I'm hoping it is part of a trend of some sort. When it was founded in 1993, with Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay on board, the Food Network spent several years producing instructional cooking shows. The intended audience was food hobbyists and the aim was to show them how to cook the sort of fancy food you get in a good restaurant. The point of view was what used to be called "gourmet" (a word that is now fast disappearing from the language). Then they were bought by media conglomerate E. W. Scripps in 1997. I have no way of fact-checking this, but it seems that around that time things changed fundamentally. Today the intended audience of the network is women who cook for their families and want to do it better, a much bigger and more lucrative audience than "gourmets." Today FN is a very Rachel Ray kind of place. Bobby, Emeril, and Mario no longer have instructional shows.* Everything is quick 'n' easy, all the ingredients can be found in any supermarket. Bobby has a new show that will begin soon. In it, he travels around the country cooking with ordinary folk in their back yards.
And then, yesterday, Anne somehow slipped under the door. The very title of the show gives away that it's about restaurant food. The FN website reassures us that she will be showing us how to turn restaurant methods into easy home cooking. This is clearly not true, as anyone who saw her making the bolognese sauce yesterday can tell you. The fact that FN publicity is trying to position her show as typical neo-FN fare makes me worry, because it means that their incredibly rigid policy of quick-'n'-easy-everything has not really changed.
So I've got an open letter to Bob Tuschman, Programming Vice President of the Food Network. Here goes.
Please, please, please don't cancel Anne's show! I know it's good, and that it treats food as if it were an artform, but is that really so terrible?
Now, I know that a giant corporation needs a lot of customers, and that this means aiming their product mainly at the average person. It's democracy in the market place.
I'm not saying go back to the old programming policy, but would it really hurt to allow one show that teaches fancy cooking skills to survive?
And besides, would you really lose viewers by permitting one or two of these shows? Sure, some of your main audience would avoid it, but you would pick up new viewers, people who now feel that your daytime lineup offers them nothing. People like me.
A year from now, I hope I will still be able to tune in and see Anne, still winking at the camera, shouting, throwing handfuls of salt into the sauce, and flailing her plump but shapely arms.
And, in the meantime, could you please move her out of that 8:30 on Sunday morning time slot?
* Correction: As I point out in the comments section, Emeril does have a new instructional show on the Food Network, one with a much lower profile that "Emeril Live" had.
News Flash: I just got a message from Sienna Farris, who apparently is a public relations representative of the Fine Living Newtork, with the excellent news that a new "Emeril Live" will soon premiere on the Fine Living Network. She had this to say:
Fine Living has created a show page for Emeril Live which includesHere is an article by food writer Juliette Rossant about these developments. Note that she says some of the same things I have said above, but without the anger and the whining. She gives more details here.
special preview videos (embeddable), original recipes, a blog by Emeril's
culinary crew, and 30 fun facts you never new about Emeril (including where
the famous "BAM!" came from, among other things):
You can catch all new episodes of Emeril Live on Fine Living Network 7
days a week @7pm, starting 7/7.
I see that FLN is also running Mario Batali's Molto Mario (= "Extreme Mario"). It's interesting to note that like FLN, FN, is owned by Scripps. Maybe Scripps is considering using the smaller (half of FN's audience-size) FLN to appeal to some of the audience that was gradually squeezed out by FN's creeping RachelRayism. So that's another glimmering ray of hope.