For its new season, The Food Network has overhauled the show. It’s a brand new format, a new host, a new set – and it hasn’t exactly been showered with accolades by longtime fans.
Just a quick social media search of Halloween Wars and you’ll see the negative reaction this revamped version of the show has been getting. Repeated questions of – “Where are the pumpkin carvers?”, “Where are the sugar artists?”, “What happened with the small scares?”, along with the statement – “This has just become another cake baking competition.
Ok, let’s back up and acquaint everyone with what Halloween Wars is exactly.
Debuting in October 2011, Halloween Wars is a reality competition between teams of three. The teams would consist of a cake maker, a sugar artist and a pumpkin carver. These three would have to work together to create a display using all those elements and make the ultimate scary display based on the theme that is given.
The first round in the show would be ‘The Small Scale’, where the teams would have 45 minutes to create their interpretation of of the announced theme. Say, it’s a scary childhood toy, reimagining Medusa’s hairstyle or a mutated animal.
Their work would be evaluated by two regular judges during the season, along with a guest judge every episode. Te winning team of ‘The Small Scale’ would win a helpful bonus for the next round. An extra helper to assist them or their team gets to choose the first pumpkin could be a crucial leg up in the second round of the show – ‘The Spine Chiller’!
Once again, the teams are asked to create a sculpture, but this time it has to be a big, immersive display. With the clock giving them five hours of time, the teams have to scramble, carve, pull sugar and make cake work together to create a scary sculpture to wow the judges. Plus, they also have to cook a tasty treat to go along with their display. It becomes a tense marathon of teams trying to make pumpkin, sugar and cake compliment each other, along with each artists visions coming together to make a spectacular cohesive spooky Halloween display!
The Judges taste and evaluate each creation. At the end of each show one team is eliminated based on their work, which eventually leaves two teams going head-to-head competing in the finale to create a mind-blowing Halloween display and to win the $50,000 prize.
Through its ten year run, Halloween Wars has gone through a few changes. Hosts have changed, the second regular judges changed faces and some of the graphics to open the show have been given the occasional facelift. The one permanent face on the show for the past ten years has been pastry chef Shinmin Li, who anxiously bit into chocolate covered spiders and evaluated how tasty the treats presented to her were.
I did enjoy watching Halloween Wars. It was the ONLY program I would watch on The Food Network. It was entertaining to watch these skilled pumpkin carvers get to work on creating amazing sculptures. I’ve always loved carving pumpkins every Halloween, and the heights these artists could take a pumpkin is truly amazing to see. This wasn’t just carving two triangle eyes and sticking a candle inside it.
Then there was the delicate sugar work that would be used to accent displays. The creations they could make were beautiful. Then the cake maker sculpting away with with fondant and a Rice Krispie framework The countdown clock running down and seeing mishaps befall on the team, seeing elements not live up to expectations or some exceeding them – it had me hooked in.
Sure there were plenty of cheesy elements to the program. Host Jonathan Bennet making very corny jokes, judge Shinmin going on about the tasting element, the silly poses each team does in the opening of the show, the way each segment would end with something of a forced cliffhanger. This was the stuff that would have me shake my head and roll my eyes, but overall that stuff was pretty painless. I still stayed tuned in.
Plus, each episode would bring in a guest judge associated with the horror genre to judge just how effectively creepy the teams creations were. Elvira, Rob Zombie, Shawnee Smith, Sid Haig, Robert Patrick, Mick Garris, all sat in to critique the displays and have a bite of tasty treats. Legendary horror makeup artist Tom Savini was the permanent judge in season two and director and makeup artist Todd Tucker was a regular for four seasons. They used their expertise in creating scares to offer up perspectives on what teams got right and wrong. It was very cool!
Halloween Wars became something of a tradition to watch for me, and for A LOT OF FOLKS! Which brings me to the radical change the show has taken for its eleventh season.
The eleventh season debuted and there has been immediate confusion and disappointment by longtime Halloween War fans. The one familiar face was judge Shinmin who apparently stuck around for this version of the show, the rest is very, very different.
First, viewers were introduced to a new host Zak Bagans, who appears virtually through a television screen. Former host Jonathan Bennet is busy filming some Hallmark movies. Whether you’re a fan of Bennet or not, a change of hosts is nothing new for the show. There has been a few during its run.
But then we learn a new crop of judges are there with no longer a guest judge coming in every episode. The orange, brightly lit kitchen set has also been replaced for a new, darker that fits in more with the spooky season. There is no longer two competitions during each episode. Only a select number of teams (they all don’t compete against each other at once) attempt to make a single cake during the entire episode.
Fans might be asking – what about the pumpkins? Well, there aren’t any.
There is no longer a pumpkin carver or sugar artist amongst the teams (only a few teams have a sugar artist not all of them for whatever reason). Two of the key components that made Halloween Wars such a distinctive entry in Food Network’s lineup of endless baking shows has been completely dropped. That big pumpkin patch in the corner of the set and teams fighting for ‘Pick of the Pumpkin’ is no longer part of the equation of Halloween Wars.
Pumpkin carvers will only be seen on Outrageous Pumpkins this year apparently.
What fans are left with are three cake artists making a spooky cake. Halloween Wars is now pretty much another run-of-the-mill cake making competition show. It resembles more like another version of Halloween Baking Championship – which Food Network already airs! All the unique elements of the old Halloween Wars is pretty much gone.
It is very disappointing to see.
Why this change? I haven’t read anything official from Food Network about this whole revamped Halloween Wars they’re giving viewers. Was this all due to budget cuts? Attempts at trying to fix what wasn’t broken? Are these changes due to the pandemic? I haven’t read any official explanation as to what happened and why Halloween Wars has gone through this startling make over.
However, some answers have been unearthed thanks to a current contestant on the show via reddit. Unfortunately, the current crop of contestants have come into the cross-hairs of angry Halloween Wars fans who are voicing their distaste for this season’s show. They’re actually attacking the contestants on the show! They’re just a collection of bakers who managed to be chosen for a television show. They didn’t do anything wrong and don’t deserve being the victims of ranting fans. Of course they have nothing to do with this show revamp, but that’s a bit too rational of thought for those using social media who just want to yell at someone.
Anyway, this one contestant chimed back to upset fans to offer an explanation as to what happened to their beloved Halloween Wars.
She explained the show is filmed a year in advance in a studio in California. Due to the pandemic and restrictions during that time they could not film there. The current season was filmed in a different studio in Utah in June, when pumpkins were not in season. Hence, the absence of pumpkin carvers. Rather than cancelling this season altogether, Food Network reworked the show best they could under the conditions they were under.
Why the change of judges and whether host Bennet will return, I have no idea.
Let me reiterate, this explanation was not released by Food Network, just one I found after doing a bit of research. If this is the true reason, it’s a shame Food Network haven’t reassured fans that these changes were all due to pandemic-related restrictions and they hear their concern.
They MUST be hearing the negative reaction the show has been getting from fans. It’s really hard to miss.
Really, finding any positive comments on the Food Network’s social media involving this new iteration of its long beloved series is not easy. It’s pretty much across the board disappointment. The overwhelming consensus is utter distress at what’s become of the beloved show, voicing this is a major mistake and fans vowing not to tune in.
I think there’s a petition circulating already to get the old version of Halloween Wars back on the air for Halloween ’22.
If you hear about any other official reasoning why Halloween Wars has dumped the core elements to what made it so entertaining for the past decade, please comment below! I’d be very curious to hear it.
Hopefully, Halloween Wars will return to its classic successful format next year and viewers will once again marvel at pumpkin carvers, sugar artists and cake sculptors making a Zombie Blind Date. As for this year, sorry, I’ll be skipping this season.
At least they’re still airing reruns of episodes of years past for fans to get their Halloween Wars fix.