Cooking With Paris, Netflix’s show about cooking with Paris Hilton, has been canceled. Or rather, it has been, as Deadline puts it, “not renewed.” How should we remember Cooking With Paris, a program that both was and was not a joke? It had six antiseptic episodes. Now it will have no more.
Over the course of its brief run — less than three hours total — we learned very little about cooking. I maintain, somewhat controversially, that Paris Hilton does have an interior life because she is a person, but we did not learn about that, either. Instead, we bore witness to a small woman in a large kitchen, standing stiffly in stiletto heels. Her friends came over, though she did not seem to know them. She laughed, sometimes, though she did not seem to experience joy. In the most human-feeling of the episodes, her mother and sister came over, and the large kitchen suddenly felt small and Paris Hilton briefly excused herself to spray perfume in a closet. Then they ate filet mignon and onion rings with gold flakes.
The show famously got its start as a 16-minute YouTube video that, at first, seemed like a commentary on America’s growing collection of people who became famous for something else launching food and lifestyle brands. Here was Paris, who had previously expressed no interest in the kitchen, offering authoritative-sounding advice on cooking while making clear that she did not, in fact, know how to cook. Expanded to a full series, the joke collapsed on itself since viewers ostensibly tune in to cooking shows to learn to cook, or to feel something, or at least to be entertained. It was no longer satire. What was it? It was complicated. Perhaps Cooking With Paris was simply too complicated for a world that values easy answers.
“I love to cook,” Paris would announce in the voice-over intro to each episode, “but I’m not a trained chef.” But did Paris love to cook? It did not seem like it: Generally, she approached ingredients with caution, as though they might attack at any time. It was bold, in some sense, wasn’t it? A cooking show from somebody who — with the exception of a boxed mac ’n’ cheese recipe for which she did once express what I believe to be genuine enthusiasm — obviously does not love cooking? Unless it was darker: Maybe this is what love looks like for Paris Hilton?
It was the rare cooking show that made you want nothing: not to cook, not to eat. Was it … quietly radical? It took great wealth and made that seem unappealing — not grotesque or evil, even. More like meh. Money cannot buy happiness, everybody knows that, but isn’t it supposed to help?
Cooking With Paris was, if anything, unsettling. At its core, it was a show that defied convention, genre, entertainment, and taste. It was not “good,” by any customary definition, but it was singular. There is no other program like it. There may never be again.