Monday, September 26, 2011

Chew On This – Mario and Co. Replaces All My Children

I feel for the soap opera fans who are no longer able to follow their longtime “friends and neighbors” in Pine Valley every afternoon. I was never an AMC watcher, but there have been periods in my life when I watched soap operas.

Just as sons bond with their fathers over sports (and, of course, mothers and daughters and sons can do that too), mothers and daughters often have spirited conversations debating the pros and cons of the latest scandals (and coupling…and uncoupling) that played out in fictional towns all over (mostly middle) America. All My Children may come back online, but I can't help feeling that those most attached to their “stories" are not the types that would log in regularly for their online fix.

Anyway, it's a new age. The script is dead. Reality television is where it’s at, if by “at” we mean it’s where real cost savings can be found, compared to scripted dramas especially. Writers are marginalized and actors are replaced by "real" folks playing at real life, after being directed to engage in (usually controversial) behavior by producers.

The folks that come up with television programming are either really clever or sooo unimaginative that they always seem to take one reasonably good idea and spin and reimagine and transfigure it into something else that has the same basic premise. I suppose it’s like when some cooks say there are no new recipes in the world.

The history of U.S reality television IS a fascinating one, almost more interesting than the stuff itself. There were game shows and beauty pageants in the early days…and, of course, Julia! But starting with The Real World in 1992, Survivor in 2000 and The Amazing Race in 2001, the genre has really taken off. Those shows have spawned every variation of game, competition, lifestyle and food programming, which also owe a debt to the Louds on public television in 1973.

The Chew is a combination of The View - say those two together - alliteration is key in the subconscious planting of ideas - and any run-of-the-mill food segment you've ever seen on ANY talk show, with a little Rachael Ray verve thrown in and I suppose a dash of that vanity project on CBS known as The Talk, featuring the head honcho's spouse, Julie Chen. (I hate to even include that one on this list. It is so grating.)

None of the 5 hosts of the Chew is objectionable in his or her own right (actually the jury is out on the mostly unknown Daphne Oz), but did we really need a food/talk show?

Talking of Oz, I'm not sure what the daughter of a television doctor has to offer except good connections, and why Clinton Kelly, who is a fabulous style maven, is on a food show is beyond me. Wouldn't that be like having Emeril pick shoes for someone on What Not to Wear? I can’t imagine the hour will go by without a comment about Mario's crocs. Aside from those reservations, though, they have assembled a competent group.

Who doesn’t love, love, love Carla Hall? Obviously they're banking on her likability as appealing to whomever they think is watching television at this hour.

Michael Symon, Iron Chef, and fill-in on Dinner: Impossible while Robert Irvine was on his reputation-building sabbatical, has obviously been told to smile a lot and not scare the small children who are watching with their at-home caregivers.

And, of course, it will be hard to resist Mario. His food will always be good. Just one problem…where IS Mario? He was appearing by monitor from a golf course in Joisey on the very first day of his new show. Clinton, who plays the former Meredith Viera (currently Whoopi) part of the moderator, addresses that and asks Mario where he is. He’s at a charity golf tournament helping kids, so no one can be mad at him. (Speaking of playing The View parts, thankfully, there is no Elizabeth!)

Clinton starts of by saying that he and his friends always end up in the kitchen. HUH? I would have thought he would be giving seminars in his walk-in closet. But he’s a “style icon” now AND an entertaining expert helping people to be “a little bit more fabulous”.

Michael says his style of cooking is mid-Centrum. What? Is he cooking with vitamins for old people? Let me see if I heard that right. The closed captioning couldn’t get it either. I guess he means cooking from the Midwest. Or maybe he said barbecue and ribs? No clue. Maybe it was MEAT-centric? Dunno.

More introductions - Michael loves pork. (Maybe THAT’S what he said?) Carla is everyone’s friend in the kitchen. Daphne is the health and wellness guru. Clinton says that Michael is preparing the show’s first ever dish. Should I be more excited?

