Fox had no way to get rid of Paula Deen (unlike Food Network), and, like it or not, she’ll appear on this week’s episode of “MasterChef.”
A source close to the show said executives considered a variety of options, including not airing the episode, but none were realistic.
Another option would have been to try to edit Deen out of the episode, but that would have disrupted a key stage in the competition to find the best home cook in America, the source said. (An example of how deeply involved she is in the episode, which is the second of two back-to-back episodes airing Wednesday night: Deen helps determine who will be among the final four.)
At this point, the only question is: Will this turn out to be a ratings boon or a bust?
The “MasterChef” episode starring Deen was taped in March, well before Deen’s reputation imploded following her admission that she had used a racial slur in the past. That, as well as other allegations made against her in a nasty lawsuit filed by a disgruntled former employee, led to the destruction of Deen’s multimillion-dollar food empire as several business partners cut ties.
Among them: Food Network, which said it would not renew Deen’s contract.
Deen has appeared on Fox’s hit reality TV cooking show in the past. She proved to be such a hit with viewers that the previews for the current “MasterChef” kicked off with fanfare about Deen and other celebuchefs stopping by to help with weekly challenges and cooking showdowns.
Chef Gordon Ramsay even touted Deen’s appearance while discussing the new season, saying: “Paula Deen [is] back on. Huge success last year with her. And she’s great. I wouldn’t get on the wrong side of her. She’s dynamic, feisty, tenacious but bloody good.”
As we noted before, her appearance sets the stage for potentially cringe-worthy moments of Deen oozing her “Hey Y’all” drawl while the controversy over her use of racially charged language still hangs in the air.
What do you think? Did Fox make the right decision?
[For the Record, 1:22 p.m. Aug. 27: An earlier version of this post misstated that Deen would announce the winner of the challenge. She will help determine who will go on to the final four.]