TV is a difficult medium for food basically because it is food. Until SMELL-O-VISION or Lick-A-Vision become commonplace, there will always be an element of food TV that is impossible for the audience to experience.
This is probably why most focus on something other than the food – for Come Dine with Me it’s drunken arguments, for Hell’s Kitchen it’s the fact that Gordon Ramsay swears at his contestants, who meanwhile threaten to stab each other. My personal favourite shows are those which have an element of creativity, but also don’t take themselves too seriously, and my current favourite is MTV’s Snack-Off.
The show works around the limits of the medium by using comedy and silliness, and focusing on the ridiculous and incongruous aspects of the food. The contestants are amateur cooks in their 20s who make a snack out of other snack foods like chips, crackers, and peanut butter within a set amount of time.
The results are usually fairly gross-looking, and according to the Daily Mail one of the judges said she felt sick after eating these foods all the time but there is also a kind of perverse delight in the gross-ness of things like bacon-crushed crackers and tuna melts. The prize is a thousand dollars and winning ‘The Golden Spork’ as well as a supposed mention in some as yet non-existent cookbook.
Snack-Off is the brainchild of Rob Dyrdek who is best known for Ridiculousness which is basically just You’ve Been Framed but with bad anal sex jokes. Ridiculousness manages to be both crass and dull which makes Snack-Off a surprise success, but this may be because Dyrdek is not a host. The real strength of the show is the tone. The judges swear, take Instagram photos of their food, and generally mess around.
The judges have excellent camaraderie and it’s nice to see Eddie Huang finally host a TV show. He is the perfect host, managing to join in with the other hosts but not attempting to hog the limelight. The judges are a good mix of funny (Yassir Lester and Chrissy Teigen) and serious ( Jason Quinn). Essentially, I like Snack-Off because it’s everything GBBO isn’t. It’s laid-back, silly, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It may be crass and have seemingly little ambition but it also doesn’t induce the same anxiety of GBBO‘s pastel purgatory.