Michael made some ham-wrapped pork dish. I couldn’t tell if Daphne looked disapproving, but he served it on kale and beans. I DID feel uncomfortable when he served a bunch of audience members (at a beautifully crafted audience tasting station) and watched as they chewed their first bites. I felt sorry for them having to taste as he was standing RIGHT there. Luckily, no one spit it out.

Clinton introduced random food topics in the news à la The View's Hot Topics or host chat by Regis and Kelly or Katheeee Leeee and Hoda. Nothing all that riveting was discussed and there was much more gaiety and giggling than was warranted. Then Clinton spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME telling us what was coming up. (It’s like at the movies when they give you a wrap-up of the commercials you didn’t want to see in the first place.)

Rather than trying to pretend that Daphne's dad wasn’t instrumental in her getting this new gig, they actually bring him up in a segment of Daphne’s called Things My Dad Taught Me.

Dr. Oz even showed up to give his benediction to the new show and pronounce “what a great job they’re doing.” He’s happy they’re talking about food and “making it cool, making it hip...and making it affordable”. Barf.

But it WAS funny when he started talking about when Daphne was born and the shape of her head (WHAT?!!) and he sounded like any doting father. It was quite a humorous father/daughter moment. In a word, Dr. Oz was REALLY embarrassing and Daphne was REALLY embarrassed. It felt real and I liked both of them more because of it.

One bad thing - we’re more than halfway in and poor Carla hasn’t been given enough air time. Michael Simon had a segment about his favorite kitchen tools. He talks about the microplaner. Great information – about 5 years late….

Finally. Carla’s on. She’s talking about keeping junk around the house and her Betty Crocker recipe cards from her childhood. WHAT does that have to do with healthy, modern cooking? Oh, she is apparently remaking a Betty Crocker recipe. She’s making fried apple pancake rings and her introduction isn’t promising. She says you can use a box mix or a pancake batter from scratch.

This is a COOKING show, I thought, and the daughter of DR. OZ is sitting right there, not to mention an Iron Chef. Let’s banish all mention of pancake mixes.

Carla adds pumpkin pie spice to her pancake batter. OY! I’ve never actually addressed the pumpkin pie spice issue the entire time I’ve been blogging. Suffice it to say – DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY. Just mix up a batch in the following proportions:
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Carla adds lemon zest to the pancake batter (with Michael’s miraculous microplaner). Then she dips apple rings in the batter and places them in a hot pan. Not that much batter sticks to them, so it’s more like a battered cooked apple than a pancake with apple rings inside.

Clinton wants a Betty Crocker recipe box of his own and Carla exclaims loudly, “Clinton is SO coveting my box.” He gives a funny look, similar to how Andy Cohen looked when The Millionaire Matchmaker went all nutsy on him. Carla just carries on. She talks about making homemade syrup by reducing apple cider, but she does bestow a Betty Crocker recipe box on him at the end of the segment. 

In the end, the apple pancake thingies looked really good. But what about all that extra pancake batter? I think I would use these battered apple rings as a garnish on a regular serving of pancakes, but I liked the recipe (minus pancake mix). And I like her.

The last segment is Mario making pizza on the golf course (with a real live pizza oven alongside his demonstration area). I could watch Mario forming thin disks from pizza dough forever. His recipe is here. It’s strange that they don’t give you his actual method for making the dough in the website recipe. And I’m thinking there’s a mistake in the amount of salt. It says to use 2 TABLESPOONS for 3½ cups of flour. In another of his pizza recipes, it’s 1½ teaspoons of salt to 3 cups of flour. I usually use about 1 teaspoon to 3 cups of flour.

I suppose I liked The Chew more by the end than the beginning. In a way, I feel bad for all the effort that has clearly gone into producing this pretty, shiny new show, which is starting with the huge impediment of replacing All My Children. Will people heartbroken over losing their daily dose of Erica Kane really glom on to The Chew?

