"Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage…"

by Katie Pizzuto on January 19, 2010

in Food tv

The Food Network is no longer in my cable channel line-up. Hasn’t been since the new year, and I haven’t exactly lost any sleep over it. When the Food Network started back in 1993, the thought that someone would actually have both the foresight and the balls to put food-related programming on the air 24/7 was thrilling. These guys were mavericks in every sense of the word, and their goal was to take basic instructional cooking and make it entertaining. But then the pendulum swung, and now we struggle to find any instructional cooking amidst all the entertainment. So despite all the tears, the freak outs and the subscriber demands that it be put back on the air immediately, I could care less that it’s gone. In fact, I’m angling for a channel that plays Lost episodes day and night to replace the now-dead air time. You listening Cablevision? LOST.

When The Food Network and HGTV both disappeared from their channel slots, I could hear the screams of anguish echo through my neighborhood. What, no more garlic-hating Sandra Lee and her ever-handy can of mushroom soup? Shit! No diner-hopping Guy Fieri and his back-of-my-head sunglass styling? Damn! How will this nation survive if its unemployed, its uninspired and its drones can’t watch Paula Deen deep fry butter? Oh, the humanity! All it took was one wholesome-looking Bobby Flay commercial telling viewers how truly sorry TFN is that they are missing out on all their great programming, and how they can go about blaming the whipping boy…err…I mean Cablevision, to get people riled up. And man have they played the ever-loving crap out of that commercial during prime time. So viewers going through weird versions of withdrawal jump online, follow TFN like a flock of blind faithful sheep and begin their battle cries against Cablevision—“Just give us our channels back. We don’t care why they went away, just give them back.” But what I want to know is, do you love Rachel Ray that much that you’re, oh, I dunno, willing to pay for her?

TFN will tell you that Cablevision wasn’t paying them their due. That their distribution rates were among the lowest in the industry.  That Cablevision wasn’t willing to negotiate and compromise a better rate. Unfortunately, Cablevision can’t afford the same kind of jingoistic ad campaign, not that many Americans would be willing to listen to someone badmouth the likes of their precious Giada & Bobby and the network that carries them to their TV screen each night. Cablevision claims Scripps (programmer for both channels) is being irrationally unrelenting. That it is demanding a 200% fee increase, which would drive up customer rates if accepted. That Scripps is counting on the viewers to put pressure on the cable company in hopes that they’ll give in. Higher fees, not just for cable networks but in all likelihood for broadcast company-owned stations as well, will almost certainly mean higher prices for consumers, so the question becomes, what are you willing to pay for Giada and Bobby? Especially when you’re already paying for 50 other channels of shit that you never watch.

TFN has managed to bombard viewers with bobbleheads who are, in essence, their own brand. They come with taglines and hooks like “Bam” and “Delish.” They flirt, they smile and they tell you how much they are like you. They sell you an image and they use food as the vehicle. But they’re NOT like you, unless you happen to have 6 different cookbooks on display at Barnes & Noble; unless you happen to pull in 7 figures a year; and unless you have an agent. Those bobbleheads treat cooking as a chore, and he who gets through that chore the quickest is the winner. They’ll teach you how to cook as if you were downing a spoonful of castor oil. Somewhere in East Bumfuck there’s a loyal viewer that relates to it all because she or he hates to cook each night, too. And you’re more apt to hold on to that viewer if you validate their misery by showing them how to race through making dinner each night so they can get to more important things like watching Survivor. That’s the viewer that wants their Food Network back, and they don’t care how it happens.

Other channels that shall remain nameless (oh, OK, it’s Fine Living TV) are now carrying the torch in epicurean shows. They’ve got programming that includes shows about wines, fine beverages and ethnicities other than Italian and Asian. The only problem is that Fine Living TV isn’t carried by a whole lot of cable providers, which makes people like me crankier still. How much fucking EVOO does America have to drown in before it begs for something more? Where are the Jacques Pepins and Lidia Bastianiches of the world? I’ll tell you where they are, brother— they’re on PBS. Scripps executives said at recent investor conferences that they’re looking for rates that “better reflect” the value of the network. My wooden nickel is in the mail.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 El Jefe January 19, 2010

At least I have my DVDs of The French Chef to keep me warm at night…

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2 Don January 19, 2010

So much hostility. Are you sure that at least on some level taking off the next food network star and house hunters international doesn’t somehow stick in your craw? I think that there is value in those two networks, but you are correct the value is in entertainment, not instruction. I’ve gotten a few ideas in the past from the shows, but overall it is just fun to watch someone freak out over a cake tipping over! It’s a little like NASCAR, you really watch to see the crashes.

