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Review: "Throwdown! with Bobby Flay"
Friday, July 14, 2006 | posted by Mike

Throwdown,” which debuted this evening on the Food Network, is a Bobby Flay show through and through. It takes full advantage of Flay’s charms and talents – his wisecracking self-assuredness – and provides a good forum for someone who clearly thrives under competition.

We’ve been treated to previews and advertisements for some time, which outlined the basic premise: the super-chef challenges the best and brightest on their own culinary turf. This theme kicks off the show, with Bobby Flay receiving a package marked “Confidential” containing his assignment for the episode.

This segment (which was repeated in the second episode as well) and the voice over work by Flay are occasionally cringe-worthy. Both feel far too scripted and stilted. The posing and posturing of the challenger, who thinks that he or she is being profiled by Food Network, is equally annoying.

However, things really pick up when Flay gets down to work on his assignment, collaborating with experts to perfect his recipes. His training is presented warts-and-all, and the banter among the chefs elicits smiles, if not outright laughs. The footage spends some time illustrating Flay’s strategy, although it could be a little more explicit in laying out his thoughts. After all, he’s supposedly in their world, so you think he would need to come up with something truly spectacular.

Eventually, Flay drops in on the unsuspecting challenger for the cook-off, marking what is clearly the highlight of the show and the best use of Flay’s talent. There is a fair amount of friendly trash-talking, some technical difficulties and some good candid interviews of the crowd, which provide a nice, natural feel.

Episodes conclude with a tasting by an impartial judge (a panel, in the case of the second show), followed by scoring that is less transparent than Iron Chef and the declaration of the winner. Flay, who came out on both sides of the judging in the first two shows, seems genuinely gracious and complimentary of the challenger.

The only truly disastrous moment is when a friend of the challenger, enticed by the free beer and a chance for instant fame, performs some sort of horrible white-guy rapping. I was horrified. Soon-to-be-Mrs. TVFF.com just said, “Ohhhhhh….painful.”

Flay is at his best when he’s training and competing, having fun and mixing it up without lapsing into the smugness that many of his detractors find grating. In fact, he’s downright self-deprecating and endearing when he’s struggling with a wedding cake.

“Throwdown!” is not an instant classic, but the excitement and fun exhibited by Flay and the challenger provide enough reason to tune in.



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