Even during my week of down time last week, when I wasn’t posting to the blog because I was in the process of trying to get it moved, I got a blog comment — from someone who doesn’t like Jack Hourigan. (“Jack,” by the way, is female.)
I’m amazed, but I continue to get blog comments on a few months-old posts I made about the Food Network television show “How To Boil Water.” I’m not sure why — perhaps someone linked to one of those old posts on a fan site or something.
Anyway, my previous posts talked about changes in the casting of the show — first it was hosted by Lynne Koplitz and Frederic von Coppernolle, then Hourigan and von Coppernolle, and now Hourigan and Tyler Florence.
After some initial misgivings, I’ve come to enjoy Hourigan and Florence — but I’m a little mystified by a subtle change in the format that I’ve noticed in the past few weeks. As the title suggests, “How To Boil Water” is supposed to be aimed at beginning cooks. The title dates back to the early days of Food Network, when it was a traditional single-host cooking show. It went off the air for a while, and then the current two-host format was introduced: a chef (von Coppernolle or Florence) teaching a cooking novice (Koplitz or Hourigan, both of them standup comedians).
The last few episodes, however, have eliminated the actual physical interaction between the hosts. Hourigan no longer gets to cook herself, under Florence’s direction; now she just sits at the counter and watches, asking the occasional question, as Florence does everything himself. This seems to defeat the purpose of the two-host format.
Food Network once had another two-host cooking show in which the co-host never cooked: “Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay,” where Jacqui Malouf peppered Flay with questions about what he was cooking and why. But Malouf was a little more assertive than Hourigan — in fact, one of her primary functions was that she punctured Flay’s pomposity just a little bit. (By contrast, I haven’t enjoyed any of the solo work Flay has done since “Hot Off the Grill.” Check out this vulgar but dead-on assessment of Flay’s on-air personality.)
I’m not sure why Hourigan has been banished from the cutting board on “How To Boil Water,” and I hope it’s not the first step back towards a single-host format.