by Bourdain

It is a measure of how seriously crack-brained, rapacious and evil the Deep Thinkers at Food Network must be that I find myself–yet again–in deep sympathy with their stable of stars. Last night, during the breathtakingly awful, interminable cruelty that was The Food Network Awards, I even found myself feeling bad for Rachael Ray. YES, friends. Rachael Ray. If nothing else, Rachael’s BIG now. Network talk show– doing- well- in- ratings- Big. Own magazine Big. Friend-of-Oprah Big. So, how must it have felt for her to stand up there in front of what appeared to be a halfway empty room of stunned, near comatose trout and feign enthusiasm while presenting the award for "Best Appliance"?

Do Emeril and Bobby–who, whatever you think of their shows–BUILT that fucking network, deserve to be pimped out with such casual disregard? Does anyone deserve to run the Gauntlet of Shame that was the "red carpet", forced to waddle past the California Raisins and Tony the Tiger and a bunch of other corporate Big Heads? The overmuscled fuckwit from DINNER SLIGHTLY DIFFICULT delivered the best line: something like "This is the greatest night "ever!" If that was his greatest night ever, I suspect he would say the same thing while being publicly butt-slammed by the San Diego Chicken.

(If you’ve ever seen his show, by the way–it’s hilarious. It’s "Knight Rider Meets Leonard’s Of Great Neck "" Can four professional cooks make onion dip for 40– in time?!!!" )And Nigella, Nigella, Nigella..the strange and fabulous Nigella Lawson!! Iconic in England– and internationally…. fabulously wealthy.. a good cook…new to the Network– and this is her welcome. Surely she had no clue as to the horrors she was facing. She looked trapped up there on stage.."the information" as Martin Amis calls it, coming terribly, suddenly home with painful clarity. To be stripped of one’s dignity by one’s new masters so quickly and with such ferocity–all in the cause of some product placement cannot have pleased. My only hope is that Charles, her husband, on hearing of this atrocity, this degrading mis-use of his wife , will buy the network–in order to spare her further ill treatment.

Emeril always the good soldier, sweated dutifully through his obligations, wondering privately, no doubt, what he had done to deserve this.

The production itself–above and beyond the witless, ill-considered, just-plain stupid "concept" of an Awards show where most of the "awards" went to inanimate objects (accepting the award for Best Comfort Food is…Macaroni and Cheese!!), appliances or cities (Portland’s mayor wisely did not bother to show),–the production values–were lower than whale shit. The food styling during the "Best New Appliance" looked like some kind of 1960’s themed monkey effluence, dying, soggy, butt-ugly. Perfectly appropriate to the Info-mercial From Hell theme of the presentation as a whole–but still shamefully crude for any "Food" network. The selection and photography of "beauty plates" from winning "Delicious Destination,. Portland, Oregon (in fact a terrific food destination) looked like somebody took a dump at McFunsters. Portland for fuck’s sake! They couldn’t find some good looking plates in fucking Portland!?

You have to ask yourself: WHAT were they THINKING?? Okay…so some brain dead douche bags from Ad Sales and "creative" got together and cooked up this hybrid, fur-bearing catfish of a beast, this jackalope of a High Concept. Fine. That’s what they do. But who green lit this monstrosity? Did no one raise their voice and say, "Boss…boss..Can we really DO this to our talent? " or even ask.."Uh…boss..Do you think this will be even remotely entertaining?" The answer, apparently arrived at the taping in Miami–where the Awards were perhaps the lone under-attended event of the South Beach Food and Wine Fest. . They couldn’t even hold on to a LIVE audience–ordinarily mesmerized simply by proximity to Sandra and Paula. In a few shots in the finished show, you can actually see the large empty spaces–the quick and the shrewd fleeing for the exits.

Did the network, upon realizing (as they surely did) that the whole thing was a hideous, stultifyingly boring cluster fuck–and a public slap to their talent–did they consider maybe having the good taste to just bury the whole thing in archives like a rotten bone? They reportedly had no trouble burying the Ripert and the Ramsay episodes of the excellent, critically acclaimed My Country My Kitchen. Have they no decency?

There’s a famous story where Robert Mitchum walks into studio head David O Selznick’s office, pulls down his pants and takes a crap on his white carpet.

I hope Emeril is pinching a loaf right now.

[Update: Serious eats notes the show was ratings success.]