“The Next Food Network Star” ended last weekend, but I just got around to watching the finale. I’ve never really liked reality TV, so I’ve really got no excuse for getting sucked into that show. Of course, I can’t cook more than hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, so I’ve got no excuse for watching so much of the Food Network, either.
The show had the Marc Summers taint all over it: it looked like a real reality show, but it was overwhelmingly safe. Every time it seemed like there was going to be some drama, it quickly cut away. Everybody pretty much got along the whole time, they were all pretty supportive of each other and seemed genuinely sad when another person got eliminated. And whenever anyone did get eliminated, they learned something valuable from the whole experience. It was kind of like “Seventh Heaven,” but more boring.
Still, I was all over that. As soon as they introduced everybody, my favorite to go all the way was Jess Yang, who would’ve been great because she’s young and seems genuinely nice and enthusiastic, and she would’ve taught people how to cook Asian food, which nobody else on the network ever does. So she was the first to get eliminated.
After that, all my favorite choices got knocked off, right down to the final three. I thought it should’ve been between Carissa, who’s hot, and Guy, who seemed like a nice enough guy and charismatic enough to have a show. But she got eliminated. At least Guy won; it’ll be like every other show on the Food Network, but then pretty much every show already on the network is like every other show on the network. And at least he’s better than the annoying couple that won last year.
Watching enough of the contest convinced me it’d be a bad idea to enter with my “Bachelor Chef” series idea. It’d still be a good show — fat, lazy guy has thirty minutes to make a meal for one with only what he has on hand, meaning we finally see some interesting variations on hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I just don’t think I’m the guy to host it.
But it did make me realize what is the big gaping void in the network’s programming. They don’t have a comedy. Alton Brown tries to be funny on “Good Eats,” and George Duran gets a little closer on “Ham on the Street,” but they’re both more corny than genuinely funny. “Good Eats” relies too much on Atlanta-area community theater performers, and “Ham on the Street” relies too much on random people freaking out when he’s made them eat something with French cheese in it.
The network doesn’t have any original programming that’s nearly as compelling as “Iron Chef.” Their attempt at an American version of “Iron Chef” just proves that they don’t get what makes “Iron Chef” cool — it’s not really a cooking show.
So here’s my totally free pitch for the next Food Network breakout hit: it’s called “In the Night Kitchen.” It’s a combination of “Iron Chef” with “Dark Shadows” and “Passions.” (Food Network’s main audience are women and geeks; geeks love “Dark Shadows,” women love soap operas. It’s Science.) The main character is The Baron, who was considered the greatest chef in the world until some mysterious scandal ruined his career. He fled to a castle in the Czechoslavakian countryside, where he broods and cooks. If you want, you can make him a vampire or a ninja. He’s got secrets, is the thing. Sometimes, in the dark of the night, you’ll find him in his kitchen, preparing some of the most amazing dishes imaginable, and cursing the fact that only he will be able to enjoy them.
The Countess Porcheska is really hot and secretly an agent of Interpol trying to expose The Baron’s secrets. She frequently visits with ingredients. She’s drawn to the charms of the Baron as much as she tries to deny it and stay focused on her task. There’s assloads of chemistry there.
Occasionally, a challenger comes to the Night Kitchen, seeking to overthrow The Baron. The Baron must win the contest without revealing his true identity to the Countess. The loser of the battle (it’s never the Baron, obviously) must commit ritual seppuku with a ladle.
There are also frequent visits by aliens, werewolves, ronin, turn-of-the-century explorers with some rare theme ingredient, and pastry chefs. The other big drama on The Food Network is their pastry competitions, where you watch for an hour just to see somebody drop the sugar sculpture while trying to take it to the table. So there’s that.
And the real genius? Val Kilmer. The real genius about this idea? It’s only thirty minutes long. He never finishes an entire recipe in one episode. You have to keep watching to get the whole thing. I can’t imagine why they haven’t done that before.
This idea is pure gold, and I’m giving it away for free on the internets. It’s got cult hit written all over it.