I have been in a contemplative and introspective mode these last several days – and I fear this is so because I’m slipping into the habits of the elderly, as much as that bothers me – and it does. I fear that old people spend their days “remembering”, and I fear that I too will some day do the same – and so I fight this. But it’s a losing fight – each day I find myself remembering more, and remembering better than I have ever done before. The hell of it is, of course, that as I find myself vividly remembering things of long ago, I can’t remember where I left my wallet, or if I took my meds this morning!
But let me bring this discussion back to this blog’s reason for being – food. I recently was remembering that several years ago, I called Charter Cable (our local excuse for cable service) and asked them when they planned on adding The Food Network to their programming? They responded, in their classic customer centric style, that they had no plans to do so. I then asked the rep if she knew how popular The Food Network was? She said, “Well, no one can offer everything!” I hung up and ordered Dish Network.
I remember just how much I looked forward to getting The Food Network – it was more than an obsession with me, I was manic with desire! I filled my days with one after the other of good, old fashioned, cooking “how to” programs – and there were lots of ’em. And I fell in love with Dish’s DVR capability, another plus over Charter at that time – I taped every segment of “Good Eats” that had ever been made – Mario Batali too. But even then, there were ominous signs of trouble ahead.
I tried – I swear I tried – to understand what “Iron Chef” was all about. It eluded me then – it still eludes me. I spent wasted hours watching IC, trying all the time to learn something new about cooking, but I finally realized that it’s impossible to learn anything about food watching IC, because it’s not about food – food is a subplot, and maybe not even at the secondary level. It’s really a platform for high-camp (that’s on the intellectual level), and for everyone else, it’s simply a vehicle for the absurdly popular cult of public abuse and humiliation of our fellow human neighbors – watch ’em screw-up, get a laugh. This is essentially what reality TV, and all “competition” programming, food or otherwise, is all about. It ain’t the food, folks, it’s something else entirely. And I for one would rather look away.
Sadly, I never watch The Food Network regularly anymore, although I occasionally, check out their new schedule, in the hope that perhaps sanity has returned to the top floor offices – but, No, not yet.
But I do still eagerly await any new Bourdain show on The Travel Network, because it fills at least two of my psychic voids, travel and food, in one shot. And I like to think that he hates TFN as much as I for the same reasons as I do! (Although, in my heart, I know it’s about the money.) But somehow I suspect that Bourdain knows that among the execs at TFN, there is no one with a serious respect for food – they’re all broadcasting wonks, and fixated on the marketing gimmicks of the day – serious food is low on the list.
But I know down deep who’s really to blame. During the administration of our last President – I’ve forgotten his name already – I had a favorite comment I’d leave on the political sites I’d visit – “We truly are a nation of fools!” In respect of a seemingly wiser choice for our national leader, I’ve temporarily retired that statement. But there is no doubt that our “nation of fools” is responsible for the current sad condition of TFN, and for much of the rest of TV programming as well. For if our national population of TV viewers all felt as I do, there’d be no Iron Chef, or Top Chef, or any other reality programming for that matter. Instead our nation gets “fool’s programming”, even if it is demeaning, abusive, and hurtful – apparently, this is what our fellow man wants and needs.
Who am I to complain? And more so, what good would it do me anyway?