The following is an open letter to Brooke Johnson at Food Network in response to an unfortunate incident that happened over the weekend… The incident involved 4 hours of Food Network programming and me without duct tape to prevent my head from exploding, decided writing a letter would be better than climbing a clock tower or running through a store naked with a rescue flare up my butt. Here is what I wrote her…
Bored out of my skull with every episode of Top Gear checked off and every H2 channel show already accounted for, The Cat using a little skulduggery treated me to four excruciating hours of hell on earth. No it wasn’t a “Hello Kitty” collector show, nor was it a documentary on “Le Chat Noir.” What we are talking about here is four hours I’ll never get back, and I may have actually lost grey matter in the process. I watched four complete episodes of Food Network’s, “Worst Cooks in America.” But as I endured this little slice of hell, it got me to thinking this might actually be a good show… except it would have to be completely different… or maybe not at all.
Remember back in high school when the really big cool kids picked on the defenseless little nerdy kids? Well if you look back on that fondly Brooke, you’re gonna love this show…and then someone should steal your lunch money and beat you with your own book bag for being such a d-bag. Anyway, that’s the premise of the show Food Network has cooked up for my entertainment. You take these self-admitted failures of culinary arts, and then proceed to give them all verbal and mental wedgies for the entire hour until finally kicking off the worst of the worst. So I have some notes for you that will go completely ignored, but will release some aggravation and save valuable couch time at my therapist’s office for subjects that dearly require some attention like: Why can’t I beat The Cat at chess?
Here is the basic format of the show as I see it Brooke, and you can tell me where I am wrong: Showcase multiple people who can’t cook in the least by presenting the two team leaders and accomplished chefs with food they made at home. They show them waiting in long lines which means the contestants have been there holding their food for a long period of time in the heat, and so by extension are holding little petri dishes of clostridium botulinum. Here’s where we cue the wrinkled and turned up noses of the team leaders, who then proceed to make snide comments and berate the large number of hopeless cooks. Out of these contestants the team leaders see fit to name sixteen of these hapless cooks, as the worst cooks in America. Which I know not to be true, as I have yet to see any of the women from my grammar school kitchen anywhere!
So after these poor schlubs have proven they were useless enough to be chosen for the show, they receive an apron and then they must cook a signature dish to really put their lack of creative cooking talents through the wringer. Here come the upturned noses again followed by a barrage of head nodding and shaking as the two culinary professionals taste and lament how these are such awful cooking mistakes. (Uh, I believe these people may have already mentioned this to you) So after the tasting ends the team leading chefs choose one person for their team (presumably the best of the worst) and one for the other team (this would be the worst of the worst) so by the time you get to the end of the picking you get what must be the middle of the worst?
After that confusing mess, the chefs do a demonstration showing the aforementioned aspiring culinary idiots how to make a dish based on their own recipes. Then with this knowledge the contestants attempt to make the same dish and hilarity ensues while the chef leaders shout down from a balcony at times, and at other times are mysteriously right next to the contestant so that they may each receive an exacting dose of humiliation. After this segment is over (leaving some contestants sobbing and shaken), the chefs taste the results and continue berating the efforts until begrudgingly a winner and looser are chosen from each team. The loser’s must then relinquish their apron and I assume are damned to the dark corners of hell for the lost souls of cookery. While weeks two through eight are spent weeding out the worst of the worst to find the best of the worst who then cook a meal for a panel of chefs who declare one winner, who is the best of the worst cooks in America…I think.
So after watching this sad mess for nearly four hours, here are a few notes for you Brooke… feel free to pull out a crayon and write this down. I’m surprised you don’t already know this but I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody really likes to see somebody beat down on a bunch of underdogs unless the underdogs can come back and whoop some arse. Instead of eliminating people after every show, you should keep them on for all the episodes and just choose one person out of the bunch to represent the team. The fact that you’re showing industry professionals(both of whom I respect) riding obviously horrible home cooks like show ponies for cheap laughs is not only a sad representation of your network, it’s just sad in general. But if you think it’s funny, let’s get you on a Tennis court and have Andy Roddick serving up 155 mph aces while screaming “you suck” after each one…come to think of it, I just might watch that for ten seasons!
Getting rid of the worst of the worst after each week is just silly. Those people should be examples of worst to first, or at the very least vastly improved. On the show they use the term culinary “boot camp” which should mean several weeks of rigorous training designed to improve one’s skill set. I’m pretty sure if boot camps were only a day or two long; the Goth Guy at my local coffee shop would have been an Airborne Ranger for a day so he could have some “really cool” jump boots instead of paying full price for a pair of Doc Martens.
Keep those folks on the show as an example of what some face time with a world class professional can do for a home cook. The ancillary benefit is that the home cooks you’re targeting might also learn something if they aren’t too busy flipping between your show and” Hillbilly Hand Fishing.” (Lucky for me I DVR’ed it) It would be good PR for the Network and it doesn’t make the two Chefs look like a couple of asses, unless that’s what you’re shooting for. In which case, keep up the good work as I’m sure you’ll have them reduced to handing out Spam on Triscuits by the time the next Sandra Lee book signing rolls around.
Instead of having the worst cooks in America why not bring in the cockiest cooks who don’t work in a restaurant or have a culinary certificate? You could have them showing the world just what kinds of “mad” kitchen skills they have, then the chefs could rip them a new one. Nobody minds seeing these arrogant cooks being shot down by industry professionals after producing epic failures…You would probably even see people tuning in en masse. What did you say Cat? Oh sorry my bad, Kitchen Nightmares has apparently already taken this idea.
Seriously Brooke, three seasons of the worst cook in America and you can’t find the worst yet? Maybe if you advertised it on a network people tuned in to you’d have more success, have you considered G4? Maybe you’ve been at Food Network for too long and there are other networks that could use your skills. C-Span couldn’t suck any more than it already does, but I’m confident you could fix that in just a few short months with a little effort. Look at the bright side; it wouldn’t have all that far to fall. You could have Guy and Rachael boring the hell out of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by talking about the merits of his 11.5 billion dollar budget and incorporating phrases like “yummo” or “driving the bus to flavor town” into the conversation. Meanwhile the Food Network could rise from the ashes, brush off cupcake wars or whatever other awful shows you have going on over there and become a network devoted to food again.
P.S. ~ I hope this hasn’t hurt my chances of becoming head of programming over there. My offer still stands. XXOO
P.P.S.~ As a condition of my hiring, The Cat would like an office, his own secretary pool and some Mardis Gras beads….whatever that means…