But to each his own I say, if they like it they should have the option of purchasing it. I hate the draconian response that the cable companies try to take to force the hand of the network, rather than just let people pay for what they want. In this time of internet movies and scheduling, etc. there is no reason that you couldn’t have a menu that you choose the programming you want and just be billed monthly for each channel you choose. But they package the crap with the good stuff so they all float or sink together.

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3 Linsey January 19, 2010

This happened when I was in USA, and actually I was quite disappointed.

I used to wake up early and finding sweet FA on the other channels on the bedroom tv (could CNN have talked anymore about the Christmas bomber yawnnnnn!) I used to lay in bed watching this cooking channel. The it was gone! WAHHHHH!

My last couple or so days after that in the morning were rather boring …

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4 Katie Pizzuto January 19, 2010

@Don…definitely not. I haven’t watched in a long time so I could care less that it’s gone, but with all the hemming and hawing going on, I had to stick my two cents in. Totally agree about watching the 5ft. piece of spun sugar come crashing to the ground, but that’s only entertaining the first 5 or 6 times, LOL. COMPLETELY agree with the idea of a la carte channel options, and to be honest, I think it’s not far from happening.

@Linsey…here’s the thing: you were watching in the morning, which is about the only time they have decent INSTRUCTIONAL cooking on the air. Prime time? FORGET IT! They readily admit that they refuse to air instructional shows during prime time.

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5 Coupe 60 January 19, 2010

Just keep all of the sports networks on the air…Paula Dean literally makes my skin crawl…I can’t even look at her..

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6 Don January 20, 2010

Paula Dean…What’s not to love, you got flour, sugar, and butter in everything! And add in the “charming” southern accent…I just want her to come to my house and tell me everything is going to be alright and make me some cookies!

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7 Erin January 20, 2010

I am right there with you on this. Sandra Lee is an unholy abomination of a cook who scares the bejeezus out of me. I saw Guy Fieri a few weeks ago climbing into his most extreme tour bus and had to resist the urge to pull off the highway to tell him to stop bleaching his hair and put to on a pair of pants. If I want to watch cooking shows its PBS for me.

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8 Don January 20, 2010

An by the way, Katie I think that your musical quote at the top hasn’t gotten enough play in this write up. You might not care that they got rid of these channels, but you know as well as I do that the cable monster could take channels off that you do watch, and watch regularly! I’m sure you have heard that Dish Network no longer carries CBS!! Freaking CBS! You mark my words the Cable companies will get a lot worse before they get better, so I think that is a principle that perhaps is in play here, and may have in some part fueled your perspective.

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9 Yvette January 20, 2010

Hi Hon! So I am guilty of missing TFN, and HGTV for that matter, however, over the past few weeks without my beloved morning shows (and I ONLY watched in the morning) I have ventured into the uncharted territories of PBS cooking shows, and have found some comfort in knowing that there is a very good substitute for all my shows there. Test Kitchen, Lydia, Sarah Moulton etc, excellent instructional television, I am now, dare I say, ok to go on without the food network. Really if I miss any one of them enough, I can get them on my computer anyway! I think we all needed a break to find out what else is out there!

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10 Katie Pizzuto January 20, 2010

Like I said, I honestly believe an a la carte option is the best way to go about it, but then the lame channels could never piggyback on something else, which is why we get the silly packages. And yeah, I could get screwed at any moment, too, though not sure what cable channels I’d freak out about like the Food Network nuts have. My points were two: 1. I could care less that it’s gone as it’s of no use to me anymore and 2. For those that are ranting that it’s gone, they better get used to the idea of ponying up more money because that’s probably what it’ll come down to. What I want to see is how many folks will still be crying that it gets put back on when they are told they have to pay for it.

