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Saturday, 27 of February of 2021

The Next Food Network Star – “Grammy Award Celebration”

Dzintra loves to twirl.”

Last week’s recap was a bit more straight-up (and thankfully shorter) than the first week’s. This week will not have a lot of the snark and pithy comments that I’ve been using (maybe next week), because we need to talk a bit more about how this show is AN AMAZING marketing device for Food Network. Because it is. The competition is painfully (obviously) secondary.

I wish this was causing me to dislike the show more (this show is pretty dull), but it just drives up my fascination as I try and guess not what the contestants will make or do or say, but how everything, and I mean everything, will synergize and cross-promote around this show.

Now it isn’t that other shows don’t engage in this type of behavior (i.e., Top Chef), but it’s that FNS is so painfully trying to do it, as opposed to making things seem integrated into the overall episode’s competition narrative (as Top Chef is regularly able to accomplish). Part of the problem is simply that FNS is seeking to promote multiple things at once, including the network, while Top Chef is often just tied to a particular sponsor in a given episode (along with with GE, Whole Foods, and, Dial running through the entire cycle).

So, let’s take some examples. On “Grammy Award Celebration,” the contestants split into teams of two to cater the MGD 64 Grammy after-party for Colbie Caillat, who is less annoying than her really annoying pop song (and that video seems like a jeans commercial). All right, fine. I’m cool with MGD 64 being the sponsor of the after-party. There’s even a MGD 64 every other commercial break during the hour. I get that. What I get suspicious about, and what is painful to me, is when Herb, Mr. Good Food and Fitness himself, has to hold up, and incorporate, MGD 64 into his dish for the Star Challenge.

Now, supposedly, the contestants grabbed the bags at random, but I remain convinced that if, say, Aarti had gotten that bag, the producers would’ve said, “No no no no no. Give it to Herb. He’ll fit the demos that MGD 64, and he’s the healthy food guy, and MGD 64 is all about the calories. But for MEN.” (Brad probably would’ve done in a pinch.) The problem I have is that the MGD 64 isn’t deployed well. If everyone had to use it, then I’d be fine. But that Herb had to use it makes me wonder about the motivations here.

Let’s take a Top Chef example. In season 3, the cheftestants had to make a Bertolli frozen meal that looked and worked like a Bertolli bag one would buy in the grocery store. Bertolli was central to the episode’s narrative (it was the elimination challenge for the episode), but not just tossed in there for flavor: it mattered how well the cheftestants were at making a Bertolli bag themselves, and because it mattered to them, it matters to the audience (plus we got to see how Bertolli was made, which I found kind of cool, even if I think the actual food is pretty “Meh.”).

So you get a split in how the sponsors are used, and they’re used efficiently, I think, in Top Chef and less so in FNS. Another example: the episode’s theme was about “Inspiration” (no one seemed to care about this too much, though). In the ads that aired after the audience is told the theme of the episode, I have Giada telling me what inspires her during the summer, and how Target helps that. SERIOUSLY. Here’s another: clips of Das presenting his apparently awesome cabbage dish (that we just watched) were used for a sponsor’s purposes (I can’t remember the sponsor, which tells you how effective the spot was).

In effect, Das became a spokesman for that sponsor, without actually having to be there. His clip was simply repurposed to fit whatever it was the sponsor was aiming for (I think boldness? Maybe?).  I suppose I should be less upset about this than I am. Product placement and cross-promotion are the standards for television now, regardless of format, genre, or network. But perhaps my expectations for product placement are just higher than Food Network seems interested in achieving.

Case in point: I still remember that Top Chef Bertolli challenge, and that episode aired almost 3 years ago. I’m not going to remember this episode after this cycle finishes.

Oh, and Dzintra went home. But who cares.


  • The epigraph, by the way, was said by Dzintra. Yes, Dzintra likes to talk about Dzintra in the third person. Kooky Dzintra.
  • I am having so much trouble keeping Paul and Brad separated in my head. I wish one would go home so I just keep one boring guy in my head instead of two.
  • Short of killing someone, I’m pretty certain it’ll come down to Aarti, Aria, and Herb. Still.

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