The Food Network's Invention Hunters Is Predicated on a Bigger Lie Than Most Food Shows
With Invention Hunters, the Food Network returns to a genre it's had much success with in the past, the Tumbledown Effort Outside Our Core Competency That Wastes Everyone's Time But We're All Going To Die Anyway So What the Hell Let's Do This Thing (See Mystery Diners).
It purports to be a search for the "next great kitchen gadget," and this is an honorable goal, for who doesn't need another kitchen gadget? Just the other day I was looking around the kitchen for a device to put char marks on a fig and thought, Why don't I have a pan solely for empanadas? Why don't I have a special knife for cutting papayas? Why am I still using water in my ice cubes and not a special gel? Why doesn't my salad spinner have a digital clock? When is my iPad going to be able to pop up my neighbor's toast? WHO'S GOING TO MAKE IT SO I CAN COOK A CHICKEN ON THE FLOOR WITH NOTHING BUT A POWER VAC?
Fortunately, we now have Invention Hunters. Each episode, the hosts travel around the country (ha), find three wonderful new kitchen gadgets, whittle those viciously down to the one candidate with the most promise, and carry that on a gilded ark to the executives at Lifetime Brands, who decide if they want to give it a licensing deal and a new suit.
In the premiere episode, hosts Patrick Raymond and A Guy Who Looks Like Stanley Tucci (hereafter Stanley Tucci) get in a compact car and drive around looking for new inventions.
The first one they find is called Sippin' Snacker. This is a terrible plastic thing and the less said about it the better. We're done here.
The next one is called Drinkin' Duck, a plastic thing you put over the opening in a soda can. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Rubes.
The third one is actually quite good, some sort of radioactive granule that keeps produce fresh twice as long as normal. It's like those green bags you bought at Whole Foods and NEVER use because they have to be WASHED -- or you CONTINUE to use them UNWASHED for MONTHS and and you STILL end up throwing EVERYTHING away because you NEVER EAT VEGETABLES.
These granules, however, come in a packet, so you can throw them in the bin and lose sight of them and forget you even bought them. It's a good product. They're called Produce Freshies.
So hosts Raymond and Stanley Tucci decide to bring these Freshies to their gadget overlords at Lifetime Brands, but first they need to confirm that the pair of inventors indeed have the patent, since the stuff has been used in commercial food "not-spoiling technology" for the past 20 years. It's a tense moment. I'M DYING. Stanley Tucci places a phone call.
"So, my good man -- Frank is it? What? Your name is not Frank? I see. I understand perfectly, my good man. Well then, Jack, I was just sitting here with Julia nibbling on some Produce Freshies and I thought to myself, Do these inventor-ladies have the patent to sell this stuff to consumers?"
[muffled] "If you'd like to make a call, please hang ..."
The patent is secure. Stanley Tucci dresses up the packaging, changes the name from Produce Freshies to It's Still Fresh, I hit pause and look out the window for an hour, and the show is over. The small inventors get their deal. There's hugs and cautious glances toward the camera.
And yet. Since I was actually interested in Produce Freshies aka It's Still Fresh, I went to the site to see if it was being sold yet. It is. It has been. Since 2009.
Stanley Tucci didn't mention that on the show.
Nor did he mention that Produce Freshies appeared on QVC TV in 2011, that the company had already run commercials for Produce Freshies in 2010, and that those commercials that had run on ... the Food Network.
Here's that commercial:
So, what are we to make of this? What does this tell us about the Food Network and what it means to be a kitchen gadget in 2012? What does this say about the intersection of fame, the Internet, and kitchen gadgets? What does this say about Drinkin' Duck, whose Twitter only has three posts and 12 followers? What does it say about watermelon seeds (and how I would like to remove them from the watermelon with a device of some sort, ideally)?
What does it mean that the Food Network is dicking us around over kitchen gadgets?
Previously, Michael Leaverton watched:
Bama Glama, the show all Alabama loves to fight over in comment threads