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'Food Network Star': The talent search gets a welcome reboot

May 14, 2012 | 11:42 am

Season 8 of "Food Network Star" has kicked off, and things have changed for the better
Season 8 of "Food Network Star" kicked off Sunday night and, my oh my, how things have changed.

For the better.

The show has always been a favorite for network followers, but let's face it, the franchise was in need of a reboot. It earned a bit of a makeover over the last season, when it tightened up the name and introduced some competitors that were in it to win it, not just play nicey-nicey. (Looking at you, L.A.'s Penny Davidi!)

This time, in a delicious twist, the sharp elbows come courtesy of the network's marquee talents: Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown. And if you thought this was going to be a fun and friendly matchup between network "family" members, think again.

Drawing "first blood" was A.B. Or should we call him Dr. Jekyll for his ability to transform from "the fun guy" on "Good Eats" to the shark in the tank? Exhibit A: The "You just punched me!" look on De Laurentiis' face when Jaws dismissed her teammate's key lime dessert with a devastating one-word dismissal: "Cafeteria."

OUCH!

Kudos for other deft touches ratcheting up the tension, even as they seem to sample the best of other prime-time competitions, including "The Voice." There's the face-off for the bottom two ("MasterChef"), the brilliant last-ditch pitch session (the board room on "The Apprentice," or perhaps even more appropriately, "Shark Tank") and the long, lonely walk for the week's loser. ("Hell's Kitchen" and a whiff of the network's own "Chopped.")

Handing over judging duties solely to the network's dynamic duo (Susie & Bob) also works well. The streamlined team knows what they want, and now they can just get down to the business of branding. (Note to producers: It would be nice to hear more from them on this front, pulling back the curtain on the sausage-making, so to speak.)

What did you think about the retooling of the show? And any thoughts on front-runners? How about troublemakers?

I am looking forward to more from Michele, Ippy, Judson and Emily. And I am looking for less from Josh. Sorry to see Cristie get the boot; it would have been interesting to see what more of her food looked like. (Although that turkey sausage thing she had looked ... gross.)

ALSO:

Fox looks to laughs to boost ratings

Expect a makeover with Season 2 of "Smash"

Britney Spears, Demi Lovato poised to join "X Factor"

-- Rene Lynch
twitter.com/renelynch

Photo: Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown. Credit: Food Network

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