This week’s Food Network Star was a great illustration of the inherent weakness of this show. You know who the frontrunners are going to be in the first two shows, and then spend the next seven episodes waiting for contestants you know are going to get kicked off to actually get kicked off. Have you been watching this dumb show like I have? Close your eyes and guess who probably got kicked off this week. Yes, that guy got kicked off this week. There wasn’t even a guy with a cool catch phrase like “pie style!” this season. (I miss Pie Style so much, you guys).
This week’s theme is “Live TV,” and in the opening challenge, they bring on guest host Catherine McCord, who hosts a fake show for the contestants’ segments. I don’t know if I’m supposed to know who this woman is, but she slinks out to her mark like she’s trying to knock invisible drinks off tables with her hips and proceeds to say nothing of substance for her entire segment. She sort of looks like a pile of stylish accessories made sentient, a sort of human Orange County. Hollow bones, like a bird.
She plays a character I like to call “Skeptical Trophy Wife.” Still, “person who looks very clean but doesn’t understand stuff” is very true to the live daytime TV experience, so the producers nailed that part.
Giada Dress Watch
Giada continued the theme of wearing awesome dresses at the judges’ table. This wasn’t the most plunging neckline she’s worn this season, and it seems to be smashing her poor boobs down. Won’t someone think of Giada’s boobs?! By the way, if they need a consultant on this, I’m willing to throw my hat in the ring.
This Week’s Thing That Makes Me Ashamed To Be Watching The Food Network
The general dullness. I won’t rant about Alton Brown or the general patronizing nature of the Food Network’s current “Yay, hamburgers!” programming (not that I don’t still hate those), but switching over to this after True Detective really amplified the Why The Hell Am I Still Watching This factor this week. There’s a lot of good TV on Sunday. Maybe put this show on Tuesday or something?
For the elimination challenge, the contestants have to do their own five-minute segments for a live studio audience and guest hosts Jeff “The Sandwich King” Mauro and Katie “I’m Not Sure What Her Schtick Is” Lee.” Unlike the Food Network’s usual collection of Smile Bots (with the occasional pro wrestling heel like Robert Irvine), Katie Lee is kind of low key and sarcastic. It makes her critical soundbites that much more brutal that she doesn’t seem like she’s trying too hard.
1. Eddie (+3)
Eddie flirted with the Orange County lady and kept many a contestant’s live segment from going down in flames this week, so I couldn’t deny him the top spot, much as I don’t think he’s going to win. In the opening challenge, he was assigned a burger toppings presentation, and said “It’s been a theme, anyone doing something with burgers has won.”
OH MY GOD HE’S CRACKED THE FOOD NETWORK SOURCE CODE!
Eddie’s strength is likable improvising, but he tends to whiff whenever he has too much time to plan anything. Also, he manages to do some weird thing where he shows off his muscles in every segment, like flexing for the accessory lady and pretending to do curls with zucchinis. We get it, bro, you have muscles. You don’t see Giada jumping on trampolines, do you? Okay, actually that’s not a bad show idea.
2. Jay (-1)
You know Jay is the odds-on favorite when he’s in the top even when he screws up. Like this week, when he made Pigs in a Blanket and Ants on a Log for an “After-School Snack” assignment. We know you don’t have kids, but come on. And think of your POV! You don’t think kids would want to dunk their grilled cheeses in a big vat of yummy crawdad gumbo? Sounds like the perfect after school chill-out snack to me. Worst case scenario, they hate it and you have to make a few more grilled cheeses. But hey, more crawdad gumbo for you, I always say.
Jay is so good no one even points out that his chocolate-coconut ganache tarts kinda look like cow pies. (FYI, city people, cow pie is not a food).
I had a chocolate-coconut ganache fart once, that’s how I got kicked out of my carpool.
Anyway, I fully expect Jay to win this competition. Food Network will assign him a personal stylist that bans him from wearing anymore yellows and oranges, he’ll be forced to lose 10 pounds like Jeff Mauro, and nine months from now we’ll see him on his own show, Meemaw’s Cajun Kitchen. Not that I’m complaining. Now dance for me, grits monkey!
