Gourmet magazine preps TV show

Guest stars include Lorraine Bracco, Frances McDormand

There's certainly no shortage of TV shows blending food and travel, but Gourmet magazine is betting there's room for one more. On Oct. 17, the Conde Nast title will debut its new public television show, "Gourmet's Adventures With Ruth," in which the title's editor, Ruth Reichl, spans the globe visiting cooking schools with celebs including Frances McDormand and Lorraine Bracco.

Adventures With Ruth is the successor to Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie," the TIAA-CREF-sponsored PBS show that explores international cultures through a culinary lens. Both are produced by WGBH in Boston. The idea to do a show around travel sprang from a 2008 issue of Gourmet that was devoted to cooking vacations, said Nancy Berger Cardone, the magazine's vp, publisher.

American Airlines is backing the 10 half-hour episodes as part of a $2 million-plus buy that includes 30-second branding spots at the top and bottom of each episode, ad pages in Gourmet, presence on a Web site for the show and sponsorship of the Gourmet Institute cooking school. The series also will air on Gourmet's TiVo channel and on American's in-flight channel. "Food and travel are closely linked and extremely important to many of our customers, so this partnership with WGBH is a natural," said Rick Wilbins, managing director, brand and advertising for American Airlines.

The deal also will give a much-needed boost to the epicurean book. Ad pages are off 44.5% to 356 this year through August, per the Mediaweek Monitor; September's issue carried just 40 pages. Cardone expects October to have at least double that number, helped by the American buy. "We got hit by what happened in luxury," she said.

Nevertheless, Cardone said she sees categories like auto, financial and travel picking up in the fourth quarter. "I do think there's some pent-up demand. There's a lot of great ideation about food and travel."