I admit that I have pretty much given up on Food Network. In terms of programming, I will watch Barefoot Contessa, Good Eats and perhaps any rerun of a Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver show–both of which are now found more on The Cooking Channel. Nothing else interests me because they’ve just about gotten rid of every show that might remotely show you how to cook in a manner that makes it seem accessible. Any knowledgeable host was given the boot and replaced with a “celebrity chef” that’s more about food as a lifestyle. To a point, I was willing to accept this as simply part of changing trends. Food is something that a lot more people are paying attention to these days, whether for health reasons, political reasons or because they’re becoming foodies. Still, watching the step-by-step/recipe shows give way to travel shows, I Love the [decade] style shows about where their hosts have eaten, restaurant rehab programs and a show that examined/busted food myths–busting myths… where have I heard something like that before?–signified that it was no longer about the food. But at the least each new non-cooking show had at least the tiniest root in food & dining… until now.
Ice Brigade is a new show airing in March on Food Network. When I first heard the title, I thought it would be a new show on either History or Discovery Channel, but no, it’s a “food” show:
Ice Brigade follows Michigan-based chef Randy Finch and his team of renegade ice artists as they blow the lid off ice sculpting by developing original designs that defy the imagination. To these frozen outlaws, the standard wedding swans are simply huge ice cubes. The real thrill of their bone-chilling craft is to make life-sized and interactive creations like pool tables, bowling lanes, grand pianos, carousels and putt-putt courses. Armed with chain saws, chisels and sledge hammers, each episode features Randy and crew sculpting rock-solid ice blocks into out-of-this world art and delivering them to awestruck clients. No matter the job or locale, the mission remains the same: get the job done, before it all melts away.
I dunno about you, but that picture of a guy with snappy headwear, a chainsaw and a sledgehammer just screams “I have a new show on Food Network”… right? And I don’t discount the attractive inexpensive quality of a “documentary/reality show” but watching an ice sculpture company’s trials, tribulations and triumphs doesn’t exactly shout “food television” to me. Yes, ice sculpting is considered a culinary art, but I fear the direction things are going when a programming executive says, “Hey, you know ‘Ace of Cakes’? Why don’t we just make a bunch more shows like that?” picking the businesses to follow at random just like Bewitched‘s writers would choose what Endora would turn Darrin into on that week’s episode.
It isn’t that I don’t like reality shows–as it happens, I can’t stand them–but when Food Network still owns the rights to show their entire back catalog starring actual chefs and noted food writers it seems silly that, in an effort to maintain a “full” programming slate, they’d seek out new and loosely-food-related shows to put on instead. I suppose this falls under the category of “guy programming” which many networks–who were made popular by their female viewing demographic–are now trying to appeal to for… truck ads? I have no idea. But I suppose it’s a good thing that this show is airing just as Winter is over, otherwise we’d probably be hearing about a bunch of emergency room visits due to chainsaw slippage and sledgehammer bruises!