Sunday, June 7
The show hasn't been that successful with those goals, though. Season 2's winner Guy Fieri is the biggest star of the "what was their name?" bunch known as former Star contestants. Why is that, I wonder. I don't think Guy is more talented than season 1's Dan & Steve or season 3's Amy Finley or even last year's winner Aaron McCargo Jr.-- he was just the most willing to embody a marketable "personality" for the network.
Food Network also seems to understand the game better now than it did before. If it wasn't for the mega-marketing campaign behind Aaron McCargo's show Big Daddy's House (and the smart decision to premiere the first episode the Sunday immediately following his win), I'm not sure he'd still be around. Who knows where Dan & Steve would be today if they had had that kind of support.
So after watching the first episode, the season 5 premiere of Star, I felt like I was seeing a show produced by people who think they truly get it. They get what kind of kind of challenges work well on TV. They get what the right camera angles are when shooting contestants race through Whole Foods' aisles. They get how to perfectly edit an elimination session for maximum tension.
But just "getting it" doesn't always make for great television. Repeating well-established reality show principles isn't what we're looking for these days, is it?
So that's what I mostly felt after watching the first episode. To make a long story short, the episode opens with a little New York stock footage, some contestants meeting each other in their new living quarters, and an immediate cooking challenge involving some fast shopping for ingredients and catering a large party for Food Network's 16th birthday. There are, of course, some issues with the ingredients and time and things not coming out perfectly.
The party is held at NYC's Butter restaurant, where Food Network's Alex Guarnaschelli is chef (and she looks glam, btw!). Also in attendance are Anne Burrell, Duff Goldman, Sunny Anderson, Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis, Ted Allen, and Morimoto, who has another great line this opening episode, although not as good as last year's:
But unlike last season's opening episode, where the first mini-challenge was an on-camera exercise with Alton Brown, in tonight's opening episode we don't see much in the way that helps show us what kind of cooking show stars these contestants might be if they were to win. I realize there will be lots of these types of challenges to come, but proving you can be a star is the point of the show and the reason for winning. After watching this first episode, I feel like all I know is that when given a limited budget and a few hours to cater a party, problems inevitably arise.
I get it. There is tension when strangers, all competing for the same prize, are forced to work together for the first time. I get it.
I just wanted more.
The Next Food Network Star premieres TONIGHT -- Sunday, June 7 at 9pm ET.