Then Midge goes crazy and sets Big Ethel on fire

December 16, 2006

Okay, it probably won’t come to that, but how weird is this?

In the kitchen: The Hearty Boys

December 16, 2006

The success of Bravo’s Project Runway was bound to trigger attempts at imitation, so it wasn’t surprising that the Food Network put together its own creativity competition, The Next Food Network Star. It wasn’t especially riveting, as you can’t exactly cast your lens on inter-contestant bitchery when you’re hoping to slide them into the void that will be left after Rachael Ray’s inevitable nervous collapse.

As a result, The Next Food Network Star was pretty boring, certainly in comparison to Runway clone Top Chef. (Unfortunately, the second season of Top Chef has focused almost exclusively on inter-contestant bitchery at the expense of anyone actually cooking.) But the first season did at least introduce the Hearty Boys, Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh, who now host Party Line.

I’d be lying if I said that the fact that they’re a gay couple didn’t have anything to do with my happiness with their success in the competition. And I do think they won it on merit. They showed the fastest learning curve of any of the contestants and had an appealing on-camera dynamic.

But Food Network stardom is fickle. Why the network even bothers with a competition is beyond me, since they’re introducing new hosts all the time as it is. It would be going too far to suggest that the path to fame is littered with the corpses of past next Food Network stars, but the network doesn’t seem to be too inclined to hand-holding or patience. If you catch on, you’ll be plastered all over the place. If not, well, here’s the number for your local PBS affiliate.

There are encouraging signs for McDonagh and Smith. They’re in their second season, and production values have improved markedly since the first. (Their original set was only a few rungs up from that cheap kitchenette where poor David Rosengarten didn’t even have a functioning sink during the early years.) And the guys are fun.


  • Most of the Food Network hosts are solo acts, so co-hosts make for a nice change of pace, since neither of them is Jack Hourigan.
  • Their dynamic is conversational and funny.
  • I’m an appetizer hound, so I like the focus of their menus.
  • They round out their menus with complementary, no-effort items. Their spreads never seem stingy.
  • They offer useful entertaining tips and serving suggestions.
  • Cons:

  • Is there a worse time slot for a cocktail-friendly show than Saturday morning? Chances are better that viewers are recovering from their last bash than planning their next.
  • They could pull back on the joviality a bit. They try a little hard sometimes.
  • Remember that episode of The Simpsons about Homer’s barbershop quartet and the part where they came up with the name? The same rules apply to “The Hearty Boys.”
  • Summary:

    They’re fun to watch and have the potential to carve out an interesting niche in the Food Network line-up, but they probably can’t rely on the network to help them too much.