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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Commercial Interruption: "Next Food Network Star" hurts so good

Sometimes there's just too much television for one Channel Surfing blogger to handle. That's when we need a break to sit back, relax and indulge in some friendly back-and-forth (via email, of course — we don't actually like to speak to one another in person). Bloggers Thomas Rozwadowski and Sara Boyd have been waiting for the perfect time to collaborate on a "Next Food Network Star" post. And with a few more annoying personalities leaving the show (the douchebag brothers, Teddy and Eddie) and a contestant getting a hot tray to the face, it seems like as good of a time as any.

Sara: This is my first time being exposed to the goodness that is "The Next Food Network Star" and though I have to admit, it's nowhere near the excellence of "Top Chef," goodness to Betsy is it entertaining. The great thing about "Next Food Network Star" is that personality and performance in front of the camera are just as important -- if not more -- than your cooking skills. Obviously, this leads to great TV when the added pressure of rolling cameras leave many contestants mumbling and bumbling like idiots. Or in certain cases, flat out bombing.

It's a tough balance because on one hand, it's pretty hilarious to see people fail on national TV. But on the other, it's so painfully uncomfortable and awkward sometimes that it's tough to keep watching. Case in point, the latest loser to leave the show: Teddy. Have you ever had a birthday party and against your wishes your mom hired a clown to come and make you and your friends some balloon animals, but instead he just sputters out jokes that aren't funny and when you don't laugh, smashes a banana cream pie in his face and makes silly noises? Yeah, that's pretty much Teddy in a nutshell. Except, add in occasional bouts of weeping like a little girl.

Now Roz, since I'm new to this show maybe I'm just catching a bad season, but in my opinion there are few "chefs" that I actually enjoy and think could become a Food Network Star. What up wit dat?

Thomas: That's not your imagination playing tricks on you, Boyd-o. In fact, I think this season actually has STRONGER contestants than last -- which outrageously rewarded mush-mouth Aaron McCargo Jr. instead of comfortable-on-camera-but-not-the-greatest-chef Adam Gertler, who eventually got his own show on Food Network anyway. Plus, Gertler actually did an interview with Channel Surfing earlier this year, so I'll defend that dude to the death. Super nice guy. We're total BFF's.

Look, I watch pretty much anything on Food Network that doesn't involve Paula Deen, so I'm always looking forward to new blood. After all, as much as I love the guy, there's only so many shows with Bobby Flay I can stomach (seriously Bobby, share the spatula.)

So while I accept the flaws that come with the show -- true, it's not as polished as "Top Chef," though the challenges are much better this season -- I do think it's a heady task to be both proficient at cooking AND speaking on camera. "Top Chef's" Fabio would have been a natural for this show more so than Hosea, who let's face it, no one would have wanted to watch. I think that stretches the judging and puts an equal emphasis on talent and personality. After all, the network isn't about to hitch their wagon to someone who they can't trust or who might embarrass themselves to the point that they can only air their cooking show on Saturday afternoons (er ... nevermind.)

Also, this season has featured a noticeable difference that I really, really like. Last year was all about "culinary point of view," so much so that you could have played a drinking game every time someone brought up that silly phrase. On this go-round, they seem much more at ease about not forcing a personality into a show before they know exactly what they're getting. I think Gertler taught them that much because the guy was such a natural talent on camera, you almost had to ignore the fact that he wasn't a top flight chef or had a concrete idea to present for public consumption.

So yeah, you'd think it wouldn't come off so much like amateur hour for a show under the Food Network banner. But as long as they can find that one guy or girl like Guy Fieri who becomes a magnetic superstar, it probably doesn't matter that the talent pool is sooooooooo deep.

This season, it seems Jeffrey and Melissa are front-runners, Michael has some incredible culinary skills and Jamika just needs to avoid over-thinking (or using Wisconsin ingredients.)

Personally, I'd probably watch Jeffrey and Jamika at this point. I'd also watch Teddy and Eddie get dropped into a vat of acid. God, those guys were douchebags.

