Why do the black shows on the Food Network suck ass?

Posted by Carlton Hargro on Sun, Mar 29, 2009 at 10:55 AM

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It’s always amazed me that while food is one of the major cornerstones of African-American culture, the Food Network — the cable channel dedicated to all things food — can’t seem to produce a decent black-hosted show for its programming lineup.

Specifically, I’m talking about the shows Big Daddy’s House, Cooking for Real, and Down Home With the Neelys. I’ve watched all three programs numerous times and they honestly suck ass — especially compared to other more successful shows on the network.

So why don’t the shows work? Well it ain’t because they’re hosted by black people. Although the fact that they suck probably does not bode well for black-hosted shows in the future. I can just hear some idiotic programming director at a TV network saying, “Well those shows didn’t work. Audiences don’t want to see black people cooking.”

Anyway, the Food Network’s black shows fail for two main reasons: lack of personality and lack of focus.

Let’s take Big Daddy’s House. The host, Aaron McCargo Jr., is a likeable enough guy (He’s the winner of the network’s Top Chef-ish cooking show.) and he seems like he can cook, but what is this show about? One day he’s cooking sloppy joes the next he’s making a “healthy scallop supper.” Look at other Food Network shows like Everyday Italian, Semi-Homemade … hell, even 30 Minute Meals, and the focus of the show is evident from the title. The best cooking shows — from Julia Child days until now — are hosted by cooks with a singular vision. Big Daddy’s House, however, is all over the place.

When we turn the spotlight to Cooking for Real, you find a show that lacks focus and personality. The show is hosted by Sunny Anderson; she seems like a really nice person but is just devoid of any interesting personality traits. Even her clothes are drab and nondescript. On top of that, her dishes (like on Big Daddy’s House) seem haphazardly pulled together. I’m sure she can cook all types of food, but that doesn’t make for the best television.

Now, moving on to Down Home With the Neelys, I’ve gotta admit that the show actually defies both of my gripes. The show has a focus — barbecue (everything) — and it has personality. But here’s the thing, I don’t really like the hosts’ personalities. The show is helmed by the married couple Pat and Gina Neely, and the two kiss and whisper sweet nothings to each other throughout each episode. Cook dammit! As far as the food is concerned, all they cook is barbecue … and I ain’t talkin’ grilled, I mean barcbecue. As in smoked. As in pork. Lots of pork. This is definitely not a show for vegetarians or Muslims. Once, I saw them make barbecue spaghetti. That ain’t black … that’s ghetto. What’s next? Ramen noodles? With barbecue sauce?!

All that said, there are a few decent black cooking shows on TV, but they aren’t on the Food Network. One halfway-decent show is Urban Cuisine, which airs on BETJ (that’s not on basic cable). Urban Cuisine is hosted by Harlem-based chef Marcus Samulesson, who’s of Ethiopian descent. And although the production values are poor, the food on the show is diverse but still manages to stay focused on the richness of black culture … and that means soul food from America, African cuisines, Caribbean vittles and more. Tune in.

Comments (33)

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The Neeleys are great. It is nice to see a couple in love cooking.. it's not about the food (I know it is food network) as it is about them cooking together....

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Posted by Nicole Hudson on 03/31/2009 at 11:00 AM

Maybe the shows suck ass to you because you are looking for the shows to be "BLACK" instead of being just a show to watch. You're looking for some kind of insight to the food of the black community instead of taking it for what it is. Just a show like everything else. What do you mean, "Once, I saw them make barbecue spaghetti. That ain’t black … that’s ghetto". Why is it ghetto? Because the Neeley's did it, and not Bobby Flay? Have you seen Paula Dean? She deep fries EVERYTHING. Is that ghetto too? Her show is ALL over the place as well. Where's your commentary on that? Pulease. Your blogged views are ill informed and mediocre at best.

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Posted by Shanticka on 03/31/2009 at 1:00 PM

No, if you read my blog I said the shows suck because they lack focus and personality ... and in the case of the Neelys because they are slightly ghetto and nauseating.

