‘The Chew’ takes ABC from soap to ‘dishing’
After 41 years on the air, the ABC series “All My Children,’’ or “AMC,’’ as fans call it, aired its final episode last Friday, ceding its coveted time slot to “The Chew,’’ a talk-and-demo show focused on food, fashion, homemaking, and, as zingy teasers promised, lots of “dishing.’’
The final episode of AMC included a whirlwind of flashbacks (not a one in the kitchen), and ended with a character named J.R. brandishing a gun in an opulent mansion packed with characters. A shot is fired, and the screen fades to black at the same moment just-jilted Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) calls in vain to her departing lover: “This is not the ending I want!’’
As the drama and glamorous mansions slip into the past, practical tips on tenderizing inexpensive steaks and 5-minute meals surge to the fore. Star-chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon and fashionista Clinton Kelly are among the cohosts of “The Chew.’’ They are joined by relative unknowns Daphne Oz, author of “The Dorm Room Diet,’’ and Carla Hall, a contestant from Bravo’s “Top Chef.’’
The five cohosts tried hard on Monday’s premiere. Surrounded by the audience, they were in a central pit that houses a dining table and a kitchen. At a manic infomercial-like pace, the hosts moved from micro-segment to applause line, showering the audience with cooking demos and exuberance, dishing about current events, household tips, and each other. The audience, revved up to near constant clap-and-wooh mode, sidled up to the counter to taste pork and beans with kale, apple pancakes, and nutritional smoothies. Home viewers are treated to explanatory onscreen notes, underscoring the speed and economy of each recipe (“$3 per serving!’’).
The big-name men appear to be the lure to “The Chew.’’ The show’s website on ABC.com asks viewers to share “What part of ‘The Chew’ are you most excited about?’’ Thousands of respondents flooded the site, nearly all decrying the debut. Comments such as “I want escapism not household tips!’’ and “Send them back to Food Network!’’ were among the most charitable. Some attacks were on the hosts (“those Chewbaccas’’), and they only increased in vitriol after promos for “The Chew’’ ran during the final credits of “AMC.’’ “Where are the masculine men?’’ opined one commenter, to a flood of +1s who offered that they prefer to look at the men of “AMC.’’
“Mario and I will not be appearing shirtless,’’ said Symon in a phone interview. He and the other hosts, some of whose Facebook pages received similar comments, appeared to be taking the blowback in stride. “My grandparents watched soaps. My mom used to watch soaps,’’ explained Symon, “and I think you’re always sad to see something that has had that much impact for that long come to an end. But, I think people are busier nowadays. I think people are looking for shows they can come in and out of - and shows that are going to make their lives easier. And better.’’
Production costs for a soap are many times that of a talk show, and networks can’t afford extravagance. Now Symon and Co. have to hope viewers will chew what they are fed.
Ike DeLorenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.