Food Network is not particularly known for its innovation. Â Iron Chef America is a version of Japan’s Iron Chef. Â Jeff Corwin has a show that directly echoes Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods.Â Meanwhile, Will Work for Food is essentially Dirty Jobs with a more annoying, somehow whiter host with food-related jobs. Â Now we have Chopped, which is meant to combat Bravo’s Top Chef by condensing the show into a rotating cast of chefs and judges. Â It’s terrifying in its sameness, and adds up to zero tension, zero gravitas and zero fun.
Premise: Four chefs of varying backgrounds (head, sous, nutritionist, amateur) battle..to not…get chopped.Â They create a 3-course meal, and after every course someone get eliminated.Â For everyÂ 30 minute round, disparate foods and food products are placed in a basket, and the chefs are asked to incorporate all of the items into the course.Â The judges then decide whose is terrible and who isn’t.Â Whoever doesn’t get chopped wins a smooth 10,000 dollars. Â Did you notice how long it took me to explain the premise. Â It takes them twice as long to do it on the show. Â Woof.
Tagline: “You have been chopped.”Â Ugh.Â UGH.Â At least we don’t get bad punnery with Top Chef.
Ted Allen as host: Sorry, I don’t buy it. Â For some reason, he comes off as…well…strange. Â While trying to inject some kind of tension into the show, his voice takes on a stern, automaton-like rhythm.Â He falls prey to the Food Network Syndrome championing wholesome over interesting.Â Sad thing is, I used to really like him on Top Chef and QEFTSG (don’t make me break down that acronym).
Judges: This is where Top Chef and Chopped begin to differ.Â For every single episode of Chopped, there is a new panel of celebrity chef judges.Â The episode I watched featured chef/internet talking head/Top Chef guest judge Scott Conant, chef Amanda Freitag, and NYC chef Geoffrey Zakarian.Â Not a bad cast of characters whatsoever (although I could do without the “I’m listening to myself speak on TV” Conant), but the fact that they are immediately rotated out after this show is disappointing.Â Who am I supposed to get to know?Â The only thing that draws one to competition-based reality TV are the relationships between viewer and cast.Â You’re with these people for weeks, and you feel their pain/experience the joy vicariously.Â How else could anyone explain this behavior?
Contestants: This is the kind of show that makes me wonder how many times the show will reference itself.Â How many times will a contestant turn to the camera and say, “Only 30 minutes?Â This is impossible!”Â We know it’s impossible, hence the “challenge” set-up.Â Couldn’t the producers/editors find anything compelling?Â I heard this twice last night: “I don’t want to be chopped!”Â We know, that’s the whole point of the show.Â Like the judges, there is little to no connection to these contestants.Â You get to know them and *BOOM* they get CHOPPED.Â POW!!!Â Say goodbye, guy who couldn’t find a way to incorporate bananas with bacon and wontons.Â Boo yah guy who put salt in a plum cake instead of sugar (WTF?!)!Â Without any kind of formed relationships, this show is just an exercise in sucker-punching.
Baffling Network Incest: When watching my episode of Chopped, I noticed that one of the contestants was Einat Admony.Â Which is strange.Â Because she was featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown recently.Â Why is she suddenly back in a contest for 10,000 dollars?Â She beat Flay in a Throwdown, so isn’t it a given that she’ll murder her opponents and win the money?Â Sounds fishy to me.
Music: Definitely stock material, can’t hold a candle to Top Chef’s drum n’ bass bubble. Â Not to say they don’t try to emulate (or even directly copy) the style though. Â Any reality competition show on Bravo uses cymbal and percussion strikes to enhance tension. Â Once again, Food Network cribs those very flourishes.Â Not.Â Cool.
The Verdict: F is for FAIL.Â The show’s utter lack of originality hurts it.Â Making the contestants stand in the back room while the judges confer is just embarrassing.Â It follows Top Chef’s formula shot-for-shot at times, and makes me wonder what Food Network’s future holds.Â I’ll watch Ace of Cakes and Alton Brown material, but most of their new programming comes off as cloying or a direct rip-off. Â It’s been a strange chain: Jacques Pepin and Julia Child begat the Food Network. Â The Food Network begat Bravo’s and Travel Channel’s food shows, and now…well, we have Chopped and Ultimate Recipe Showdown. Â Chopped just doesn’t measure up.Â It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.Â Chopped is the margerine to Top Chef’s butter.Â Alright, that’s about as much terrible retributive word play I can dole out on a given day.