From the comments here and elsewhere and the decline in ad revenue/ratiings that the Food Network has experienced, I've been really pondering and have come to a conclusion as to where they screwed up. Now say whatever you want about the whole celeb chef concept, but I have some ideas as to where I feel they lost their REAL base -the masses, not so much the foodies- along the journey.
I feel it began with Emeril himself. Here's a guy for whom I never fully jumped on the "hate 'im" bandwagon, but I know a lot of people couldn't stand the guy whatsoever. Well, I just recently had a friend comment on Emeril's appearance on "No Reservations" and she said, "Y'know, it actually made me wanna like the guy". And that comment made me realize that the guy everyone hated wasn't Emeril Legasse, it was "Emeril Live!" Legasse. The real life Emeril is a good chef, super savvy business man and from all accounts a really solid decent guy. Remember that when FN started, it was pretty much All-Emeril all the time. So that "BAM!" persona, I feel, probably evolved out of having to punch up endless hours of what was an evolving type of entertainment (and yes, first and foremost, it's ENTERTAINMENT).
The problem was, whenever they got a host who clicked a bit, Ray, Deen, Flay, Giada, they took the extremes of their "schtick" and made them, well... schtick. The guys who resisted, Mario, Bourdain, etc... well we know the history. The magic exception is the Teflon host, Alton Brown, who somehow came in ALREADY schtick and has somehow tempered down his persona to something probably much, much closer to the Alton his friends see. The rest of the pack, Florence, Lee, the morning folks (except Ina Garten who - in her own version of Altonism - seems to exist in some parallel FN universe) who are just so flaccid that they barely register.
The viewing public, despite the thoughts of many network executives, doesn't really want to watch "schtick", at least not for a protracted periond of time. Sure Jerry Springer can get away with it but until there's that marvelous tension of waiting to see Paula Deen knocking Giada's big head repeatedly into a flattop or a REAL Bobby Flay Throwdown, personality schtick gets tiresome real, real fast. It's a testament to Emeril himself that it took as long as it did in his case. And even he seemed to try temper it down a bit for a while, seemily knowing this.
The other area that FN missed the boat on is their insistence on dumbing down the food more and more just when they should be ramping it up. Here they go, teaching your average person words like "reduction", "confit", "gastrique", and "molecular gastronomy" -mostly via "Iron Chef America", notable for its PROFESSIONAL chefs - only to then concentrate on Guy Fierei's "money" twist on a plate of Nachos. Sure, some of the tips on say, Sandra Lee's show, regardless of their genuine quality or lack thereof, may be appreciated by busy working moms with little time on their hands, but you've helped create a popular interest in food, and restaurants, and chefs, and ingredients, and techniques and you don't take advatage of that?? And you wonder why people flock to "Top Chef" where the people actually can and DO cook rather than the dull amateur-night-at-the-burner debacle that has been your two "Next Food Network Star" runs?
The Foodie explosion? You helped create it, FN, then you turned your back on it. Dumb move in my opinion. Or maybe its just that you never actually got it in the first place.
So Chowhounds, those of you still with me (honest, I didn't mean for it to get this long) -am I hitting the target at all in you opinion? Have I missed any key, salient points?
Have at me!