Sara, who do you peg as front-runners, or at least those personalities you'd possibly watch full-time? I also understand that you're not a huge Debbie fan ...

Sara: Wow Roz, I see your point (*cough* NAMEDROPPER *cough*). And I'm honestly glad to hear it's not just me. I'm sure there are plenty of shows out there bragging they've found the best of the best, when in reality, their cast is barely mediocre. I'm sorry, but if this show is truly looking for a star, my advice is to send this bunch down the garbage disposal and hit Whole Foods again, this time with a shopping list, aka: we need talent, good looks, the ability to put a sentence together, just a dash of charm and hold the so-annoying-I-want-to-bash-my-head-against-the-television-trait.

That being said, if I had to choose, I'd say there are a few front-runners. And by front-runner, I mean the smartest kid riding the short bus. And honestly, I agree. I think that's Jeffrey. He's won challenge after challenge and he's really natural on TV. I do like Michael, too, but something spooky and almost "Teddy-like" occurs when he's on TV. Plus, he needs to get rid of that awful dye job. Without his hat, he looks like the Joker with that hair.

I hate Melissa, can't stand Katie (seriously, stop with the bug eyes ... or have a staring contest with Carla) and I literally vomit when I hear Debbie speak. I'm sorry, but her taking a piping hot plate to the face was one of the funniest things I've seen so far. IN THE FACE.

But let me explain my hatred -- first of all Melissa is a mother. She's got kids. She's a mom that cooks. Seriously, people call her mommy. I don't know if you knew this, but she has children. This is seriously all we hear from her. We get it. Please move on. Also, stop crying! Then there's Katie. She's healthy. She's a dietician. She wants you to eat healthy and know that when you do, your bowel movements become more regular and even though it's not very fun, it's important. What's that class? All together: it's important to eat healthy. Seriously, that has good fiber. Eat it! This is seriously all we hear from her. We get it. Also, stop crying!

And last but definitely not least (did someone say Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall? Ooh, OK, that was mean), we have Debbie. Debbie is Southern raised but originally from Korea. Her mom didn't make kim-chi. She doesn't speak a word of Korean and she's totally a Southern girl. She's not your typical Asian. But she can only make Asian food. Asian marinade with Asian chicken and Asian-cooked vegetables. Seriously, why has this not been brought up yet? She's a complete hypocrite. And hypocrites get hot iron pans to the face. Lesson learned.

So Roz, any predictions on who goes home next week?

Thomas: Great points. The constant drone certainly seems to echo Bart Simpson's famous quote from the "I Didn't Do It" episode.

"I'm in television now. It's my job to be repetitive. My job. My job. Repetitiveness is my job."

Turkey Burger Katie is definitely done-zo this week. She's been spared only because nothing could draw the judges' ire quite like the two-headed monster known as Teddy and Eddie. (Or Teddie, if you want to consider them one giant amalgamation of awfulness.) I'd rather watch Artie Lange and Joe Buck host a cooking show together than think about those two wackjobs anymore.

I think Jeffrey will bounce back after a disappointing week and Melissa sorta feels like Ariane from "Top Chef" to me. She'll run a streak, but eventually the home-cooking angle will flame out.

Or not. She is a mommy after all.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski, trozwado@greenbaypressgazette.com and Sara Boyd, sboyd2@greenbaypressgazette.com

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1 Comments:

So, I caught up with this show over the weekend -- thank you, holiday marathons -- and think it's great. It's not "Top Chef," but it's different enough to stand on its own. I really dislike Melissa and the mommy thing she going on. I'm glad Katie got the boot last night. I don't hate Debbie, but her "I'm a Korean" thing is getting old and I'm glad Bobby Flay called her out on that. I think it's going to come down to Melissa and Debbie because the two of them have the most natural flair for the camera.

--Malavika

By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At July 6, 2009 at 9:54 AM  

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