Too Many Cooking Shows Spoil The Broth
Originally posted: October 20, 2012

Every time a show really takes off, it's bound to get tons of copies or variants on the theme.  In the 70s, it was ESP, with Match Game being the originator.  It had mediocre to outright bad variants with The Hollywood Connection, Rhyme and Reason, Blank Check, among others.  In the late 90s, early 2000s, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set the game show world on fire.  That also had mediocre to bad variants with Winning Lines, It's Your Chance of a Lifetime, Greed (even though I thought it was really good), Paranoia and a revival of Twenty-One (A decent revival, but was heavily flawed).  We are starting to see that pattern again in TV.

It seems like everybody wants to get into the cooking competition craze again.  We started this trend when Food Network remade Iron Chef and came up with Chopped.  Bravo had their show with Top Chef and FOX had Hell's Kitchen.  All 4 of these shows all had the same bubble in cooking shows, but all 4 were completely different.  Iron Chef America was a head to head competition where one chef took on a really big named chef in a battle to gain respect and honor.  Chopped had 4 chefs competing in an episode with mystery ingredients to come up with something edible to impress judges to win $10,000.  Top Chef had 16 or so chefs battle it out in a 15 week competition where they had to work together and make great food in order to appease celebrities and judges in order to win a six figure prize package.  Hell's Kitchen had Gordon Ramsay take chefs from all walks of life and skill sets and whip them into shape where the last chef standing wins the head chef position at a big named restaurant.  All 4 of these shows were really really good and still have their places cemented on their networks lineups. 

However, over the course of 3 years, there have been variants and copies and even more ripoffs that drive everyone batty.  While Food Network is one of the originators of this genre, it's also one of the biggest offenders.  With good variants like Sweet Genius, we also get stuck with crappy ones like Cupcake Wars, Halloween Wars (which is just Cupcake Wars, except expanded to rip off Top Chef and Food Network Challenge), Extreme Chef (Which rips off Chopped and Survivor), Rachael Vs. Guy Celebrity Cookoff (a celebrity rip-off of Worst Chefs in America, a fantastic series) and coming up in 2013, we have Sugar Dome.  According to Bob Tuschman, VP of Food Network, he said the following statement.  "We wanted Sugar Dome to take cake and sweet artistry to levels of creativity and innovation never seen before.  Viewers will be in awe of the spectacles created by these unconventional teams of food artists."  With that statement, it's sounding more like a take off on Food Network Challenge and TLC's The Next Great Baker. 

Food Network isn't the only one that's guilty of making copies.  One of the biggest offenders now was GSN for Beat The Chefs.  Taking Iron Chef and making it more of a team format, but instead of chefs on the challenger side, it's home cooks.  What killed this one wasn't just the format, which was a carbon copy of Iron Chef to begin with, it was the execution.  Instead of making it all about the cooking and the food, like how Iron Chef and others did, they made it more about the personal story about the cooks and their blasting of the Chefs.  In short, it only lasted 5 weeks before being shelved for The Pyramid, which got better ratings than Beat The Chefs.  The execs are looking to put the show back on the schedule in November, but my guess is that it'll be a Thanksgiving Marathon style burnoff.

In conclusion, it's almost time for everybody to realize that this type of show does have a future, but with too many shows out there, it gluts the market and will more likely than not, destroy the market.  The good shows will stay on the air, the rest will fall quickly.  It happened in 2000 with Millionaire being the sole one standing out of the crap and the 70s with Match Game being the sole one standing and that's what will happen when the market collapses and Iron Chef, Hell's Kitchen, Chopped, and Top Chef will be left standing.