Monday, September 1, 2003

My Life as the Ultimate Reality TV Show

I'm nothing if not a Reality TV purist. And it's one area I can't claim to be a trendsetter. When Survivor, the granddaddy of Reality shows, debut I wasn't planning on watching but then someone much more cynical than I came into the office and told us all we just had to see the show when CBS was replaying the first episode later in the week. What I saw can only be described as some of the dumbest TV I've ever seen- but it was well done dumb TV so of course I just had to watch. And I've seen every Survivor episode since.

But like I was saying I'm not going to watch just any old Reality show. I have my standards. Sure I've seen some of Temptation Island, Big Brother, and The Bachelorette, as well as most of Murder in Small Town X and Joe Millionaire but I refuse to watch any show that doesn't live up to the qualities of Survivor. When I heard about Survivor creator/producer Mark Burnett's latest project The Restaurant I made it a point to tape the first show just to see if Burnett could capture lightening in a bottle twice. And he did.

The Restaurant chronicled hunky celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito's attempts at opening a new Italian restaurant in New York City. From finding a space to building that space into a trendy Manhattan hotspot to finding the right staff to blowing the socks off customers with delectable dishes, the show tried to convince us DiSpirito's quest to follow his dream was a heroic endeavor. What we got instead was an excellent look at the end of time struggle between those who do the work and those who manage those who do the work. Much of the show focused on Rocco's unhappy staff who felt overworked, underpaid, and that they weren't getting the support they needed from management. The staff felt DiSpirito didn't live up to his initial promises, didn't do enough cooking, and spent too much time flirting with his female clientele. DiSpirito seemed frustrated that his plans didn't translate into a smooth running operation and happy customers. (He had this weird vision of serving seemingly high quality food in paper boat containers with fine silverware- which had the waitstaff scratching their heads at the concept.)

The show unfortunately didn't quite live up to the Survivor standard of intrigue, as there was no playing a game with a winner at the end. A lot of the fun of watching Survivor is bitching and moaning that the ultimate survivor has seldom been the one most deserving to win the million dollar prize. To add to the disappointment the finale of The Restaurant violated a rule of any TV series- instead of wrapping up things with the people we had heretofore seen- we instead got introduced to a cat fight between two blondes- a bartender and a newly hired waitress that we had not seen before. The two squabbled over who could flirt more with a group of New York Yankees that showed up one evening at Rocco's.

Reality TV of course doesn't seem to mirror any reality that really exists outside some network executive's world. But if I may be so bold to suggest what the next workplace show should be about- I would suggest someone put a camera inside the Vision World in Rosedale. I went there last weekend to get my glasses adjusted (and if you've ever had your glasses adjusted you know just how painful that can be). I was served by a stunningly beautiful young lass who had eyes that could get any man to wobble in the knees. Of course some of the adjusting process involves the adjuster bending the frames of the glasses and placing them back on the adjustee's face and the two looking at each other to see if things are straight and OK. As much as I enjoyed looking deep in her eyes I somehow also just had to avert my gaze so I didn't appear to be staring inappropriately. I'm sure all the while my face was a crimson color and the only comfort was I knew any other male customer who underwent the same procedure with the adjuster probably was no more suave than I was being. Egads.

Certain people just shouldn't be allowed to perform certain jobs and if they do, Reality TV shows like The Restaurant should have taught us all that no moment is too small to be captured on camera- especially if that moment is embarrassing to someone.

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