There are few programs on television that I enjoy with such child-like glee than Food Network's own Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, a show that exuberantly shows off how incompetency, borderline alcoholism, and a total lack of any remotely functioning taste buds need not be roadblock to success if that road is a freeway to unintentional, John Waters-esque camp brilliance.
To call Semi-Homemade a cooking show would be a total screw-up; cooking on Semi-Homemade was sort of an incidental occurrence, something to do while the vanilla vodka chilled in the freezer or between the exhaustive searches for the right fabric for monstrous things known simply as "tablescapes."
To be frank, Semi-Homemade is more like a modern meditation on crass consumerism, the laziness of new millennium life, and the raging disconnect between the must-have-granite-counter-kitchen culture and a society that can't be arsed to make anything from scratch in said top shelf kitchen.
In her own kooky manner, Sandra Lee was like the patron saint of half-assedness yet somehow she also managed to simultaneously be detail oriented in the most absurd ways: buy a white sauce in a can but make your own place mats with rope. The mind, she reels.
And in spite of her many chirpy pronouncements, only a fool would think that Semi-Homemade was saving you money, a fact made more evident when Sandra Lee decided to go slumming it in her new, less dizzily flashy but no less fucked-up program called Sandra Lee's Money Saving Meals.
Food Network's response to the crippling economic recession is to stick the would-be Martha Stewart that is Sandra in a new kitchen with a whole new cooking premise of saving money and basically cause a tear in the time/space continuum with all of the polar opposites between her current show and the reruns of Semi-Homemade still airing.
Things like store bought jarred garlic, which was a staple of Semi-Ho, are now too expensive on Money Saving Meals. Cool Whip, which never found a dessert it couldn't be piled on top of on ye olde show, is now replaced with Sandra's clumsy attempts to make "whipped topping" from scratch, usually ending up over whipped and into being turned into gritty butter. Cocktail time, a thing that used to come with its own graphic during the early seasons of Semi-Homemade, has all but disappeared. Sandra Lee's eyebrows have also apparently been lost in the recession.
My mother, a Fandra of sorts, always tells me to lay off of Sandra since she came from a shit background and has made something of herself, a fact I find admirable even if the product she is shilling is utter bullshit.
So why do I tune in? For the same reason why I watch Valley of the Dolls: the awful music, the awkward sets, the general stench of failure, and most importantly, a somewhat charismatic lead devouring scenery in total earnestness.
Below, the magic of Sandra Lee: