Welcome to the chopping block.

Yesterday was not a productive day, to say the least. Why not? My fellow citizens, heed my plea: Food Network is the opiate of the masses.

The whole thing started innocently enough. To give you some background, you’ll need to know that I’ve idolized the B-52’s since I was too young to distinguish between Kate Pierson and Katey Sagal in Married… with Children. I dimly recall watching the music video for Love Shack when I was two or three and wondering a) when Peg Bundy joined a band, and b) when I would be old and cool enough to get invited to these kinds of parties. To avoid going into a long and possibly embarrassing digression, let’s just say that if the B-52’s are involved in something, I will generally end up drawn to it like a moth to a glittery, fabulous flame.

On Wednesday, I saw that they were going to be on that night’s episode of Top Chef. (Yes, I know, Bravo show. Wait for it.) Yesterday afternoon the TV in our apartment was available, a fairly rare occurrence and not one I usually take advantage of, but this was different. I curled up and pulled up the episode, only to find that only two of the band’s members had appeared for a grand total of under five minutes.

I kept watching anyway.

When the episode ended, I flipped over to the Food Network out of mental inertia.

Have you ever lost three valuable hours of your life to Chopped? Let me explain Chopped to you, if you’re less of a soulless husk of a human being than I am. Chopped is a cooking competition show in which four chefs cook a three-course meal, with one chef being eliminated after each course. The catch, because of course the viewing public needs a catch, is that each round the chefs are assigned a “mystery basket” of three to five ingredients that must be incorporated into their dish. These ingredients are usually some bullshit like duck testicles, astronaut ice cream, or chicken in a can. (I’m not exaggerating. These examples were all taken directly from yesterday’s viewing spree.) Don’t let the judges catch you just tossing the granola around as a garnish, either, because they will tear your head off and put it on a spike outside the Food Network studios as a warning to future chefs.

Chopped is perhaps the most insidious type of show that Food Network has to offer, because it has virtually no educational value while trying to convince you that it does. With many of these cooking-oriented reality shows, there’s at least a token attempt made to display some sort of technique. Chopped is an hour straight of chefs running around the kitchen in despair, throwing things in pots and failing spectacularly. The host and judges do explain some of the more unusual ingredients, but there are no applications as a cook (especially a home cook) where you’ll be trying to use them together. The mystery basket in my kitchen at present is something along the lines of “eggs, Nutella, trout, wilted lettuce leaf, and dried-out brown sugar.”

Even knowing all this, the show is still a vortex draining my will to do anything but mumble faintly about pairing chorizo and chocolate syrup. I could be writing about Pussy Riot or voter ID laws or Julian Assange or, hell, even Miley’s hair, but I’m still exorcising these demons. Conspiracy theorists, adjust your tinfoil hats and start your chemtrail engines.

Anyway, I’ve torn myself away from the TV for the time being and am getting some work done. I do want to catch the encore of the Roseanne roast tomorrow night, though. I hear Kate Pierson’s on it and everything.


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