how unauthoritative they were.

The annoyances are vast. One subtext is that apparently Food Network Stars regularly are lying to me about how expert they are on the techniques they're faking for us. Another "meta-complaint" is that it seems foolish of the Food Network to bring in their current stars to criticize the contestants in ridiculous challenges. Most of the contestants I'm never going to see again; but next time I flip past Tyler, I'm going to think "oh, that @$$hole" and keep flippin'. (This goes for all the stars, not just Tyler -- I love Alton Brown, but significantly less so since he was the thug last season.)

Going back to the actual challenge, throwing random techniques at them is a mess. Knowing how to cut up a pineapple is not as obscure as cleaning a squid -- and, as Rebecca points out, broken-down squid is how you get it in the supermarket. Nipa was given the squid challenge -- and she's not a seafood cook at all. (Which made the later challenge tough, also.)

She's clearly trying to hit a big gap in the Food Network range -- Indian food. She's not alone in this -- clearly all the contestants are told to define themselves and their potential shows (and ideally, repeat their catchphrase every episode). Why weren't the challenges chosen to be something in each contestant's wheelhouse? Because the producers were lazy, that's why.

We've now watched through the second challenge, and Rebecca has put her bile aside to point out one of the strong features of the show. The judges really provide useful, practical, constructive criticism. They clearly are thinking about what the contestants' shows might be like, and how they envision the star of that show. On the other hand, the judges' comments on, for example, Project Runway, sometimes boil down to "I don't like it", which is less than helpful. (Maybe they offer more useful help that gets edited out, of course.)

Seeing that, in Food Network Star, they are looking for a permanent host, we hope that in addition to good critical comments, the contestants get to see their footage and the judges' reactions to them. They have the opportunity to improve, groom, and train their future host -- to not do so would be a waste of time. And, incidentally, would make for more entertaining contestants for US. :)

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