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Articles & Essays

"Tasty TV would mix food, reality, crime"

Published 07/01/12
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

I am languishing in the doldrums of summer television. The tube offers me only a fizz-less cocktail of reruns, rejected series pilots and golf.

Don’t start on me about including golf on the boring list. Televised golf tournaments are useful only for tired parents. If they record golf matches and play them back when the kids are screaming at bedtime, the combination of the cottony monotone commentary and soporific stretches of green turf will knock the kiddies out faster than sneaking a little Benadryl into their juice.

Golf aside, my point is that programmers are missing a huge summer opportunity.

Food and chefs are the big thing, right? And viewers like those ever-more-ridiculous reality shows, and crime and medical dramas.

Combine those genres with food and cooking. Then, unlike such shows as “Top Chef,” drop any pretense of a connection to actual cooking. Stir well, and these shows might be what you get.

If you’re interested, networks, have your people do lunch with my people – once I get some.

“Survivor: Circle K”: Is “The Chew” too perky for you? You’ll love this show where stars Mario Batali, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz, Michael Symon and Carla Hall are stuck in an isolated farmhouse, far from Dean & Deluca, during a Midwest winter. The five must survive on what they forage from nearby convenience stores. They’ll prepare “Elimination Dinners” for groups of Walmart greeters who will vote on which resident has earned the right to leave. Watch for the episode where Symon’s donkey-bray laugh finally tips Kelly over the edge and Kelly stuffs him in a Ziplok bag.

“Hillbilly Handcranking”: A no-flavors-barred homemade ice-cream competition in the wilds of Oklahoma. Three words: Catfish-chip gelato. The judges are winners from “SnackDown!” (see below), whose taste buds have been, luckily, seared away.

“SnackDown!”: Enter man caves across the country to determine which sports fans can create and consume the super-hottest wings in this mix of hot sauce and testosterone. Winners will receive a year’s supply of treats from “Hillbilly Handcranking” (see above) and free care from gastroenterologists.

“Deadliest Batch”: Think fishing for crab in the Bering Sea is tough? Watch what happens when Amish Friendship Bread starter rages out of control, taking over kitchens and lives. “I can’t let it die, I just can’t. I’ve had this starter for 12 years,” wails one obsessed baker, who rises from bed at midnight to feed the bowls of starter that cover her counters. Neighbors threaten another cook with restraining orders for leaving starter on their porches.

“Antique Roadkill”: Don’t throw out that package of cold cuts in the back of the refrigerator! It might be worth millions. A team of experts in classic condiments, food history and edible archaeology travels the U.S., cleaning out refrigerators and giving owners bad news about the actual worth of the contents, along with boxes of baking soda.

“CSI: Fast Food”: Chef Jamie Oliver, that British crusader for healthy school lunches, and his foodie forensic team work to uncover who committed the crime of the chicken nugget. The Chick-Fil-A cow co-stars in this drama as one of Oliver’s detectives who has a little too much empathy for the perp.

“Mouse”: The star of the movie “Ratatouille” gets his own series, but plays a very different character. He’s a misanthropic, yet brilliant, Gruyere-addicted chef who belittles his staff and sends out courses that taste so bad that diners gag and choke. Each week, he saves the meal with astounding desserts that seem to come out of nowhere.

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