It’s kind of fun. Everybody is affable. Carla is her same lively self and I’m happy that she has been given a vehicle to reach a larger audience. Mario’s and Michael’s food, of course, will be stellar. But, frankly, I’d rather watch Carla on her own (half hour) show and refer to cookbooks or online recipes (or THEIR other television appearances) for M and M’s food. So in spite of the beautiful new set and this new grouping of personalities, there’s no reinventing the wheel here. And I imagine there will be many empty afternoons for Pine Valley supporters.
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Speaking of Mario, remember when I mentioned his beautiful panini pan? Well, here it is...just a few minutes old! 


I couldn’t resist it. It’s stunning, isn’t it? One thing, though, it is seriously heavy. The box said it weighed 17 pounds! (That does include all the packaging, but still...) 


Emily said...

That is the coolest panini pan. I love it! I love the color, too.

I'm going to try and watch The Chew very soon! My mom used to watch AMC. I remember watching it and eating lunch with her every day when I was little.

Sue said...

Mario's panini pan IS really stylin'. (I hope it rubs off on me.)

Check out The Chew and tell me what you think. I think the entire energy will change once Mario is in the house.

Your All My Children memory is so sweet. My mother and I watched other ones for years and she would keep me up to date. I always liked that I could stop watching Days of Our Lives for months and I could come back and, aside from the babies being ready for college, not much else had changed. That was more than THREE(!!!) decades ago. I had been watching for so long, I always half thought they would actually say Hi Sue after I'd taken a long break.

Abandoned By Wolves said...

Thanks for the info on "pumpkin pie spice mix" - I was always a bit suspicious of the stuff in the store. Your version looks like it's just the thing to use.

I believe I'll be giving this one a miss. Of course, I never watched soap operas either, so it's not like that time slot was something I was primed for anyway.

Sue said...

That mixture of spices is the perfect thing to replace "pumpkin pie spice".

I fast forwarded through two more episodes of The Chew and I think it's like when a restaurant first opens. It's probably better to skip the first month...or more.

Anonymous said...

Since Carla is from the DC area, this has been getting a lot of press here. But even though it's not on cable (which means I could watch it) I can't bring myself to turn the TV on in the middle of the day!

Lys said...

That pan is gorgeous!!! Love the color and it looks so sturdy!

I was home for a hot minute yesterday and caught the last 10 min. Clinton is not Colin Cowie but I can understand how they are trying to position him as the "entertaining/style guru". I just wasn't fond of the show. Mario was on yesterday and while he brought some energy to it, it still didn't captivate me.

I remember watching soaps with not only my mom but my babysitters and AMC was one of my faves. Seeing that replaced with yet another "reality" show is kinda sad.

chefncurt said...

After viewing your very well laid out blog, it is obvious I have some work to do on mine. Especially getting advertisers.

You have obviously put work into yours, especially by the length of some of the writing so I am learning from that. Thank you

I would appreciate if you gave me some feedback on mine.


Sue said...

Hi Tom,
Yeah, the network has been promoting the heck out of this show. Definitely don’t change your daytime (non)viewing habits. If you’re ever home with the measles (do people still get the measles?) then check it out, but otherwise save your electricity bill.

Thanks Lys,
It IS a beautiful pan. Mario should spend the hour that The Chew is on just selling his cookware. I would watch that.

I agree with you that Clinton is not horrible as a style expert, but the show as a whole is so disjointed and frenetic and they’re trying so hard to have fun, that it just isn’t (fun).

If I were an AMC fan(atic), I would really be sad and livid, but I guess that’s not who they’re appealing to. And if you figure out who that is, let me know.

Hi Chef Curt.

Thanks for the nice words. I’m not sure the length of many of my posts is always such a great idea, but I have SO much to say.

Blogging advice? Be completely yourself. Write about what you care about and edit, edit and then edit some more. That might sound funny coming from someone who writes such long posts, but can you imagine how long they would be if I didn't edit them?!!

Sheila said...

I refuse to watch. I don't know what I'll do if they take away General Hospital! :-)

Sue said...

Hi Sheila,
That WOULD be awful!