Thursday, May 03, 2012

Bar Rescue

When I was last in Seattle I accidentally addicted myself to Bar Rescue, a reality TV series where a big shouty man goes to a failing bar, and gets angry with the proprietors for letting their bar fail. It's a bit like Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, but with an enormous American ogre yelling at people rather than a constantly swearing Scotsman.

I don't know why I like it; I dislike reality TV, especially when the artificiality of it is so in-your-face. When John Taffer (the big shouty man) gets in a row with the people whose bar he's meant to fix, unless they had an army of cameramen, they would have had to shoot the argument at least three times to get all the angles. Maybe what I like about it is exactly how formulaic it is.

Every week, there's a differently comically bad bar. The manager is a lush who keeps giving drinks away for free to the ladies. The owner is asleep on the job. The bartenders tell the customers the food is awful. The clientele are a bunch of raddled old pervs putting the young and spendthrift off.

Every week John Taffer sends somebody in to take a look. That poor schmuck gets to eat or drink the most disgusting thing in the place (a partially defrosted burger, "the worst Cosmopolitan I've ever had", a pint of stale beer that's been festering in a cupboard under the bar for hours or even days). Then Taffer can stride in and put the world to rights.

My favourite version of this was when Mrs Taffer goes into a bar, orders some Jagerbombs, gets 'molested' by a sleazy older gentleman, and then, when she returns to her husband waiting in a car outside, he says she must be quite upset ... and then strolls inside the bar, leaving her alone and uncomforted in the van. You're a hard man, Mr Taffer.

Putting the world to rights means telling the staff they're doing a terrible job (extra points if somebody quits on camera) and then bringing in a 'mixologist' to train the barstaff. This is quixotic at best; you're in a filthy bar full of filthy people who want to get filthy drunk; how many of them care about getting a good Manhattan?

There's a quick redecoration of the bar, a relaunch, and then Taffer rides away again, leaving you to suspect the bar will be back to where it was in a few short weeks.

What I particularly like, apart from the constant replaying of any noteworthy incident to pad the programme out to the requisite length ("this isn't Bar Rescue - this is bar fight!") are the ways Taffer keeps saying the same things over and over. I hope there's a version of buzzword bingo where "watching the dimes, losing the dollars" is dead centre on the board.

Taffer is undauntable. If I'd been confronted by the various loons and self-deceiving idiots who invited me in to help them, and then reject every suggestion, I'd have stormed out in a huff in the first five minutes. Taffer, though, keeps barging through things, stopping to namecheck his suppliers from time to time and pointing out that you need certain ratios of customers, or tips, or food on hand, as if these were the Golden Mean, not statistically observed correlations. The man has been doing this for 36 years, after all, although the way the opening credits suggest it, he was an international bar consultant before he left his teenage years behind.

Still, perhaps he was born a fully-formed mountain man, ready to rage against poorly measured drinks and tinned soup, from the moment he escaped the womb. Compared to his primal force, the people he helps are just doofuses, dead men walking who don't realise their brains are already gone.

It's lucky there are only ten episodes, or I'd lose my life to this stuff. Maybe I should promote a Singaporean rip-off. I mean, elegant homage. I mean, Asian-focussed reimagining. I mean, er, ... Cannot Not Run Bar Good Uncle.
I'll be raking it in, just you wait and see.


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