Stay tuned for an exciting new cooking show coming to The Food Channel. “Faces of Italy,” featuring Chef Kevin Marshall and hosted by Janine and Morgan (photo, above), is a 22-minute video program that shows you how to make such classic Italian dishes as Chicken Marsala, Pasta Primavera, and Fried Ravioli—as well as unexpected and fun fusions like Italian Tacos.

Chef Kevin, a native Floridian with an incredible passion for cooking, started his career behind the counter of a fast food restaurant and honed his culinary skills with further studies at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. He prepares dishes that are easy to prepare, with phenomenal flavor, and fit a family budget.

Kevin, assisted by Janine or Morgan, takes you through each delicious recipe, step by step, and they have a lot of fun along the way, so you'll have a chance to add some wonderful family-style Italian dishes to your recipe repertoire.

We think you're really going to love this hot new show.

Keep your eye on The Food Channel home page for Faces of Italy, coming soon!

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New York Times
October 2, 2008 / Advertising

But Wait! There's More! (Again)
By Stephanie Clifford

REMEMBER the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler? To many baby boomers, those names recall the days when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Farrah Fawcett starred in “Charlie’s Angels.” Now a new generation will be able to form its own memories. The Ronco Acquisition Corporation, the company behind these products, is reviving its inyour- face infomercials, even weaving in historical footage of Ron Popeil, the original pitchman.

It is part of an effort to rejuvenate Ronco, the troubled housewares company that Mr. Popeil sold in 2005 for about $56 million. A group of investors bought it, but promptly started fighting among themselves. Two years later, with a former chief executive suing over mismanagement, the company declared bankruptcy.

Now, under a new owner, Ronco is using old film of Mr. Popeil to peddle a new product, the Grillwave, and one that has not seen the studio lights in years, the Veg-O-Matic. Also coming back are some of Mr. Popeil’s signature lines, like, “But wait, there’s more!” “Set it and forget it!” and “Isn’t that amazing?”

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Though the new Ronco is positioning Mr. Popeil, who is 73, as being fully behind the new iteration, Lisa Rocha, a spokeswoman for Mr. Popeil, said that he had had little contact with the new company. Ronco does, however, have the legal right to use the archival film.

“How many brands do you get the chance to revive that have a 50-year history?” said Larry Nusbaum, Ronco’s new chief executive. “It’s one of the great housewares brands for middle America.”

Mr. Nusbaum’s background is as an executive who steps into problem companies, including ones in apparel and in advertising. It is a background that seems well suited to Ronco.

While the company continued to sell products like a cutlery set and a food dehydrator after Mr. Popeil’s departure, its sales dropped 35 percent, to $59 million, in the year that followed. By the end of 2006, the company had not shown any new infomercials in two years — a problem, as Ronco’s infomercials tended to produce the most sales in their first 6 to 12 months on the air.

When Mr. Nusbaum joined the company in 2007, he began showing re-edited spots for the products the company was already selling. But the latest infomercials, which begin this weekend , mix clips of Mr. Popeil with fresh film of a new host (Mark Solley), new products (the Grillwave and the revived Veg-O-Matic) and a different set.

“The only difference is the style,” Mr. Nusbaum said. “We’re making the sceneries more contemporary,” but still using the tried-and-true “Bob Barker look and feel,” he added.

Infomercials tend to follow a formula: the product is demonstrated; a customer gives a breathless testimonial; a price is named, then slashed to a yours-for-only lower price; a toll-free number or Web address is supplied.

“The Popeil-Ronco story goes back to the old pitch traditions of when somebody used to stand up at a county fair or on a boardwalk and, through nuances of word, voice, gestures, could get somebody to stop in their tracks and buy something they would never consider buying,” said Tim Samuelson, author of the book “But Wait! There’s More!,” about the Popeil family.

Mr. Popeil was trained in direct-response sales by his father, who sold gadgets for the home, including the original Veg-O-Matic, Mr. Samuelson said. While the Popeils were not the first to go on television with their products, “You could arguably say they did it better than anyone else, not only in terms of how they sold, but in terms of inventing interesting products that people felt they had to have,” Mr. Samuelson said.

Mr. Solley, who steps into Mr. Popeil’s shoes in the new spots, is president of On the Mark, the production company making the Ronco commercials. He said that he had tried to introduce some new Popeil-like lines, like “Drop it, lock it, and pop it,” for the Grillwave.

“Ron was such a unique character that to try and emulate him would have been a mistake,” Mr. Solley said. “We try to position him almost like our Colonel Sanders — he’s very much our iconic image that everyone can relate to.”

But it is unclear how well Mr. Popeil’s image will resonate with younger viewers. “One of the strategies for using him as a spokesperson, interspersing the historical footage, is to appeal to people who knew who he was at the time, so probably to an older audience,” said Gail Tom, a professor at the college of business administration at California State University at Sacramento who has studied infomercials. “The newer audience, they may not even know who he is.”

Mr. Nusbaum said he was not concerned about that. He said he hoped that a younger audience would be attracted to the infomercials, which are being shown full length at and promoted on Web sites like MySpace and MSN. “Why wouldn’t it work to a whole new generation of people?” he asked.

The company is also selling its products at retail stores — the Pocket Fisherman is available at Walgreens and Rite Aid, for example, and the 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator is sold at Target and Kohl’s. Mr. Nusbaum said that he expected the company to have sales of about $45 million this year.