It seems like a simple question but someone asked me this last week and I found myself really thinking about it. I've always watched cooking shows. As a kid I watched Julia Child, the Galloping Gourmet, Jack Favier (on a local TV show and who may or may not have been a good cook, I can't really remember) and I am sure a host of other cooking shows. They may have first been on because my mother or grandmother was watching them but I always sat right in front of the TV, mesmerized. I didn't care about watching Sesame Street - give me Julia Child! I still watch cooking shows and I think that I am watching for the same reason - I am mesmerized. I love watching those really good cooks take a bunch on ingredients and create something amazing. I think that's really why I watch rather than to get cooking tips and ideas (though I pick up a lot of things here and there).
I have friends that watch Sandra Lee, Robin Miller et al and they just loooove them. They go on and on about their recipes and ideas and can't understand why I don't really like watching their shows. I watch, mostly in horror, Sandra Lee's show just to see what she's going to do THIS time. It is like a Saturday Night Live sketch to me. When I suggest they watch Jamie Oliver (and I know he has his fans and detractors here) they tell me he's boring. They say everything he makes is complicated. It is? Everything? Maybe most people do want Sandra Lee and Robin Miller. Personally, I miss seeing people really cook on a cooking show even if I cook using a lot of shortcuts.
So why do you watch cooking shows? Must run now and set up my tablescape for a southwestern brunch I am preparing. (Kidding!)