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Thursday, June 3

Review: Next Food Network Star, Season 6

I'll spare you my thoughts on how referring to a 6-episode deal as the "biggest prize on television" is a bit hyperbolic... or about Food Network's dilemma with finding a new star with this reality show that needs suspense and drama... or even how the producers now "get it" when it comes to crafting and editing a suspenseful show (but not much more). So let's just get down to what's new this season:

Season 6 is the first to take place primarily in Los Angeles. The Hollywood Hills home the contestants live in is gorgeous and looks like it provides a lot more space than the NYC carriage homes of previous seasons. Perhaps this cavernous home will showcase a NFNS first: some downtime love connections between contestants? Between Bobby Flay and a contestant? Who knows.

Since L.A. is a world away from the Chelsea Market desks of Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, you'd think Tuschelson's role might be amped up this season, right? Well, even though they're stars in some minds, two Food Network execs can't compete with the star power of Giada De Laurentiis, who this year takes on a more permanent role as the contestant's mentor.

Think of Giada as the Tim Gunn of The Next Food Network Star, minus the snappy catchphrases.

And even though Giada can't muster up nary a memorable phrase, the show itself has certainly imposed some upon us. Like the "STAR KITCHEN" that the contestants compete in, replacing the NYC Food Network kitchens that formerly served as a major setting and the "STAR CHALLENGE" that the contestants are tasked with (both of which are highlighted with a giant, floating graphic after they're announced.

As for the contestants, you can read more about them on Food Network's site. They seem like a good mix of talented, clueless, different from the standard Food Network style, and obnoxious. The perfect reality show mix.

In the first episode, one really stands out... and not necessarily in a good way. Dzintra.

Sometimes a reality show contestant is so weird and so over the top that's it's almost unfathomable that they're 45 and have never been on a reality show before. Like, did they check out The Real World - New York back in 1992, think Eric Nies was kind of hot, and then decide that the genre wasn't for them? Have they been ignoring everything else that has happened w/ reality TV over the last 18 years, and missing out on all the audition opportunities?

Quickly, it all makes sense. This was Dzintra's third time auditioning for the show (which means she could have been cast WITH Lisa Garza, which would have probably broke the TV) and she finally made it. Guess she's not too oblivious to what's going on.

Dzintra, who introduces herself for the first time to her fellow contestants as "Dzintra, from the planet Zintron," has a bit of an eye problem in the first episode that leads to a harrowing decision to either leave the show and go to the emergency room or continue on, wounded eye and all. Fearing the wackiest character might leave the show during the FIRST episode, I sincerely hope Dzintra makes it back to the show... for both eye-health and entertainment reasons.

Quickly-- The first ep has the contestants putting themselves on a plate, so to speak. They are given the blank canvas of chicken and a potato to make their masterpiece (luckily no one seemed to have a vegetarian/vegan cooking style and no crying ensued). Then they have to present to camera, where the awkwardness always shines.

Later--the contestants have to write and shoot a 15-second promo for their Food Network show, with director Andy Fickman helping direct. I'm not sure the director of Race to Witch Mountain and She's the Man is necessarily the best fit to direct a Food Network promo, but what do I know? Maybe that's the next type of show Food Net's looking for?

I'm interested to see how L.A. changes the show and the challenges and how Giada's role develops. In previous years' appearances she's come off as harsh and somewhat contradictory to the contestants, so I'll be looking to see if her "mentoring" shows us a softer, more constructively criticizing Giada.

But I won't be holding my prosciutto-laced breath.

Tune-in to the two-hour premiere of The Next Food Network Star this Sunday, June 6 at 9pm ET.


P.S.- after thinking about this, I'm seriously depressed Dzintra wasn't in the same cast as Lisa Garza. That'd be some Joe Esposito Karate Kid "You're the Best Around" awesome kind of team casting. (Not sure where that reference came from, but I'm NOT at all thrilled about the nepotism at its best Jaden Smith/Will Smith Karate Kid remake. Ugh.)

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At 6/06/2010 11:49 PM , Blogger Mark said...

Just watched the premiere. The show looks more and more like Top Chef and now they incorporate elements from Project Runway to have a mentor. Giada was much nicer as a mentor (than as a judge), but she is definitely not Tim Gunn.

At 6/07/2010 1:27 AM , Anonymous patricia said...

Just watched it and well I am not impressed.
Here is a spoiler...
since one contestant already has said they have split personalities which just made me laugh out loud who does the scouting for FN?

I suspect that five of the contestants have agents already and that the others have been in somekind of reality world talent pool very bottom feeders.

Lastly, Bobby Flay - What the Hell? You can't mentor? You were on Chef 911 or Boy meets grill Giada obviously has a better agent than Bobby. What is sad when Bobby walks in on the contestants in Chef whites as if to prove his existance.

