Food Network, focusing on reinvigorating its primetime
slate for the 1998-1999 season, has three new series ready to go on-air and nine shows in
Overall, Food will be producing 1,200 new episodes of
original shows from now until the end of the year, according to network president Erica
Gruen. For the new season, Food is also getting new episodes of popular show Two Fat
Ladies. The channel's production budget will be increasing by 10 percent to 15
"We have an unprecedented commitment to original
programming this year," Gruen said. "We will also be refining this season,
refining our dayparting strategy. People watch differently during primetime than during
the daytime, so there are different opportunities to build audience."
Food's idea is to offer more entertainment-driven,
personality-driven programs -- or "TV Food Lite," as Gruen described it -- in
primetime; and Food's "classics" -- or the more information-laden series
that often feature personality chefs -- during weekends and daytime.
"With the primetime shows, the pace will be picked up
... and they will be more overtly entertaining," Gruen said. "They will be much
more competitive for primetime audiences."
Emeril Live will remain the centerpiece of Food's
primetime lineup, but other offerings are set to be added. One of the new primetime series
is Hot Off the Grill, which will feature chef Bobby Flay, owner of Mesa Grill in
New York, said Eileen Opatut, Food's senior vice president of programming, production
and operations. That show, which will be stripped at 8:30 p.m. weeknights, is set to kick
off June 21, Father's Day, Opatut said.
In the fall in primetime, Pot Luck, a daily series
that will feature the best segments and bloopers from other Food shows, will join the
primetime lineup. Food's third new daily series is East Meets West, a program
showcasing Asian-fusion cuisine and starring Boston chef Ming Tsai, who owns restaurant
Blue Ginger, Opatut said.
Food also has a variety of shows in development, ranging
from a primetime game show dubbed Food Fight to a new restaurant-review series that
would essentially replace Dining Around. Dining Around is still on the air,
but Food has stopped production on the show, Opatut said.
"There is a place on the Food Network for a
restaurant-review show," she added. "Some of it [Dining Around] worked
very well. Some didn't."
Food is also doing a pilot for a show called This is
Your Fridge, in which a chef and show host arrive at a home -- of either a celebrity
or a noncelebrity -- and prepare a meal out of whatever that person has in his or her
Food's programming game plan ultimately aims to
continue broadening the network's audience, from people who like to cook to those who
love to eat.
"We're looking to move away from being
chef-focused and look at home cooking and regional cooking," Opatut said. "For
example, to offer information like, 'If I'm in Montana, where do I eat?' We
want to create variety, to create activity and to expand the concept of food to humor and
travel and excitement."