In some ways, I feel more American now that I don’t live in America. Case in point: I now have a TV and 70 channels. Granted, half the stations don’t come in well enough to watch them and stay sane, and half of the rest are in Bahasa—but even so it’s still considerably more than what I was used to back in Missouri. Back there, my wife and I got rid of the TV when we found we never used it.
One thing I’ve learned from tropical evenings that get dark by 6:30 is that there are tons of cooking shows on cable TV. Someone got a discount on these, I think, by buying in bulk, and now we viewers suffer from the surfeit.
After a few evenings chilling in front of the tube, I think I can offer some useful advice to anyone thinking of making a TV cooking series. Here is my recipe for creating a cable TV cooking show.
Cable Cooking Show
Serving Size: A few dozen self-congratulating viewers
Preparation Time: at least 1 hour, including commercials
- 1 pretentious host, preferably with some sort of accent
- 1 giant countdown clock, preferably with large red figures
- 1 soundtrack full of brass and bass building to dramatic crescendos
- 1 soundtrack of smooth strings and woodwinds to tug at the heart
- 1-2 characters with sob-story backgrounds and underdog faces
- 1-6 ultra discerning (read “hyper-critical”) judges
- 2-4 characters scripted to hate each other’s guts
- 3 ultra-luxurious ingredients that no middle class home can reasonably afford
- 4 close-up shots of super-fast chopping of onion or pepper or some other helpless veggie
- 4 more camera shots of a frying pan, preferably with giant flames leaping around it
- 5 glamour-shots of a finished meal
- at least 6 specialized food terms that no person without three years of chef training understands, terms that get glances and fidgets if read in a menu, terms that are met on a cable TV cooking show and name-dropped by viewers as if they were personally acquainted with them.
- 5 shots of characters looking flustered and scrambling furiously around kitchen
- 5 shots of scripted enemies yelling at each other
- 1 dozen mini-interviews in which characters narrate the scenes in the present tense.
- Using the pretentious host as a base, mix in the characters, both hateful and sob-stories, and the judges. Stir well.
- Pour the mixture into a kitchen, add the luxurious ingredients no normal person ever uses, the giant clock, and the close-up of super-fast chopping and frying pan flames. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Stir in character backstories—both the underdogs’ and the supposed hatred between the characters—and the mini-interviews of each person commenting on the action in present tense. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for half hour.
- Finely chop the glamour shots of finished meals and the specialized terms no one is certain of. Puree with the hyper-critical judges and a bit more of the present-tense self-narration. Add this to the simmering mixture.
- Before serving, garnish with crescendos of dramatic music as pretentious host and hyper-critical judges pick through meals finer than half the world’s population will ever taste as if they were 5-year-olds forced to eat borscht instead of chicken nuggets. Cue the emotional strings as characters are humiliated and rejected. Toss in a few more mini-interviews of characters’ thoughts in present tense.
- Serve on cable TV to viewers fancying themselves sophisticated chefs.
NOTE: Other varieties are also possible. For a different flavor, reverse the mixture, allowing a celebrity chef to cook and an amateur to taste the resulting glamour-shot meal. In this case, you will need to replace the hyper-critical commentary with a dozen grunts and moans and fawning compliments upon tasting the finished product.
Another popular version is the travel cooker. Here, a mostly accented and international chef travels to exotic locales and gushes over local dishes. He or she will probably prepare a few. For this, you’ll need plenty of colorful locals and two boatloads more exotic ingredients. This method also requires obsequious compliments for the finished food.
There it is—follow these steps and you’ll have your own cable cooking show in no time at all. The quicker you get one to market the better, as the current fad can’t last long.
At least, I hope it can’t last long.
Or that we get some more channels.