While perusing through the digital wasteland that is the Internet, I came across an article from Grantland about the TV show “Bar Rescue” that was both hilarious and struck a chord with me. It struck a chord because it brought to my attention the fact that I really love this show, despite the fact almost every aspect of the show’s formula, individually, strikes me as horrible.
Here is the premise of “Bar Rescue:” A bar (usually a wretched dump of a place) is in dire need of help. For the first 10-15 minutes, we watch as the bar owner(s) and their staff act like either horrible human beings or incompetent drunks — or both. These people have no idea that a man named Jon Taffer (who looks and acts like an ill-tempered Tony Soprano) is sitting outside their establishment in a black SUV, spying on them like it’s an FBI sting operation (secret informants and all). He sends in said informants to order food and drinks and, under his watchful eye, picks apart every little detail that happens with a meticulous obsession.
A lot of the time, the food and drink is so poor that it results in the undercover moles vomiting their brains out.
Then, when Taffer howls “I’ve had enough!” like a raving lunatic, he storms into the establishment with the rage of a million fiery suns, cuts down the owners and staff before national television for their ineptitude, throws various items around in a fit of violent anger and then storms out claiming he isn’t sure he even wants to help these people. Then he comes back the next day, helps the place out by re-branding it and re-training the employees, and then walks away like some holy vision.
As you can see by that description, I’m more entertained by the first part of the show.
Reasons I should hate this show, but don’t…
Like I said before, the individual elements that make up this show are usually things I do not enjoy in television.
Let’s check the list of things I do not enjoy on TV:
1. Reality TV
2. Anything on Spike (this channel is like it was invented by someone who saw and was inspired by “Idiocracy” and didn’t understand it was a satire)
3. Making unsuspecting people feel bad about themselves for the audience’s pleasure
4. Candid camera-style set-ups
So, you see, the whole premise of “Bar Rescue” should infuriate me to no end. It literally has everything I dislike on TV, but for some reason I can sit and binge-watch this show like it was “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead.” Not that I’m as invested in “Bar Rescue” as I am those other two. It’s a different kind of enjoyment.
So it seems that everything I despise in television has been bunched together in some unholy union of guilty pleasures, and became an entity that is “Bar Rescue.” And I love every minute of it. But why?
Why I love this show
Despite all it has going against it, I can’t get enough of this show. It speaks to a part of our psyches that want to scream at incompetence, I think. We have all, for the most part, been to places that kinda suck. Where the employees are either rude or incompetent to the point your knuckles are white from frustration. These are not pleasant experiences, and in our minds we tend to imagine ourselves blowing up like Jon Taffer does. We don’t, because we are civilized human beings and getting angry never really solves anything. Except for Jon Taffer, I guess. But that just makes him an exception to the rule, and not the rule itself. So we get to live these moments vicariously through Taffer’s rage-fueled ravings.
There is also the positive side of the show. After all the entertaining yelling and throwing stuff around, the show does try to help these places to rise up and succeed. Granted, this is pretty much the rest of the show (often with some personal tragedy story that explains why things went downhill and forced Taffer to scream some sense into them). So we also get to cheer on the people who, just a few minutes ago, we railed against in frustration. It’s pretty much a set formula, you rarely get a curve ball in what happens (they do happen occasionally) and the rampant product placement can be irritating.
I can’t really call this a “guilty pleasure” because I feel no guilt in my love of the show. It’s just an entertaining program to me. There are other shows like it, but I dislike them. I can’t stand watching Gordon Ramsay yell at people for being incompetent in his eyes. I can’t do any other reality show, because those shows make my skin crawl. I can’t even watch Taffer on other reality shows, because I can’t stand them.
Yet, “Bar Rescue” is a great show. Not a classic by any means, but whatever it is doing, it is doing well.