Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee: Game Night is like a flashback to the late fifties and early sixties.
She has Betty Hair in the beginning of this program. She uses prefab food a LOT. It's the premise after all.
She makes all these fifties/sixties recipes, using modern storebought ingredients. She seems to spend a huge amount of effort to save some relatively trivial time and work.
This episode, "Game Night", has her setting up a dinner that may involve cards, but But the most horrifying thing is the incredible kitschy style. She does a poker party. She uses a $99 gaming extender for a folding card table as a food service surface. Good grief. (This thing.)
She makes a "Casino lemon cake" right out of the Boston School of Cooking template - the only difference being that it's from mix and it's a pale orange-yellow inside, rather than white. It's covered in toasted almond slices and toasted coconut, which isn't that BAD, but it looks completely messy. But really, if you're going to go to the trouble to fresh-toast your almonds and coconut ... why use a mix? OK, I'm being picky. But she pointed out her 'window treatment' (that was just a swath of black fabric stretched over a sheet of cardboard and covered in playing cards), while she was frosting the thing. She has some kind of attention deficit thing going, because she kept jumping from place to place.
She uses four (!) packages of roasted garlic dressing mix and a cup of flour, to season four potatoes for frying. This seems a bit excessive to me. She also cuts them a bit thicker than is my taste, and why she uses a mandolin without using the safety device that every mandolin comes with, to slice them? I dunno. Instead she holds the potatoes with a towel, which is more dangerous because she can't see what she's doing.
She makes these mini-burger things - cute but fussy, and served on disks of toasted wonder bread :P
However, her idea of mixing the burger with pot roast seasoning and an egg, not too bad. But why fill them with a huge glob of ketchup or mustard? Where's the little slice of onion or cherry tomato?
The 'mini chicken pot pies' that are made in espresso cups... two cans of chicken breast meat (urgh) plus a bag of frozen mix-veg plus a half a can of cream of celery, a packet of garlic herb seasoning, and phyllo dough for the top. (Five sheets, and what is it with this woman and the guy earlier who was using puff pastry, for wasting it by starting several inches from the edge when cutting? Ridiculous.)
Sure, there's a little bit of fresh prep, and she's right that flash-frozen fresh veggies are equivalent to fresh veggies if you plan to cook them in soup, but ... canned chicken? It turned into MUSH. There were no visible chunks of chicken meat.
OK, so the food is probably tasty enough, though I fear the chicken pot pies. But it's really a return to the weird 'food as decor' idea, rather than 'decorated food'.
What got me more was the kitsch factor. She's wearing a weirdly cut black skirt/jacket thing with a big rhinestone S on one side. She had all these really tacky card-based decorations, and she stuck playing cards on top of that cake.
I've seen one or two of her other shows, and while none of the others has been as over-the-top as this, they've all had their moment of "Gee, I bet that tastes like the fifties."
As for the woman herself... having seen those toneless arms, with biceps thinner than the elbow joint, and still slightly quivery, like a starving fashion model who is no longer young, I suspect that the reason she's got that attention deficit thing is that she's on some kind of chronic diet pill.
In case I was being snarky about a sick woman, I checked - nothing on her site (http://www.semihomemade.com/sandra-lee/biography.htm) about her being ill, but some of the links go to her other enterprises, and yes, every one of them has that extra special tiny taste of kitsch.