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Has TV become too food-obsessed?

Paleo, sugar, fat, diets, meat -one genre is now at tipping point on our schedules.

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Do we blame it on the success of MasterChef? My Kitchen Rules?

Whatever the reason, our schedules are playing host to more and more food-related programmes.

Both Seven and TEN’s reality shows drew hours of viewers until late July. Nine’s Hotplate has also drawn a decent crowd, if at the expense of Seven’s Restaurant Revolution.

Sunday Night and 60 Minutes both put Paleo diets under the microscope, generating considerable chatter.

In recent weeks Nine has paired Hotplate episodes with food documentaries from the UK, presumably because US dramas have been unable to sustain good audiences. The Truth About Sugar, The Truth About Calories, The Truth About Fat, World’s Most Expensive Food, SuperFoods: The Real Story are all recent or upcoming primetime docos while Seven has brought back Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

In recent months SBS has aired the UK docos Fat vs Sugar, What’s the Right Diet For You? Michael Mosley: The Truth About Meat, Michael Mosley: Should I Eat Meat? Next week it has Is Sugar the New Fat?

With titles like these viewers could be forgiven for thinking they had seen any of these interchangeable productions before.

SBS of course has long featured an array of local and international food shows on Thursday nights: Luke Nguyen, Rachel Khoo, Poh Ling Yeow, Shane Delia, Heston Blumenthal, Ainsley Harriott, Peter Kuruvita, Destination Flavour are all important brands for the network. Most of these are personality-driven to great effect.

There are also daytime cooking shows with Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield, Good Chef Bad Chef, Alive and Cooking, food segments in morning television and lifestyle shows Better Homes and Gardens and The Living Room, Saturday arvo advertorials and travel shows such as Far Flung with Gary Mehigan.

Foxtel also has an entire channel, LifeStyle FOOD devoted to cakes, meat, seafood, cookies, cheese, chicken, chocolate, BBQ, vegetables, curry, sugar and more.

As the likes of Marco Pierre White and Matt Preston have reminded us, food is indeed a centrepiece for great occasions in our life. We gather at tables, we celebrate and ritualise with food. And -no question- we are all increasingly concerned with living more-healthy lives. But do we really need so many hours devoted to one genre when networks are fretting over viewers turning to Streaming alternatives?

Networks, of course, only respond to numbers: the viewers and the advertising dollars. If people didn’t watch this stuff, networks wouldn’t put it on.

But there are no guarantees. Restaurant Revolution reminds us the audience remains discerning.

And as the debut season of MasterChef Australia proved, there are sometimes great rewards in taking risks and thinking outside the square.

20 Responses

  1. I think people in general are food obsessed. We all need to eat and if we can do it better, more interesting or healthier we try to strive for that. At the end of the day all these shows even the competition shows reveal to us what we can do with food and cooking is also the most accesible form of self improvement or self challenge. Most us will never renovate a flat but anyone can attempt most receipes they see on TV.

  2. TV is definitely “food obsessed”. And “Reno obsessed”. And “Talent Show” obsessed. But who’s listening? They keep resorting to the same-old, same-old formulas that are cheap and have worked for the past 10 years. People watch because there’s nothing else on.

    Its like the current housing bubble. People think/hope the bubble will burst soon, but it just keeps going on and on. Personally I hope the Reality trend dies soon, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Meanwhile there’s always Netflix or a large DVD collection to watch.

  3. I think the plethora of food programs is simply the outward face of a deeper problem. Anyone seen the movie “The Croods”? The heroine is told repeatedly by her father than anything new or interesting is bad! and that staying inside their cave is the safe option. FTA channels seem to be inflicted with the same malaise, hence they stay within their established cave. Thank the Great PoohBah for SBS and Aunty.

    1. I think you’re being a little unfair to commercial FTA there. I blame the viewers.

      Case in point: 7 tries something new & interesting (collections of YouTube cat & dog videos); dozens of commenters here tell them that’s bad and that they should stay with the safe option of repeats.

      Who’s laughing now? 😉

      1. I’m laughing…at channel 7 and the evaporation of whatever credibility they had before choosing to broadcast youtube videos in primetime (which by the way is nothing new or interesting). It’s no wonder FTA viewing figures are down 10% on last year and companies like Seven West Media are losing money hand over fist. As the viewing landscape shifted over the past 5 odd years they have done and are doing absolutely nothing to adapt. Instead they continue their contemptuous, blinkered behaviour. Their loss, not mine. With all the viewing choice out there nowadays it is us consumers who will have the last laugh.

  4. And it all started with Graham Kerr in Cooking with Kerr (pronounced Care), back in the 60’s. Now that was a revolution, unheard of. And it helped that he was very personable, and liked the odd slurp of wine to go with it.

  5. Personally, I blame Ready Steady Cook…

    But it’s probably because cooking is a touchstone of shared experience that transcends individual and cultural differences – and that the obvious other shared experiences of being born, dying, and going to the toilet are a little harder to make TV out of…

    1. Personally I blame Jamie Oliver. When he came along he made cooking look sexy. Then we had glamorous “cooking porn” with Nigella Lawson.

      Before that cooking shows were regarded as a bit frumpy and homey. Who wanted to watch that?

  6. Fetch tv has one channel on food called the food network.

    Channel 9 fills their schedule with one off random shows instead of drama and makes the excuse that drama doesn’t rate when the real reason is drama viewers have been treated so poorly by 9 for years that people don’t try their dramas anymore. 9s low drama ratings are entirely 9s fault.

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