What Happened To Food Network's Unwrapped And Why Was It Canceled?

From 2001 to 2011, Food Network viewers could peek behind the scenes and watch the making of their favorite junk foods with "Unwrapped." Hosted by Marc Summers, best known at the time as host for Nickelodeon's "Double Dare", the show offered an informative, yet entertaining look at the process that goes on in factories before a popular food item hits the store shelves. Even if you'd never once wondered how gummy worms are formed, you could find yourself fascinated at the process unveiled on the show.

Viewers learned all sorts of food trivia, including the history of Kool-Aid, the making of saltwater taffy, and the secrets of carnival food. Unwrapped taught viewers how jelly beans get so shiny and how the factory adds that tiny logo on each tiny bean. It was obvious the content was sponsored by major brands, yet the show still highlighted the skill and detail that goes into each product by the employees working the line. Summers played the part of the perfect American TV host, with a mild-mannered, pleasant personality that took viewers through each food-making process without overshadowing the content. Let's take a look at why this entertaining show was canceled after being on air for almost a decade.

Unwrapped began as part of the Food Network's plan to step away from cooking shows

A viewer of today's Food Network may forget that in the 1990s the network's lineup was mainly filled with cooking shows. On the air at the time were shows such as "Good Eats" with Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse's "Emeril Live", and "Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay." Rather than the fast-paced competition among top chefs we see today, these shows taught the average viewer how to cook delicious recipes in their kitchens or backyard grills.

However, a change was brewing around the turn of the decade, as detailed in Allen Salkin's tell-all book, "From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network." In the book, Salkin explains the push to move filming out of the studio and away from the traditional format of the typical cooking show. Around the time "Unwrapped" launched, Food Network ran a similar show called "Food Finds." Food Network execs saw that "Unwrapped" offered something "Food Finds" did not: nostalgia and pop culture combined with a popular kid's TV show host.

The Food Network's focus on competitive cooking shows led to Unwrapped's demise

Changes were in store for the Food Network's lineup when it was near the end of the road for "Unwrapped." The year before "Unwrapped" was ultimately canceled in 2011, the network had hit a ratings slump. Ratings were down among the network's key demographic of women viewers. They had also dropped for the highly coveted 25 to 54-year-old viewer. Other networks had taken over the viewership of food TV with competition shows, such as TLC's "Cake Boss" and Bravo's "Top Chef."

It comes as no surprise that the Food Network veered to a more competitive and frantic style show, as detailed in Allen Salkin's book. In the quest to lure back female viewers and the younger demographics, the network switched up its focus to fast-paced competitions, leaving no room for the "Unwrapped" calm style of infotainment. "Unwrapped" was ultimately pulled from the air in 2011.

The spin-off, Trivia Unwrapped, was hosted by Marc Summers and ran for one season

"Unwrapped" was so popular in the early 2000's it led to several spin-offs. The first of which was a game show also hosted by Marc Summers. "Trivia Unwrapped" was based on fast food pop culture knowledge similar to the food products seen in the original "Unwrapped." The show featured three contestants competing in various trivia games.

In the quiz-style game show, contestants fought their way through three rounds and a bonus round. The winner had the choice between two prizes in "Fridge or Freezer," and even had a shot at winning a trip to a cooking school during the "Big Pie Payoff." Despite "Unwrapped's" tenured success, its trivia show spin-off did not have the staying power of the original and aired for only one season from 2004 to 2005. Although, that one season did have a remarkable number of 52 total episodes.

Unwrapped led to another spin-off, Rewrapped in 2014

Although the network had canned "Unwrapped" a mere three years before, in 2014, Marc Summers was coming off of the success of producing the popular, "Restaurant: Impossible." That year, Summers helped the network develop, "Rewrapped." The show satisfied Food Network's need for competition while also drawing on the nostalgia from the "Unwrapped" series by featuring clips and food products from the original show.

This time, Summers was the producer, and the show was hosted by Joey Fatone, a former member of the boy band, NSYNC. Contestants on "Rewrapped" recreated the taste, texture, and appearance of snack food from top episodes of "Unwrapped." In the second step, they repurposed them in unique ways. For example, in the first episode, a contestant stuffed a lobster with Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish. In another episode, contestants had to recreate the iconic Tastykake Glazed Cherry Pie. However, "Rewrapped" never found the success of "Unwrapped," and was only on the air for two seasons.

Food Network rebooted Unwrapped with Unwrapped 2.0 in 2015

Banking again on the nostalgic success of "Unwrapped," Food Network rebooted the original with "Unwrapped 2.0" in 2015. This time, the show was hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro, the popular 90's actor from NBC's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Marc Summers was not involved in the new project. Similar to its predecessor, "Unwrapped 2.0" offered a 90's nostalgia feel from its set design to its host.

The show took viewers behind the scenes to discover the secrets of how popular processed snack foods were made. The first episode featured the making of favorite Southern goodies, such as GooGoo Clusters getting dipped in chocolate, Red Bird Peppermint Puffs getting their stripes, and the making of the popular Southern soft drink, Cheerwine. Future episodes featured such treats as Red Vines, Mallo Cups, and Mike and Ikes. The first season aired on Food Network but subsequent seasons were moved to the Food Network-owned channel, Cooking Channel. After the move, the show would run for another two seasons.

When the show ended, episodes were hard to find in reruns

When "Unwrapped" left Food Network, it became increasingly hard to watch old episodes of reruns. According to Thrillist, the show was difficult to find except for unlicensed YouTube videos, which were under constant threat of being taken down. But on the show's 20th anniversary, the Discovery+ network began streaming episodes currently available there and on various other networks.

Although hard to come by, nostalgia for the series was high. On the subreddit, r/nostalgia, the question, "Did anyone else watch Unwrapped?" generated 25,000 upvotes and over 700 comments. Many Redditors had fond memories of watching the show with family members, with one stating, "Every memory of this show just came back to me. I personally loved the ice cream episodes. Thanks for this post!" Another commenter said their product was once featured on the show, and they offered to mail DVD copies of that one episode by request.

Fans of Unwrapped can watch throwback clips on the Food Network's YouTube channel

Fortunately for fans of "Unwrapped," there are plenty of places to view the show today. In addition to Discovery+, the show can be seen on a variety of streaming channels including Apple TV and Max. But if you're looking for a glance at some of the most popular segments, head over to Food Network's YouTube Channel for "Throwbacks from Unwrapped."

Here you can find over 100 clips from the show. One of the most popular includes the three-minute clip, "How Creepy Crawler Sour Gummy Worms are Made" with over seven million views. The segment was pulled from a Halloween episode and takes the viewer on a journey to discover gummies are formed not by molds, but by using corn starch. Another popular one is "How Cheetos Are Made," where the viewer learns Cheetos are actually deep-fried corn puffs.

Today, Marc Summers is performing a one-man play about his life in New York City

While "Unwrapped" is available in a variety of streaming sources, the former host, Marc Summers is also still in the spotlight. Summers performed a one-man play about his life that recently had a short run on Broadway called "The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers." The play covers Summers' life from his early love of magic to his start on Nickelodeon's "Double Dare," and finally with his mental health struggles in dealing with his battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Summers had revealed his OCD struggles on "Oprah" in 1997. In an "Oprah Where Are They Now" segment, Summers explains how this admission led to an unfair reputation in the entertainment industry of Summers being difficult to work with. In addition to his stint on Broadway, Summers hosts the uplifting podcast, "Marc Summers Unwraps" where he interviews a variety of celebrities and TV personalities including comedians, actors, and musicians. On the podcast, they discuss the obstacles they've faced in their careers and how they have overcome them.