Now that I’m semi-retired and can spend far too much time staring mindlessly at the boob tube, I figure I might as well do some more bloviating about the state of TV programming today.
First: “Bar Rescue,” and other shows of that ilk (there are at least four). Here’s the formula: Some bar or restaurant is losing money, so the owner calls in a big expert to save the day – big either in stature or girth – who barges in with a big mouth and a bigger sledge hammer, identifies the barriers to success and knocks them down. He almost always discovers: 1.) a filthy, turn-your-stomach kitchen that, somehow, the owners had never noticed; 2.) lousy food that, somehow, the owners thought was great; 3.) a poorly trained, inept, unmotivated and/or larcenous staff (sometimes this problem will be discovered with the use of hidden cameras and plants posing as customers); and, 4.) a lazy, delusional, out-of-touch or egotistical owner who thought he could run the place without any appropriate knowledge or experience, and is now in over his head.
Conflict! Characters! Suspense! Violence! All the ingredients for good television.
The fact that people allow themselves to be filmed in such an unflattering light probably just shows how truly desperate they are, how close to the financial edge. What it doesn’t show is why this sort of “reality” show is so popular. Is it strictly schadenfreude? Do we really take such delight in other people’s misery? Well, how else to explain these shows?
We sort of get that an owner this clueless needs a loud wake-up call if there’s going to be any chance of turning the place around, but we also sort of get that the big expert is a boor and a bully. At the end of the show, after he’s finished humiliating and browbeating everybody in sight, we usually learn that the joint is now doing quite a bit better than it was. But not always.
Then there’s all the blurring-out and pixellating they do, also on so-called reality shows. What are they trying to hide? And who can blame us for feeling that we’re being tricked in some way, kept in the dark? There’s an odd agenda in place, but it’s never even mentioned.
Sometimes it’s faces, and you have to figure that no matter how many assistant producers you have scampering around with clipboards, trying to get everybody to sign a release when the show is filming in a public place, you probably can never get everybody. Or maybe it’s a hat or T-shirt, and we assume they’re just covering and obscene picture or phrase. But just as often, what’s being blurred is a corporate logo.
Since product placement is so pervasive these days (because it can be so lucrative), the production company may be either deleting logos of companies that refuse to pay (let’s call that greed), or trying to avoid lawsuits from companies that might possibly object to having their brand associated with whatever’s going on in the scene (let’s call that fear). So a car pulls up, but the Mercedes-Benz star or the Chevrolet bowtie is blurred out. Overall, it’s probably cheaper and easier to listen to the warning of the legal department (when in doubt, blur it out) than to take a chance.
Then there are those real estate shows in which they do a walk-through of a house, but every piece of art on the walls is blurred. Why? Intellectual property; rather than face the risk that the artist might come after the show for copyright infringement, they blur it out.
No wonder “reality” shows seem so unreal.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.