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Posted by Carlton Hargro on 03/31/2009 at 8:53 PM

Yea...I know what you said, and you need to know how what you said was interpreted. This "focus" that you speak of is ridiculous. They are cooking a meal just like everyone else that you watch. Why does a show, (just because it's hosted by a Black person) have to be "focused on the richness of black culture" in order to be considered a "good" show? It's cooking. Take it or leave it. If you don't like the recipe on that particular episode, then don't take notes. It's just that simple.

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Posted by Shanticka on 03/31/2009 at 10:43 PM

Well, I don't think the food has to be black on black shows — but the show should have focus. That's just good TV. I go over all this in the post. But, bottom line, food is a BIG deal in African-American culture. Why not represent it?

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Posted by Carlton Hargro on 04/01/2009 at 3:28 PM

And this is where we have the difference in opinion (which I love BTW). They are not here to represent African Americans or how much "we" love to cook or eat. They are here to take what they love (which is cooking and eating as individuals) and share it with whoever chooses to watch/listen. And with that said, I will definitely continue to check out the rest of your site here. It's been real.

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Posted by Shanticka on 04/01/2009 at 9:01 PM

Thanks Shanticka. My only point is whatever they are doing now, for my money, does not make for great TV. I think they can do better — and should do better, or not enough folks will tune in to see what they are cooking. But keep reading!

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Posted by Carlton Hargro on 04/03/2009 at 4:05 PM

You make an interesting point and while I would love to have the chance feature my show on TV, I don't feel that Foodnetwork is the genre for me for the reasons that you've stated. I need to be some place where I can be myself. I'm not Rachel nor am I Paula and I need a network that gets that and allows me to be me. Check out my show titled The Ghetto Cooking Show at http://www.sheilachadwick.com

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Posted by Sheila Chadwick on 04/04/2009 at 7:01 PM

Hello! I share in your dissapointment. I have created The Black food network.com to fill this void. The problem with networks is black control! We must do for self. Please visit; www.TheBlackFoodnetwork.com Peace & Love Chef Mel

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Posted by Chef Mel on 04/13/2009 at 1:32 PM

Good lord, what a great article Suzy, now go back to your desk. Are you a teenager? "Well it ain’t because they’re hosted by black people." And do you honestly think that Food Network (or some other TV) execs are coming to the conclusion that the problem is that the hosts are black? If people who write inflammatory statements in the comments section are called trolls then what do you call it when people write such things and call it an article?

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Posted by Tony on 10/20/2009 at 9:32 PM

your so correct, take a look at my clip on my web site www.chefwendellprice.com or go to you tube "the world of chef wendell" thanks

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Posted by chefwendellprice on 11/02/2009 at 11:42 PM

The Neelys make me sick. Their cutsi-wootsi attitude is digusting. and If I hear him say "ya'all" and "hehehe" again, I'll puke. I don't undestand why this show continues on Food Network. It really SUCKS.

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Posted by Phil on 07/12/2010 at 5:52 PM

Let me get this right, and I quote: "Black shows fail for two main reasons: lack of personality and lack of focus". Then you knock the Neely's because they DO have personality, and they DO have focus (barbecue), except it's not to your particular liking, so you found some other type of flaw. It seems to me the issue you have is with yourself. You place your own mistaken idea of ethnic culture and you want the blacks to sing a song & dance to your idea of black culture. You have no clue of black heritage (cooking or otherwise). Maybe you should focus on Food, from the Food Network, and leave everyone on an even playing field because no show on that station is flawless-Black host or otherwise.

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Posted by Mick on 08/25/2010 at 7:25 PM

Who ever wrote thAT comment need to SHUT-TO-THE-UP, if you have a problem with the shows you get your behind up on the show and cook a meal,n then let's see how far you will get. Peronally, I like the shows I think Black cooking is great when they cook it comes from the soul, they cook with love and not hatred. I like Sunny Anderson choose of clothing, she is doing her I love Black cooking shows, they have style, move, and they know how to keep your attention, the other shows on food network suck, they are worthless and I get bored. So next time keep your mouth shut, and stop talking.

