Thursday, June 3
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.)