Television executives are banking on a new programme devised to fill gaps in the broadcast schedule left by cancelled soaps.
New TV programme The Chew is set to replace popular soaps
Television executives in the US are hoping that five male and female food and style personalities can achieve the same recipe for success as their counterparts have over at The View.
Designed to fill the pending gap created by the cancellation of long-running soaps All My Children and One Life to Live, when The Chew makes its debut on September 26 it will feature five co-hosts sharing their tips for cheap and easy living.
During a recent practice run on the show's set in New York, Iron Chef Michael Symon salted skirt steak, talked about his Greek-Sicilian mother and shared the definitive recipe for vinaigrette: two parts fat to one part acid.
Clinton Kelly, co-host of TLC's What Not to Wear, urged parents to bring their kids back to the dinner table by letting them draw on butcher block paper for placemats. Got some shrivelled citrus? Don't let it go to waste. Slice it up and float it in a vase topped by a cheery hydrangea blossom.
It all sounds like stuff a more sophisticated Martha Stewart might have thought up in kindergarten, and that's OK with Chew's executive producer, Gordon Elliott. He's going for "easily digestible, pardon the pun".
Elliott explains: "People don't have time to sit for an hour and watch a story. ABC came to me and said we've had great success with The View but we'd like to get into food. I thought The View, food, The Chew. We do more than just chop and chat. Our co-hosts are relatable."
New viewers, wherever they come from, may not recognise two of the co-hosts. Daphne Oz, who wrote the bestselling The Dorm Room Diet, is the daughter of Oprah Winfrey protégé Mehmet Oz, host of his own The Dr Oz Show. Evette Rios, a design expert, was featured speeding through Oz's tiny New York City kitchen during a taped makeover of that room.
Rounding out the Chew crew is Carla Hall, a Top Chef finalist and perky fan favourite who brings on a never-say-die approach to catastrophe in the kitchen.
As for soap fans, it's not clear whether they will take to fare such as The Chew or tune out altogether and go online, where their soaps have found a new home. TV analyst Shari Anne Brill thinks a change in taste is unlikely.
"I really don't believe that disgruntled refugees from All My Children and One Life to Live will swallow The Chew," she said. "This is about how it's become more expensive to produce scripted content."
Some faithful soap watchers who protested against the cancellation of their shows outside ABC Studios in New York last spring handed out leaflets that declared The Chew and other replacements "glorified infomercials appropriate for late-night basic cable channels, not for a major broadcast network".
Robin Blum, 61, has been watching All My Children since it went on the air 41 years ago. She has a small business making greeting cards that double as bookmarks. Hence, she is able to work from home.
"AMC got me through two childbirths, a brain tumour, a broken leg and several tropical storms when I lived in the Virgin Islands, and 9/11 in New York City," she said. "It is not an entertainment form that has outlived its usefulness. It's idiotic that the programmers are now substituting The Chew."
Brian Frons, ABC's daytime president, defended the decision to cancel the soaps, explaining that the bulk of women viewers aren't watching American soaps anymore. They're watching chat, reality, entertainment and style.
"It was time to look at programming for the majority of women who were watching TV," he said.
Soap fans aside, The Chew may not be meaty enough for more sophisticated daytime viewers who already know more than a little something about cooking, raising kids or fixing up their homes. Or those looking for discourse on issues related to food, like the obesity epidemic or food supply. The chat on The Chew, Frons said, will remain on the frothy side.
Brill suggested morning chatter over on The View could shift some viewers, at least initially.
"It'll help, but the new show will have to stand on its own," she said. "Audiences are very fickle. There's too many places to go."