The Comfort And Safety Of The Food Network

Over the past year or so I’ve been in several different waiting room settings where there are televisions playing to entertain those who are waiting.  The one common characteristic has been the TV channel playing in every waiting room:  The Food Network.

Why is The Food Network seemingly on every waiting room TV set?  It could be because little elves creep around at night and change the default setting, or it could be that businesses consider The Food Network to be the safe choice when you are offering a generic option to help diverse people, all of whom would rather be somewhere else, pass the time while they are waiting.  In a group waiting room, where most people would never presume to get up and change the channel to their personal choice, most businesses aren’t going to risk picking a channel that might unduly bore, or deeply offend, one group or another.  Fox News or MSNBC or The Jerry Springer Show are going to rub some people the wrong way, and the appeal of the Romance Channel or the Sci-Fi Channel is pretty limited. Hence, The Food Network.

This makes perfectly good sense, when you think about it.  We all have to eat, and The Food Network programming consists of a lot of smiling people, of all sizes and types, who are enthusiastic about all things food.  They’re either going to some beautiful setting to eat it, or preparing it using carefully pre-measured ingredients and colorful bowls and gleaming aluminum utensils, wearing spotless aprons like the Mom in a ’50s sitcom, chattering happily all the while, and when the dish is finally prepared it inevitably looks mouth-watering.  Even the “reality” programming, like Chopped, is pretty low-key as reality shows go — no tantrums or personality clashes or scheming to undercut other contestants, just hopeful people who are passionate about food racing against the clock to prepare appealing dishes from bizarre ingredients and win some money.

People who regularly entertain know that guests who come over for cocktails or dinner are likely to congregate in the kitchen.  Why not?  It’s clean and warm and comforting, it usually smells good, and it’s a relaxed place — not stiff and formal like the dining room or the living room.  The Food Network is like the American Kitchen of the Airwaves.

That Nagging Jerry Springer Question

There’s a corner joint near our office that serves terrific Caribbean food.  The food is tasty — their chicken curry over beans and rice is very fine — and reasonably priced.  There’s only one catch:  every time I go there over the lunch hour, they have The Jerry Springer Show on the little TV in the corner of the shop.

Jerry Springer?!?  You know, the show that should make any American feel deep pangs of embarrassment and concern about the future of our country?  The show that allows Springer to question guests about “topics” of evident national concern, like a young woman from some obscure town who’s stepping out on her boyfriend with another guy.  Every show seems to involve at least one point at which angry shirtless reprobates try to duke it out, or catty, gum-snapping women with mile-high hair and inch-thick makeup start a slap fight.  Guys wearing cheap “Security” shirts struggle to stop the mayhem, chaos reins, and the audience of voyeurs hoots with glee at the humiliating fracas.

I stand at the counter of the shop, waiting for my order, listening to the pandemonium emanating from the TV set, and I wonder:  Should I frequent a business that always has The Jerry Springer Show on the TV in their public area?  Come to think of it, I wouldn’t go to a doctor who had The Jerry Springer Show playing in her waiting room, or keep my money in a bank where the tellers were watching The Jerry Springer Show behind the counter.  So why should I trust a place that apparently finds scuffling hillbillies to be the height of entertainment to safely and properly prepare my meal?