Monday, July 27
Here are my 5 reasons why Melissa D'Arabian will be the next Food Network star:
1. Melissa Has the Best Story Arc
Producers love to tell a story and carefully construct what we see (and don't see) of each contestant. Remember how all of Melissa's flubs and screwups were heavily featured in the early episodes? We were lead to believe she consistently needed help from the other contestants just to finish in time, couldn't keep up with the professional chefs, etc.
Now, in the second-to-last episode, Melissa is seen as triumphant and adored by the judges and guests. Her cooking skills even garnered the approval of top chefs John Besh and Francois Payard, among others.
Jeffrey, on the other hand, has stayed pretty much consistent (which is what we hear from TUSCHELSON over and over) since episode 1. He's good but not great. He's not good on camera, and while he might bring in a new audience, I think Food Network is more worried about keeping another audience it already has. Which leads me to #2...
2. Melissa Could Reclaim the Audience Amy Finley Supposedly Had
Bob Tuschman told me in our May 2008 interview that Amy Finley's show The Gourmet Next Door "was actually a huge hit--she was one of the highest-rated in daytime for the six weeks she was on." As you know, Amy's story is that she left voluntarily after those 6 shows. While Melissa doesn't act all "here's some French food based on French recipes I learned while living in France," her cooking style does seem very similar to Amy's and I think her show would have a similar look and feel as Gourmet.
3. Rachael Ray Isn't Getting Any Less Rich
I feel like the more money Rachael continues to make with her daytime talkshow, magazine, and other deals, the less likely it'll be that she returns to Food Network--at least in the same cooking show host capacity we've grown to know her.
Rachael's two-year deal with Food Network is quickly coming to a close and I haven't heard anything about any new deals yet. While I'm sure some execs would like to try a show with Jeffrey Saad and get a new audience, it's much safer to go with something tested and known.
Several personalities have popped up over the years since Rachael's debut, but I don't think anyone has had the same kind of likability and star-power that Rachael has. The truth is, they might not ever find someone else who resonates the way she did... but that doesn't stop them from trying. Melissa, unlike Rachael & Sandra Lee, really is a mother and has the potential to appeal to that mom market they know are watching.
4. Melissa Tells a LOT of Stories
If 50% of a successful Food Network host is cooking ability, the other 50% might be the ability to tell millions of stories about yourself & your family. If you're cooking hotdogs, you better be able to instantly talk about the time your Grandpa once took you to a ballgame when you were 6.5 years old and you were wearing a brand-new ball cap and that you ordered 2 hotdogs and ate both of them and remember the smell in the air and how it's what you always think about whenever you make hotdogs... even if it's not true. ;-)
Melissa seems to have a better knack about this. Whether or not this makes her food any better is debatable.
5. It Just Makes Sense. You Never Thought She Was Going to Win.
I always think I'm being tricked when watching reality TV show competitions. From the beginning, Jeffrey seemed qualified, was described as a "Greek god," and just seemed like he was going to go far. Melissa on the other hand did not seem like she'd make it past the 2nd episode. I think that's part of the trick--never thinking they'll make it from week to week and then, suddenly, they win.
After all, I NEVER thought Aaron was going to win.
What do you think? Is Melissa going to be on TV a week from Sunday?