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Posted by Angelique on 10/17/2010 at 7:44 PM

To, Shanticka I know what you are saying, I am like you, If you don't like what's been showed on the neely's then don't watch it. I think the Neely's are great and all of their cooking is homemade, let me repeat " HOMEMADE" not fake and half -done like semi-home cooking, so I guess when they show a little love to each other that's digusting, well, get OVER IT, their married that's what they're going to do, suck it up.

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Posted by Angelique on 10/17/2010 at 7:55 PM

I like the shows and not because they are black I think that's what you are looking at and not the food it always has to be about race I like the black and the white cooking shows. It's just you

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Posted by chris on 11/16/2010 at 8:08 PM

All black shows usually suck!

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Posted by Steve on 05/16/2011 at 2:00 PM

all black shows suck

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Posted by Steve on 05/16/2011 at 2:01 PM

The article is typical: picking on black folks that are trying to do the best they can. The questions put forth by shantikca get to the crux of why blacks are ashamed of ghettos. Ghettos produce everything black, and everything black is ultimately what changes the world. Either we are trying to emulate whites, which is boring or we are putting down those from the ghetto, who produce the best and brightest of our heritage. Gospel, jazz, soul, R&B, and every dance originated in the ghetto. The best cooks come from the ghettos and the so-called country. I love the ghetto, what comes from it and what it preserves. It's the boule we need to worry about. As far as black shows sucking, it's an opinion. Consider that the producers, directors and funders create black shows and the blacks that people them, in their own image. What we need are independent black people with cooking shows on YouTube; unfettered, real and cultural, or better stated, ghetto. Once the ghettos go, and they are gentrifying them daily, we will all be drones of the boring culture that so voraciously steals ours.

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Posted by ddsharper on 07/23/2011 at 3:33 AM

We are the only people that hate ourselves so much that if someone's not doing something the way we think they should be doing it, there has to be something wrong with it. If The FoodNet Work didn't have any black hosted shows, we'd have somebody complaining about that. All of these shows are good shows. I've tried a dish or two from all of them and some of the others. The Neely's show love and affection. That's something our youth can learn from. We have to realize that when it comes to television, movies, etc. there are certain things that have to be done a certain way. We're behind the scenes looking in. I hope that you can look at these shows and the hosts and see something different now. As far as cooking for our culture. Everybody cooks the traditional collard green, macaroni and cheese, etc. We don't have dibbs on certain foods that's always been considered "black". Besides, it's nice to see that all people can try other dishes, black people included.

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Posted by rosie on 08/02/2011 at 10:23 PM

why is it that all the black shows have been moved to Saturday or Sunday mornings? I think the next step will be cancel the show by starting to only show re-runs,and no new episodes. I for one like the diversity and just find it odd that all the minority shows have been moved to a time and day that not many viewers are watching.and as far as not having a personallity have you watched barefoot contessa? now she is as bland as cooking w/o seasoning.

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Posted by seymore butts on 03/22/2012 at 2:51 PM

The Neally's show rocks!! And all the food is bangin! Lots of flavor and love. The food that they cook is actually grub that i would consider making at home.. Not all this fake organic crap that cost you half of your family income just to fill up the fridge.. On top of all that, they show how a sophisticated black couple is supposed to carry themselves and operate with love in the kitchen.. I also like the fact that they make af-american's look good instead of poor and ignorant!! Toon in for flavor! Unless you like bland potato salad.. LMFAO!

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Posted by MAC-A-BELLY on 06/27/2012 at 8:28 PM

damn why does it has to be a black or white thing when in the kitchen people are just soi fucking ignorant point is your'e not happy to see blacks on tv get over yourselves were everywhere some of your wifes are leaving your asses to get with our black men btw lets stay focused on the food and we do have flavor with our foods ive tasted dishes over the yrs its not seasoned as it should be just being real with ya since you wanna bash the black folks get real !

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Posted by princess on 08/01/2012 at 5:05 PM

Shut up u hatin ass bitch u hatin that much then try to get u a show and see if u make it all those people u named is doinf their damn things and they get ratings asshole

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Posted by Lisathatgirl on 09/28/2012 at 10:07 AM

BBQ spaghetti is ghetto, but the phrase ""suck ass" is not?

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Posted by Orlly on 09/30/2012 at 2:52 AM
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