3. Arnold (even)
Poor Arnold is going down in flames. This week’s episode was all teed up to be “Arnold’s Shrimp Redemption,” complete with a flashback sequence to of one of the Paula Deen children refusing to eat Arnold’s shrimp. But then Arnold bungled the presentation. It seems he’s made the classic mistake of over-emphasizing his personal #brand (it’s hard to sound human when you’re pimping your #brand), leading to him creating the new adverb “chic-ly.” I mean, if anyone can do something “chic-ly,” it’s Arnold, but show don’t tell, man.
Arnold mostly talks a mile a minute during his segment while the other guys add important context like “Huh,” and “Wow.” Then the editors absolutely pilloried Arnold, with perhaps the most brutal soundbite montage of the entire season.
JAY: “I’m thinking he’s about to pass out.”
KATIE LEE: “I’m exhausted from watching that.”
BOBBY FLAY: “It seemed like a train wreck all the way through.”
Arnold’s food saves him in the end, but it’s looking like he’s just about at the end of the line in this competition. It’s still not too late for that Arnold-and-Dom Road Trip show I pitched last week, guys. America’s Best Tablescapes, say.
4. Alex (-2) ((eliminated))
Poor, poor Too-Sweet-For-This-World Alex. Honestly, did anyone not expect him to get kicked off this week? He almost got booted two weeks ago when Michelle quit, but somehow managed a two-episode death rattle. Alex’s sin is not being weird (weird is good!), it’s that he seems completely oblivious to why he’s weird. He also wants to cook certain food (tasty-looking food, to be fair), but seems to have no idea how to work it into a cheesy story.
In the mentor challenge, his task is to create a “one-pot meal for date night.” First of all, kind of a weird challenge, because when you think “one-pot meal” you think stew, which isn’t exactly date food. My go-to one potter is chile verde, which takes three hours to cook and would probably lead to my date and I farting on each other (more of a bonding experience for the already-coupled than a getting-to-know-you kind of thing for new friends). Inherent challenges aside, Alex takes this as an opportunity to cook a “quick bouillabaisse.”
Right. Because when I think “date food” I think “picking giant pieces of crab out of a hot soup with my hands.” On that note, f*ck bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse seems like some wicked European lord’s elaborate practical joke on his guests, watching them try to pick delicious morsels of seafood out of boiling soup. “Ha ha ha, look at them burn their hands! This is wonderfully droll!” (*waves frilly handkerchief in approval*)
Once again, Alex tries to do a live demo of a dish that requires 27 ingredients, which leaves no time for cheesy stories or a coherent explanation of why a date would want to eat bouillabaisse (maybe she’s an eccentric European lord, I don’t know).
Then in the elimination challenge, which is a show about summer meals, Alex draws family reunion. And decides to make… ramen. Again, keep in mind that his POV is sandwiches, and he spent this episode making bouillabaisse and ramen.
Rather than having the ability to make fun of himself for choosing ramen for a summer family reunion dish (since the only family reunion he’s ever been to was in Indonesia and they ate ramen…), he tries to make it seem like the most normal thing in the world. He could’ve rationalized it. My grandfather would always drink piping hot coffee on the hottest days, under the dubious theory that hot foods would make him sweat and cool him down. Instead, Alex says, “What I love about ramen is that it’s so versatile!”
Right. Because you can, like, put it in a bowl, or also put it in a different type of bowl. “Let’s say you’re at a big family reunion and you’re trying to figure out how to use all of your bowls.”
If you lead by confusing the sh*t out of the audience, you kind of have to acknowledge it, or else the audience has just checked out of everything else you’re going to say. Alex also gives these tantalizing hints that his childhood must’ve been like Christian Bale’s in Empire of the Sun, but then the most he’ll ever explain about why this whitebread, Tennessee indie-band looking bro loves cooking Asian food so much is “my girlfriend loves ramen!”
Nice, dude. Did you guys meet at a Dave Matthews show? This is information we need to know.
Nonetheless, everyone agrees that the ramen was pretty tasty, if a dealbreakingly bizarre choice, which is the ongoing tragedy of Too-Sweet-For-This-World Alex. Says Katie Lee of the presentation: “It was nonsense.”
On that note, Katie Lee, will you marry me? A super stylish pretty lady with great teeth who constantly sums up every situation with a cuttingly-blunt soundbite is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted.
Next week we’re down to the final three. Of course, they’ve also been pimping their “Star Salvation” show which is inevitably going to bring back one of the eliminated contestants. Who’s it going to be? My money is on Dom or Rue.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.