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11 Don January 20, 2010

BTW did you make the fighting Logos? That is an awesome picture!

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12 Linsey January 20, 2010

On the good side – we still have food network on satellite in the UK – so I am watching it here.

Spent a late night watching extraordinary cakes being made in a competition.

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13 Katie Pizzuto January 20, 2010

Not surprised you love those competitions given the beautiful cakes you’ve made, Lin!

@Don…yup, I did. I created the basic duel art for my “Angels Vs Demons” posts, but thought it totally appropriate here 🙂

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14 Connie January 20, 2010

Guess no one cares for Alton but I look forward to Brown’s take on food & general history. Also, the non-cutsie southern perspective is more than welcome. And, his instruction is sometimes inspiring.

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15 Katie Pizzuto January 20, 2010

Not at all, Connie, I happen to like Alton. The network isn’t completely without redemption, I just feel no sense of loss at not having it.

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16 Coupe 60 January 20, 2010

@erin: love your idea about Guy Fairy (sp?), You should have also screamed that he’s a douche…

at least he has that job as a chef at one of the local TGIFs to fall back onto…

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17 Don January 20, 2010

What? no Wordless Wednesday Post? I’m crushed!

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18 Katie Pizzuto January 20, 2010

Ehh, fuckin’ wednesday ALWAYS sneaks up on me like a bad Mexican burrito. Damn! I’ll do it tomorrow with an “oops” 🙂

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19 Linsey January 20, 2010

I rather like the ‘Barefoot Contessa’ show of tv – Ina Garten is rather like Delia Smith in the uk… in other words home cooking thats not too fancy.

Some of the tv chefs here now are using ingredients that for me are impossible to find because I am not in London or similar, and are quite frankly ‘arty farty’ looking. Dont get me wrong I love fancy presentation but how they get there is usually unachievable.

Saying that, I like ‘Chopped’ and ‘Iron Chef’.

Do USA tv have ‘Masterchef’? Its a show where ordinary members of the public cook to the level of chefs with the prize being a job in a top city restaurant.

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20 Katie Pizzuto January 21, 2010

Ina is fine….normal at least, LOL. We’ve got a show called Top Chef, which I happen to love, but not Masterchef.

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21 Kimberly January 24, 2010

Well, it hasn’t happened where I live yet,the removal of TFN from the cable lineup, but The Travel Channel mysteriously disappeared from cable here over a year ago. So no more “No Reservations,” which, yeah, crushed me, I’ll admit it. Loved that show, loved.

But I gotta admit, I do watch TFN. Way, way less now than I used to, though. Really, I just love Giada’s show, and Ina Garten’s. The thing is, a few years ago when I was living alone on this kind of isolated island on the coast of North Carolina, with no real friends to speak of (I moved there for a job, and didn’t know a soul), I became almost completely obsessed with TFN. I dunno, there was just something warm and comforting about the usual Saturday morning line up of Giada, then Ina. And the idea of good food as sustenance and support and all that. And it was Giada’s show that not only made me want to cook, but made me actually get down to cooking. I bought one of her cookbooks and started making the recipes, one by one. Before that, it was alot of cereal and turkey sandwiches for dinner for me, if it wasn’t take-out. Working through her cookbook made me realize, hey, cooking the good stuff’s not so hard. So I have a special fondness for TFN for that reason. These days, though, I’ve mostly left it behind.

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22 Katie Pizzuto January 25, 2010

Thanks for commenting, Kimberly….it’s actually great to hear that the channel still manages to inspire a few people to really cook, rather than assemble a bunch of processed ingredients together and add fresh herbs. I wish more of its viewership were like you!

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23 Kimberly January 25, 2010

Assembling processed ingredients then adding fresh herbs? You don’t mean Sandra — oh my god, what’s her name?, I can’t even remember now! — the semi-homemade woman? Yeah, I could never do that, I’d feel like I was cheating!

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24 Katie Pizzuto January 26, 2010

Yeah, that’s the one!

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