I’ve written many posts about food TV and what I like and dislike about various shows. After a few years of being an avid viewer, I see some disturbing trends.
- Profit above quality (the American way, why should I be surprised?)
- Contrived judging in competition shows (maybe it has been biased all along, but at least they covered it up better)
- Lack of accountability when something is inaccurate
- Refusal of the network and individuals from those networks to respond to criticism (Bravo TV, Food Network, Travel Channel).
None of these observations mean anything, this is TV, after all, completely irrelevant in terms of importance in the world. But, it is entertainment and something I naively thought was on the level as far as judging competition shows was concerned.
Four specific examples:
- The 2010 season of The Next Iron Chef: This was a pretty good season, except that Chef Tsai seemed to be unfairly targeted and the finale was perhaps won by a chef who created a false story. Note that I was rooting for Forgione, but his claim that turkey was not served at the original Thanksgiving was simply misleading and probably completely false. I am an anthropologist and have looked at the evidence. First, no one, including Forgione, could say that turkey was not served. The evidence that does exist suggests that there is a 99% plus probability that it was, in fact, served. Did his story and bold move not to serve turkey give him the edge in a very close contest? We will never know because no one will comment on it. I wrote all the judges, including press contacts where direct contact info was not available (Bobby Flay, for example). Two people responded, one a judge who expressed surprise at my claim, but saying he really couldn’t comment and that Forgione would make a good Iron Chef. I appreciated the response and know he, like anyone else, has to sign documents that they must not be critical of the show. One of the contestants also responded and said that Forgione sold his story, whether it was accurate or not. NO ONE else even acknowledged my messages and were courteous enough to say they wouldn’t comment. Bobby Flay, Alton Brown (who I am sure knows about turkey at Thanksgiving and is a fellow Bulldawg) and the Food Network powers that be are too busy and important to deal with a peon viewer. Even Forgione ignored my request for comment. I would have thought he would have at least defended his statement. I guess he assumed no one would call him on it. The two people who responded admitted they did not know Forgione’s assertion was very questionable and Bobby Flay was visibly surprised on camera. Did this make a difference in the final outcome? The judges and producers know and they aren’t commenting. That tells me it may very well have made a difference.
- Judging in the current Iron Chef season is the worst by far of all seasons. Why did they change their judges? Because they were too honest? Who knows, but my favorite show is no longer enjoyable.
- Judging on Top Chef All Stars is atrocious, with one chef who didn’t even cook was not eliminated on TWO occasions. I wrote a comment on Tom Collichio’s blog on Bravo TV (essentially the same thing I wrote in my blog post here). I wrote a comment on Tony Bourdain’s Bravo TV blog that his authority had been deeply hurt by his association with the judges this year. He had previously claimed in one of his books that judging was fair and impartial. I no longer trust what Bourdain writes. That is too bad, as I love his writing and have all his books. Both my comments were censored by Bravo TV moderators. Pretty pathetic, actually.
- Travel Channel show on barbeque gets it completely wrong on the origins and history of Southern barbeque and ignores requests for comment (Read about it here).
A lot of people are going to (and have) tell me that this is TV, therefore it is complete BS and I should have known that. Perhaps, but for a while, I thought that some of these shows were real. I still think that about Chopped, hopefully my naivety will not be shattered on that one.