Review: 'Guy's Ranch Cook-Off'

One of the more annoying consequences for viewers of the recent Food Network trend of signing massive 360 deals with some of their biggest and best-loved names is that while fans do get to see more of their favorites, the overall quality of the shows has dipped significantly.

The truth is that stars such as Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri only have so many hours in the day they can work. And while those Food Network shows might have made them household names, they have thriving culinary empires they also have to oversee. 

So they are stuck in this challenge of cranking out the contractually obligated amount of new hours of programming for the Food Network, while expending the least amount of effort in order to make it happen.

One way to do that seems to be to combine the production of a new series with a vacation or something the host would prefer to be doing instead of standing in front of a camera. That's how we got shows such as Bobby & Sophie On The Coast, a show in which Bobby Flay and his daughter Sophie just visit restaurants while eating and hanging out. 

Then there was Giada In Italy, which was basically just a show that filmed Giada De Laurentiis while she visited friends and family in Italy. And the follow-up show Giada And Bobby In Italy pretty much explains itself.

But no one on the Food Network is better at turning a personal day into an opportunity to write-off some personal expenses than Guy Fieri. 

Guy's All-American Road Trip followed "Fieri with his family -- his wife, Lori, and his sons, Hunter and Ryder -- as they pack up their RV for an epic road trip together." In Guy Hawaiian Style, "Hawaii is one of Guy's favorite places on the planet, so he's taking his wife, Lori, sons Hunter and Ryder and his nephew, Jules, on a 20-day adventure of a lifetime to explore Maui, the Big Island and Oahu by land, sea and air."

But my favorite was Guy's Ranch Kitchen, in which "Food Network favorite Guy Fieri invites some of his friends, who happen to also be accomplished chefs, to his ranch to share stories and prepare tasty dishes that are perfect for football watching. "

The thing to know about that show was that it was filmed at Fieri's sprawling 6,000 feet Napa Valley home, which not only means that he can write off part of the home's massive outdoor cooking area, but he can quickly crank out a few new hours of TV without ever having to get in his car. The proximity also means Fieri can more easily explain why son Hunter Fieri is hanging around, trying to figure out a reason to be on camera.

And in the vein of that show, we now have Guy's Ranch Cook-Off, which appears to be some Mad Libs mash-up of about three other Food Network shows. Like Guy's Ranch Kitchen, the show is filmed at Fieri's home and it includes some familiar Food Network chefs competing against each other. 

But the rules of the competition are just insanely complicated and nonsensical, and include some elements that seem left-over from an episode of Guy's Grocery Games. It is just a bizarre format that seems built around the premise that producers should take everything viewers like in a Food Network show and not do that.

Describing Guy's Ranch Cook-Off as a network time-killer would be paying a disservice to time killers everywhere. This is a clumsy, pointless waste of time and while I'm sure it was fun filming it, watching it is more of an effort than any rational person should be willing to expend right now.

Guy's Ranch Cook-Off airs Wednesday nights on the Food Network.