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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Food Network Show So Cruel and Dumb Even They Aren't Re-Running It

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 1:15 PM

The sad bar from Mystery Diners.
  • The sad bar from Mystery Diners.
Each week we take a quick, cautious look at what's going on with televised cooking. This week: Mystery Diners, a half-hour show you will never see again, on the Food Network or anywhere else, fingers crossed.

The premiere of a new show on the Food Network, even if it's just a taped-together pilot thrown down the hall, causes us to pause and reflect on the brand. For example, say the FN premieres an incredibly bad show called -- oh, I don't know -- Mystery Diners, which would not be out of place following America's Dumbest Criminals. Does that show not gain a certain status, a certain glimmer, by appearing in the house of Alton Brown and Bobby Flay, even Sandra Lee?


Mystery Diners is not so great. We had high hopes. We assumed it was secret-shopper-style thing with secret diners -- maybe critics! Famous chefs! -- dropping into restaurants to report back on the food. Instead, we landed in a bar in a strip mall for a undercover sting operation on an employee, in the dead hour of noon.

The target: A sad-sack bartender, to be fired at the end of the show for giving away everything but the bar for love. The agents: Two women, comely, sent in by a secret-shopper outfit making an awful pilot for the Food Network. The bar owner: Just could not fucking ask the sad sack if he was ripping her off. Death is all around us.

The women came on strong, cooing that they had no jobs and wanted to par-tay in an empty strip-mall bar at noon on a Thursday. They told poor bartender Rod he was cute. One had a hidden camera affixed to her glasses, and there were four more cameras hidden around the bar. Rod didn't stand a chance. The ladies tossed their hair. They smiled at poor Rod. And they drank, oh they drank -- actually they poured their booze in a pail at their feet -- but to Rod they just drank and drank and drank.

And our Rod, sad-sacking his way through a noon shift in a bar in a strip mall, thought maybe that this was his time. Maybe he was going to catch a break. Maybe God was finally gonna give Rod one true thing after a lifetime of pain and shit and busted-up bones, and maybe he was going to sleep with one or could be both of these women, maybe right there in the parking lot in his brother's van.

So poor Rod bit and bit hard. He gave them free drinks, he undercharged for other drinks, he put all monies collected into the tip jar. He did everything you could do to get fired, with all of it feeding to a control room where that bar owner and her hired thugs watched with righteous outrage -- those who've never felt pain, those who've never been beaten down, those who've never had drunk women flirt with them at noon in bar in a strip mall after a lifetime of watery soup and tore-up dreams and nice-smelling fancy broads laughing in his face when he looks longingly at the $6 whole roasted chickens in the hot case at Safeway, his face pressed up against the sweaty glass, thinking Maybe tomorrow.

Rod was done for. The owner finally led him back to the control room and the pack of wolves tore him apart and fed on his bones, but not before extracting his tip money that, well, it should have gone in the register, that is true. Rod is a thief, and he is the star of the pilot of the Food Network show Mystery Diners. Why would he ever agree to do this?

Previously, Michael Leaverton watched:
Food Jammers
Have Cake, Will Travel
Chef Hunter
Baron Ambrosia
Sweet Genius
Best Thing I Ever Made
Sandra Lee's Hard-Drinkin' Halloween Special of Madness

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Michael Leaverton


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