It occurred to me at the Food show why cooking shows are super popular and gardening shows are going the way of the dodo bird. There were two whys.
- Why #1 – Instant gratification. You spend 20 minutes cooking and you can have a decadent meal that impresses as well as satisfies. You spend 20 minutes gardening and you have a patch of dirt and the neighbors wonder if you are installing a mudpit for a pet pig.In the TV world, they can make a beautiful garden appear in 20 minutes. But they very rarely do. Yeah, so you can’t make it happen in real life, but most people can’t make the things they see on cooking shows either.
- Why #2 – Gardening shows don’t get Gen X. I remember cooking shows as a child. They were ghastly boring (no offense Julia Child). Guess what, gardening shows are ghastly boring – present tense. Cooking show got revamped so that trendy Gen X’ers would gobble them up while eating their Chinese take out. It just so happens that the rest of the generational masses thought we had pretty good taste.
The wise (and elderly) television executives think that *BAM* throwing a handsome hunk of meat on the screen will fix falling ratings. While overt sexuality is included in the new breed of cooking shows, it takes more than that.
While watching Alton Brown, it occurred to me that the only gardening show that has survived the ratings fallout of gardening shows in the past few years is “Gardening By The Yard”. I think the two shows have a lot in common, much to do with appealing to Gen X.
First, both are packed with knowledge. You don’t just get how to cook and garden, but the whys, whens and whos as well. Gen X’ers had parents who carefully explained every thing to us no matter how many times we asked why. The doctors said it would fuel our curiosity and so it has. We don’t buy “Because I said so”.
Second, both shows have truly entertaining host. They seem to be average people talking about things they are passionate about. I would not expect to go to Alton Brown’s house and be served a meal that would win the world’s greatest prize (as a matter of fact, I watched him accidentally coat the stage at the Fabulous Food Show with taffy when the recipe fell apart). Don’t get me wrong. It would be good, just not so good that it was intimidating. Paul James makes you feel comfortable, too. Like you can relate.
Gen X’ers never learned to respect our superiors. We don’t call our bosses “Mr.” We think of ourselves as equals and we want to feel like equals. Friends, even. One wiff of “you are better than me” and we lose interest. Many of the good cooking shows, the hosts are just a little self mocking. Like you might be among friends. Gardening shows very rarely do that.
I think what is killing gardening shows is their tendency to talk down. To educate without entertaining. Come on TV execs. I learned my ABC’s from Big Bird and manners from Mr. Rogers. I was weened on entertaining education. I think the generation behind me had TV screens installed in the womb, so this is just the begining. Don’t just teach me and talk to me like you are the boring teacher from 9th grade. Make me laugh. Make it fun. Be my friend. (Yes, we think of the TV as our friend, ok)
Gardening should be fun but most of the time… on the TV… it just looks like work. Who wants to watch that?