Guy Off The Hook: How The Food Network Set Guy Fieri's Show Up To Fail

Chances are you don't remember Guy off the Hook, one of the early shows Guy Fieri hosted for the Food Network in 2008. Reading the summary given by the Food Network, it was created to be a somewhat zanier or wilder version of the traditional cooking shows hosted by Paula Deen and Emeril Lagasse. Before a studio audience, Fieri would prepare a dish. It aired for six episodes — and then ceased to exist.

However, as an NPR excerpt from From Scratch: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin shows, the Food Network wasn't particularly interested in the type of program Guy off the Hook was meant to be. In 2004, Brooke Johnson, the network's president, discovered that viewers perceived the Food Network as a channel for "'dump and stir' cooking a meal." The shows that were stealing the network's audience included "shows shot on the road, real-life wedding tales, and other 'reality' programming."

Furthermore, the cost of hosting an in-studio cooking show like Emeril Live, the cooking show, was prohibitively expensive. By 2007, Johnson ended Emeril Live, offering shows like Bobby Flay's Throwdown in its stead. In that context, it's strange that the Food Network would bother pushing for a Fieri cooking show. It's less strange, however, that after a slight push, they discontinued it, allowing Fieri to present Dinner: Impossible instead.

Many disagree with the Food Network's vision

Readers well-versed in Food Network history may be struck by the fact that the network's shift in programming occurred after discontinuing Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour. "I got the impression," he said about the Food Network's original offer in Salkin's book (via The Atlantic). "I'm sure a highly subjective one, that they were really sick of their own programming."

Now, there's nothing new about Bourdain insulting the Food Network, but a similar sentiment is shared by Salkin himself. In an interview with MinnPost, he lamented that "Food Network has simply stopped taking chances. If someone walked in there now with the modern equivalent of a cross between a dubbed Japanese game show and American Gladiator (i.e. the original Iron Chef), they'd say no."

Both Salkin and Bourdain raged against the path that the Food Network went down. The former, writing a piece defending Fieri from accusations that he brought down the Food Network in Salon, lambasted the restaurant visiting shows where "every week seems to feature a batch of fake employees who are actually actors hired by the production company." In a blog post available on Reddit, Bourdain complained about a Giada de Laurentiis show. "Have her take a few lonely, awkward stabs at the plate, then feign enjoyment with appropriately orgasmic eye-closing and moaning."

In a nutshell, the cancellation of Guy Off the Hook arguably wasn't to produce better TV, but to chase after cheap and easy trends.