With another Dead Zone upon us, my thoughts, as usual, go to what television viewing will replace all of the hours I have devoted to college sports. It is getting to be tougher and tougher to find something, although there is a glimmer of hope.
An old favorite used to be the History Channel, whose programs used to be of great interest. These days, however, that network has ditched not only the ‘Channel’ part of its name but just about any program having to with history.
History’s program line-up has been cleansed of the past, replaced with various end-of-the-world scenarios [“You're all gonna die”], searches for Bigfoot and how aliens crashing into the Roswell desert brought us modern technology ranging from the computer chip to Velcro. No thanks.
A mainstay was the Food Network. For a guy who has combined a great fondness for tasty edibles with a tendency to marry women who couldn’t boil water if you spotted them 200 degrees, FN was manna from heaven. I often cook dishes learned from that network.
Unfortunately, the Food channel, like the History one, has gotten far away from its original concept. While FN once specialized in short how-to cooking shows that seemed targeted to guys like me, these days it seems to show most everything except how to actually cook something.
The network’s decline began with something called ‘Emeril Live.’ The FN’s original celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse was the first to declare himself the star, not the food. To emphasize the point, he took to his kitchen ‘stage’ to sounds generated by his band and preened in front of a live audience. I don’t often find that to be the case when I head for the kitchen. The actual cooking took a decided back seat to Emeril’s bantering with whatever cronies of his happened to have ‘dropped by’ and was often interrupted by the brain-dead audience, which erupted like Lane following a blocked kick every time Emeril tossed a little garlic into something. It didn’t take much of that for me to give whatever channel it is that shows ‘Law and Order’ reruns 24/7 a shot.
From the ‘Emeril Live’ tipping point FN quickly devolved into the television equivalent of fast food with shows such as ‘Iron Chef;’ it ain’t too often I stroll into my kitchen to prepare dinner and discover the only ingredients on hand are fugu, kelp and goat cheese.
Even ’30 Minute Meals’ has gone down the tubes. It was, once you got past Rachel Ray giggling like a 13-year old schoolgirl, a good show that featured some fairly informative lessons in how to make a decent dinner on the quick, always handy knowledge for a guy like me. Since her marriage, however, Rachel has porked up like the Pillsbury Doughboy and now spends her time trying to be Oprah [in all ways, it would seem]. New ’30 Minute Meals’ are few and far between and seem to concentrate on how much fat she can load into a single meal [“Hey, I'm married, hee-hee”]. There is still ‘Everyday Italian,’ but who pays attention to what Giada is cooking, other than eye candy?
There is no longer much to be learned about food from the Food Network, and besides, millions of recipes are available on the Internet. What viewing time I still devote to FN is in search of humor. If they can’t teach me anything, at least make me laugh. Fortunately, the do, which brings me to current FN mainstay Sandra Lee.
Sandra is of indeterminate age- if I had to hazard a guess, considering all of the silicon, botox and this week’s heavy application of peroxide she is lugging around, I would say she averages out to her mid-twenties. That is certainly what she is trying to project. She obviously hit on that ‘California Girl’ look a few decades ago and is going to maintain it, by cracky, even if it keeps cosmetic surgeons from Beverly Hills to Park Avenue in new SL’s and Tahiti vacations. After all, she ain’t paying for all of the face lifts.
Sandra’s one discernible talent seems to be her ability to marry well. She has wedding rich guys then negotiating huge cash settlements when she divorces them down pat [I suspect she has other talents that enable her to acquire those rich husbands, but FN does strive for a G rating so we don't see them]. Somehow or another, she has ended up with a cooking show, which would indicate there are one or more FN top executives that had better start transferring funds to offshore accounts as soon as possible. One thing is for sure: Sandra can’t cook a lick.
Sandra’s show is called ‘Semi- Homemade.’ She begins each show staring at the camera with glazed eyes and an expressionless face that appears to be a combination of heavy drinking, massive injections of collagen and drug use from 80s party girl days.
The stated goal of ‘Semi-Homemade’ is to demonstrate how to take pre-packaged ingredients and attempt to fool people into thinking you actually cooked them yourself. Usually, though, Sandra will give a quick demonstration in how to peel back a corner of the plastic film over a dish before sticking it into the microwave. That culinary achievement accomplished [“Remember, the dish will be hot when you take it out. Be careful”], Sandra will chirp “It’s cocktail time” and lunge for the bottle of liquor she always keeps close at hand on the counter [“If you want to add more liquor to the drink, it's fine with me”]. About the only thing you can learn from Semi-Homemade is how to slap something on the table as quickly as possible so you can get back to drinking. I already know how to do that, but the show is still hilarious and I watch it as often as possible for the laughs.
We will soon get a double dose of Sandra fun. She is starting a second show called ‘Sandra’s Money Saving Meals.’ That would seem to indicate that the cash from the K&B CEO is running out [I'm telling you, FN execs- hide your assets now]. I guess a show called ‘Sandra’s How To Marry A Guy Rich Enough To Afford A Cook’ wouldn’t have a lot of relevance in today’s economy.
There are several competing biographies of Sandra floating around, all put out by Sandra at various times. The latest is that she came from a family so wretchedly-poor they could barely afford her first breast implants, much less put any call liquor on the dinner table. She claims that she will draw on this hardscrabble background to advise viewers on how to scrimp enough on meals so that they can afford to keep a decent brand of tequila in the house. I avidly await a demonstration from Sandra on how to open a can of beans [“those with pull tops are the easiest and much safer to open when you're drunk!”].
This year’s Dead Zone will be tough, but there will be Sandra. Her next ‘Semi-Homemade’ will feature roast beef sandwiches, with the ingredient list headed by a loaf of white bread and a trip to the nearest deli. You go, girl.