At 6/07/2010 10:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuschman would cream his shorts if he could somehow make Das win. Come on -- a young, good-looking black guy with tattoos who looks like DMX? I'm sure Tuschman and Fogelface furiously dry-humped at the thought of him starring in a show for them. Too bad he has (so far) no camera presence or cooking ability.

They actually do have a few interesting people this year. I would put Serena, Aria and Aarti at the head of the list. (The girls clearly outweigh the men this year.) But looking at the rest of the cast, you have to wonder: are THESE people the best of the best from the thousands who auditioned? I know it's one episode, but some of them hold no appeal whatsoever.

I wonder if Serena can win with Giada around. Wolfgang called that one immediately. But the fact that they found three interesting women with distinct culinary viewpoints is encouraging.

At 6/08/2010 6:45 AM , Anonymous CharmingDinnerGuest said...

I wonder about these contestants. They must know they have to be "camera ready" before they try out. Don't they practice? Don't they get themselves in front of a camera before they try to get on the show? Don't they try 15 second scripts on themselves ahead of time?

Is it possible the really good contestants are screened out so there will be tears, shaking and drama?

At 6/08/2010 7:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment above about Aria and Aarti at the head of the list. Their dishes and personalities were extremely appealing, but Serena (and some of the others) didn't seem to be in their league.

At 6/08/2010 11:17 AM , Blogger Alec Smart said...

What a complete waste of time. NFNS is more about the pitiful 9 episodes FN realize from the "series" rather than finding true talent.

Just witness McCargo and Melissa The Frozen Bacon Lady.Arguably the 2 worst hosts working in TV today.

FN just keeps sinking lower and lower to Bogusville.

At 6/08/2010 12:09 PM , Blogger Lana said...

TNFNS is a complete waste of perfectly good electrons.

At 6/08/2010 12:21 PM , Blogger sawslow said...

Love Susie's hair, yeah I know I am shallow..........

At 6/08/2010 2:06 PM , Anonymous Stew Gotz said...

Giada de le Laurentiis as a mentor with her 5 yrs of mediocre experience?? UH ?

Talk about watering down the talent pool.

Oh and congrats on thiefing the TOP CHEF vibe for this season. You are not only unoriginal but you thief other's ideas and content.

At 6/08/2010 5:06 PM , Anonymous CharmingDinnerGuest said...

That so-called director didn't direct as much as Giada did.

She gave very good comments on how to make changes. I didn't see him do a thing.

At 6/09/2010 5:35 AM , Blogger ElwoodK_Rank佳玲 said...


At 6/09/2010 5:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about some of their lack of camera presence. I really believe that FN doesn't want any polish; confrontation and backstabbing make for ratings. This is about entertainment, not cooking. If you do really well, then what have they got left for the next week?

Dzintra should have thanked her teammates for doing her dish. Their winning kept her on the show and instead she knifes them in the back. I think that's what she's on there for.

Finally, the people from FN need to be changed, but that's not going to happen.

At 6/10/2010 1:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've lost interest this year. It's old.

At 6/10/2010 1:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Showing up in Chefs whites . Any monkey can wear chefs whites and think they are part of the culinary elite.Witness the Ass of Cakes and his doneky staff wearing them on The Cake show trying to make then chefs. What's next? Melissa d'Baconator putting on a chefs coat and calling herseld a chef ?

Bobby Flay has big manboobs.

At 6/13/2010 9:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been looking for an opportunity to get this message to Giada de Laurentis who started showing her breast by always wearing low neck shirts and have the habit of stooping down just to show her boobs. Giada, you don't need to show your breast to get popular in Food Network. And also, what happened to Rachel Ray and Sarah Lee who used to be decent in their clothes and now they are showing off sagging boobs!!! Will you please cover up chefs and cooks... we are looking at the food not your breasts!

At 6/13/2010 9:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giada de laurentis--if you love to show your boobs--why don't you just make a movie with the laurentis that would show you naked and publicize your boobs--get out of cooking and join the playboy bunnies!!! You are a shame!

At 6/19/2010 7:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This season is awful. Bring back Shamu. At least she was good for a few laughs.

At 6/21/2010 11:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gia-Duh doesn’t even get along with her aunt Raffe; why have her again as a judge/mentor??? She can’t handle competitors, much like she can’t handle the truth. She is a one-note (mascarpone recipe) cook.

At 6/26/2010 2:11 PM , Anonymous Cindy said...

I like the new format. They are helping the contestants grow into the position more quickly with the mentor role. Some contestants are obviously better than others.

At 8/29/2010 2:27 AM , Anonymous Colin Lewis said...

Why is it that you never see a contestant who is in a wheelchair. Why is it that there isn't a chef like me who is in a wheelchair and ready to show people that just because you end up in a wheelchair, short or long term I can still cook. I want to show people who become disabled how to get back into the kitchen and cook.

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