The New York Post is reporting that Mario Batali, one of the great Food Network pioneers, is no longer going to be on the network. According to the Post: "Sources said that network executives told the spotlight-loving chef last month his multiple shows, which includes the long-running 'Molto Mario,' would not be renewed and that he would no longer be competing in the popular 'Iron Chef America' series."
If you recall, Anthony Bourdain blogged on Batali being one of the few highlights on FN: "Is there any more egregiously under-used, criminally mishandled, dismissively treated chef on television? Relegated to the circus of 'Iron Chef America,' where--like a great, toothless lion, fouling his cage, he hangs on--and on--a major draw (and often the only reason to watch the show). How I would like to see him unchained, free to make the television shows he’s capable of, the Real Mario--in all his Rabelasian brilliance. How I would love to hear the snapping bones of his cruel FN ringmasters, crunching between his mighty jaws! Let us see the cloven hooves beneath those cheery clogs! Let Mario be Mario!"
Not that we should be at all surprised. When I interviewed Michael Smith, FN's senior vice president for marketing and creative services, I asked him about a celebrity chef saturation point and any fears he may have about Jumping the Shark. Explained Smith: "I think that the challenge for us is that when it was just a genre channel, being a place where you’d come if you wanted information about food, we knew that we could pretty much deliver that pretty consistently just by putting food on the screen and having people present it. But when it transformed into sort of a pop culture entertainment channel, where people watch it for the personalities, then you get into the same game that the NBCs and ABCs are in, that it’s not enough just to have someone making chicken salad. You’ve got to have this really great personality, and that’s where you can Jump the Shark because, as you know in entertainment TV, personalities burn out. You gotta find new ones. And so, you have an Emeril, and he’s a rock star, but then you need the next rock star and the next rock star and so we get into sort of a hits business of finding stars."
Indeed. But as sorry as I am to see Mario go (he'll have a show on PBS), we can still look forward to Nigella Lawson, who joins the Food Network in October.
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