Formats

Exclusive clip: E!’s “Celebrity Beef” offers lighthearted fare from The Content Group

With a premise of celebrity duos with a grudge between them competing and working out their issues in a relaxed cooking environment, E!’s Celebrity Beef aims to keep its stakes lower and its ...
August 2, 2022

With a premise of celebrity duos with a grudge between them competing and working out their issues in a relaxed cooking environment, E!’s Celebrity Beef aims to keep its stakes lower and its atmosphere more laid-back and lighthearted than your typical cooking competition, according to its creators at California prodco The Content Group.

The new reality series, which premieres on Tuesday (August 2), features actor and veteran reality TV host Joel McHale (The Soup) returning to E! to oversee and crown the winner of a cook-off between two celebrity pals, with the goal of using healthy competition to help them put their beef behind them.

Produced by The Content Group, with McHale, Rebecca Hertz, Steven Michaels, Jodi Flynn, Jamses Macnab, Andi Walker Ochoa and Ariel Brozell executive producing, Celebrity Beef is a format that generally reflects what people are currently seeking to watch on TV, according to Flynn.

“Coming out of COVID, and everything that’s going on in the world, I think that people are looking for entertainment that just feels a little lighter, a little easier to watch,” Flynn tells Realscreen. “And I think that’s across the board, whether it’s scripted [or] unscripted. People want to watch something that’s fun and enjoyable, because the world’s a little tough.”

Flynn (pictured) sat down with Realscreen to discuss the new series, its development process during the pandemic, and what it implies for The Content Group producing projects outside of its typical wheelhouse going forward.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

How did the idea for this series come about?

Flynn: E! and Bravo came to us during the pandemic. It was kind of early days, and they were very interested in what Jennifer Garner was doing online with her fake cooking classes, kind of letting her fans into her home during the pandemic. So it started as an idea of, how do we create a celebrity cooking competition show that gives us some insight into how celebrities live?

The initial title was Tastes Like Chicken — I don’t know why, but that’s what it was. They gave us some money, and we went about trying to come up with a couple of different formats that would meet the requirements that they were looking to fill. Celebrity Beef was the one that rose to the top, that both the network and we were really drawn to. And through the development process, and as things got better with COVID, we developed it into an in-studio show.

What was it about this format that interested both you and the networks?

Flynn: As it morphed into what it is now, what appealed to us was the comedic piece of it and the potential for it to be a really different kind of celebrity cooking show, and a different kind of cooking show in general. Cooking shows are great, especially competition shows, and people love them. [But] there’s a certain seriousness about them a lot of the time, because the people who are contestants are usually real chefs, and the prizes can be life-changing for them. So there’s big stakes.

Here, the stakes are a little lower, intentionally. We wanted to find people who were organically friends already, and had genuine beefs of a sort [between them] — nothing too serious, but something that they wanted to settle. That’s what was really appealing to us.

What were you looking for when identifying celebrity duos that would be a good fit for the show?

Flynn: The most important thing was that they actually knew each other. We weren’t looking to put together anyone and kind of fake the relationship — it was about finding people who had genuine connections. When you see the show, I think that really comes across: they have such great banter with each other because they know each other, and that’s really key to the formula.

[With] Joel McHale in the middle, who’s such a great comedic talent and so great off the cuff and interacting with them, those are the kinds of contestants that we were looking for: [people] who could cook or not cook, but play the game, so to speak, and enjoy talking to each other and working through whatever their beef was.

What did Joel McHale bring to the table as the host?

Flynn: Joel is a really a remarkable talent. Hosting shows like this is not easy, but he makes it look easy — he’s one of the few out there who does that really well. He listens to what’s going on, he pays attention, he can come up with his own dry retorts, he can kind of elevate the gameplay as things happen. And he’s just likable — all the way from the crew to the guests, he’s a likable human being [towards everyone]. I think that the atmosphere that he created on the set allowed our contestants to really have fun, and that’s what we were aiming for.

What does this series represent for the type of projects The Content Group is interested in, as the company hasn’t worked heavily in competition formats before?

Flynn: No, we haven’t, and we’re super-excited to be doing something in a new genre. That’s a goal across the board for us, to always work in new types of programming. Obviously, you want to build on successes of things that you’ve done, but we also want to be known for being able to do any kind of unscripted fare. So this was a really exciting opportunity for us to develop and create something that was different.

It also fits into our plan of hopefully having long-running returnable series. This is a show that you could do many of in a year for a long time, and that’s really one of the goals for our company.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.

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