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Food TV's new clone

McQuilken pops a cookie chunk in her mouth. "It's delicious," she says as the cameras roll. "It's not too sweet. It tastes like oatmeal that you have at breakfast."

But shows such as "Unique Eats" could easily fit on the Food Network, and therein lies the challenge of forging a new identity. There are only so many programming ideas, so many foods to make, so many shops and restaurants to visit (which is why the new station will also air "Classic Cooking" with Julia Child). Even what executives call their "legacy talent"--Flay, Lagasse and Ray--aren't doing something radically different for the Cooking Channel. Ray may enthuse in a promotional video about "the freshest idea I've had in years," but "A Week in a Day"--cooking seven days of meals at once--seems like vintage Rachael.

Expectations may be lower for the new channel--it debuts in 58 million homes, compared to Food Network's 95 million--but it cannot afford to be seen as a watered-down version of the original product. And Food Network's reputation is so intertwined with that of its household-name chefs that the two can be harder to separate than egg yolks.

At the network kitchens--row after row of countertop burners, staffed by 27 chefs chopping garlic and cilantro and measuring flour and mango butter cream--Flay isn't cooking for television. He is preparing dishes to be photographed for his latest cookbook, and styling the food so it will look especially pretty.

But there is no mistaking his excitement over "Brunch at Bobby's": "I'm going to bring a passion to it that's important. They're going to try things that work out of the box and some that don't work. If the brunch show doesn't work, there'll be something else to try."

The danger is that the new channel will simply lure viewers from its more established sibling. That is, unless America's appetite--for people cooking, eating and battling over food--turns out to be bottomless.

Arianna Gets Endorsement

President Obama may have poked fun at Politico at Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner, but earlier, at the University of Michigan, he made a plea for reaching beyond ideological boundaries:

"If you're somebody who only reads the editorial page of the New York Times, try glancing at the page of the Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you're a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post Web site. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy."

Nice nod if you can get it. I wonder if that will actually help HuffPost's traffic.

Florida Frustration

Conservatives sound like they'll never get tired of kicking Charlie Crist around. Here's Rich Lowry:

"Crist could have bowed out gracefully, except it would have required entirely too much grace. . . . In a year of conviction politics, he seeks to forge a glorious cause out of his sheer impatience for another promotion.

"Crist recently made such Shermanesque denials of any intention to run as an independent that William Tecumseh Sherman himself might have believed him. His campaign manager told reporters in an e-mail, "To put these rumors to rest once and for all, as we have said countless times before, Gov. Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican." He should have added: As long as it suits his self-interest. . . .

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