Maybe we’re just kicking on our Inspirational Food World High from the James Beard hubbub earlier this week. But, after learning that a poll revealed more people trust Rachael Ray than Michael Pollan, finding out that Travel Channel is willing to screw over a smart, talented, thoughtful host with something important to say for not being dudely enough is just about all the Mainstream Food World frustration we can take in one day.
Geoff Edgers wrote a long, but gripping article for Esquire, documenting, as he put it, “The Rise and Fall of a Reality TV Star. In Nine Days.”
Basically, he — a relative unknown, but an accomplished journalist — made a pilot for a show called Edge of America, which Travel Channel picked up with enthusiasm. His whole life changed, fancy car service, Samantha Brown tweeted support for the show, blah blah blah.
Then, the first episode aired with some fishy edits.
“We need to remove any mention of him being a journalist, the Boston Globe, and his liberal arts education,” Travel directed early on. “We need to keep him from coming off as an elitist.”
Right. Because god forbid we put educated humans on a reality show.
Also, in the show notes for an episode in which Geoff straps on a mermaid tail to perform in a mermaid show, Travel Channel allegedly wrote, “Is there anytime where Geoff points out that he’s not a woman and can’t be a mermaid because of that?”
The network told him he needed to secure the “dude” demographic to stay afloat. Hosts in mermaid tails? Not dudely. …Wait, what? What are we even saying about men, here? That they can’t figure out that Edgers is a man…because he’s dressed like a mermaid? The implications are too atrocious to unpack.
And then the ax fell.
After a good first week, the ratings for Edge had fallen. The programmers were getting pressure from the ad people and a decision had to be made. Edge would move from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. After one week? “I’m sorry,” my friend said. “We can’t afford to keep it there.” The replacement? A show called Extreme Houseboats, which doesn’t even have a host — just an anonymous voiceover.
Oh my god, Travel Channel, how is it possible for you to be any more The Worst? We’ll be the first to back up Anthony Bourdain when he rage-posts about having his face used in a Cadillac endorsement on the network without his permission, and the first to mock along with him TC’s inexplicable Guinness logo blur during an episode shot in Dublin.
But firing a guy basically because he’s too smart, too comfortable with his sexuality (or y’know, too not-an-asshole?), and too high-brow for your viewership is only fueling a skewed, skewed attitude towards food culture in which we trust Rachael Ray more than Michael Pollan. Stop. Pandering. Stop it. We’re sorry you were looking for your network’s answer to Guy Fieri and didn’t find him in a liberal arts-educated journalist, who got a positive pilot review from the New York Times. But you know who didn’t get a positive review from the New York Times? Guy fucking Fieri.
For the record, Edgers is way, way nicer about this whole thing than Travel Channel deserves, and at no point in his piece does he take down the network. He’s nothing but gracious and grateful for the opportunity, in fact, and shrugs off the whole mess with a “that’s just the business” attitude. Which is where we come in: to be pissed off for you.
You can read Geoff’s whole story here. It’s worth it for the juice alone. We promise.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org