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Why I Like NBC's New 'America's Next Great Restaurant' Series -- But First, Why I Like Our TVWW Correspondents
March 4, 2011  | By David Bianculli
americans-next-gr-restauran.jpgI'm about to provide a review of NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant, which premieres Sunday (8 p.m. ET). And as a veteran TV critic, an amateur chef, and a fan of Bravo's Top Chef(whose producers created this new reality-competition series), I feel eminently qualified to do so.

But I bow to the pointedly appropriate expertise of one of our correspondents, David Sicilia, who's not only a professor and business historian, but a former manager of a casual-dining restaurant. And a damned good writer to boot, as evidenced in his latest TV Moneyland dispatch, a review of America's Next Great Restaurant.

Read him, then come back and finish reading me. Or save him for dessert...

I've really lost patience with the reality TV genre, especially the shows glorifying, and dependent upon, conflict and misbehavior. Whatever becomes of Charlie Sheen, he could keep himself on TV for years by competing on one reality show after another. Charlie on Celebrity Apprentice? Big Brother? Or the star of his own show, Winning!? -- the sky's the limit.

Actually, the bottom of the barrel's the limit, which in the case of reality TV, often is the same thing.

Often, but not always. I still watch and enjoy Fox's American Idol, and Bravo's Top Chef, and, until the most recent cycle, Lifetime's Project Runway. I like shows where people are talented, and creative, and there are reasons to root for rather than against them.


And that's why America's Next Great Restaurant is so satisfying.

Yes, it has all the annoying and formulaic elements pointed out by former Top Pizza Chef David Sicilia, but these judges are doling out actual advice, not just after-the-fact pronouncements. There are months of course-correction adjustments ahead, for the contestants lucky enough to survive the weekly cuts, and the winner will get a trio of chain restaurants with literally hours' worth of free network TV promotion.

I reviewed this series, and explained why so many reality shows pop up in March on broadcast television, on Friday's edition of NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross (which I also guest hosted). You can hear, and read, that report by clicking HERE.

But what I didn't point out on the radio was this sad statistic. This Sunday night, on the four broadcast networks, there is a total of 15 hours of programming. Here's the rundown:

Two of those hours are newsmagazines: 60 Minutes on CBS and Dateline NBC.

Three of those hours are animated comedies (Fox's Sunday lineup of The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.)

Seven of those hours are unscripted reality shows of one sort of another: America's Funniest Home Videos and the premiere of the horrible Secret Millionaire on ABC; The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss on CBS, and the new America's Next Great Restaurant and the two-hour season premiere of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC.

That leaves, on the most-viewed TV night of the week, only three hours of scripted programs featuring flesh-and-blood actors: new episodes of Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters on ABC, and of CSI: Miami on CBS. And that's it.

If you're an actor or actress in Hollywood, you should be very concerned and afraid.

If you're a lover of quality television, you should be, too...




Rich said:

Reality shows are actually very compelling and worth exploring but sadly there are three types of "reality" type shows.

#1- things where we watch people forced to work as a team or live together while trying to win a prize. #2- Documentary (How To) shows where people follow the journey of someone trying to enter a profession or accomplish a life challenge ("Man vs. Wild", "Dirty Jobs" or "Ice Road Truckers"). #3- Educational/Investigative shows where you follow people who are already "on the path" for a specific skill or profession and you get to tag along (such as "Ghost Hunters" or "Pawn Stars").

#'s 2 & 3 allow you to walk away having gained knowledge or appreciation for the road less traveled by.

#1- Sadly has replaced the gladiatorial games of Rome, where: "D" grade celebs debase themselves or each other for the amusement of an equally morally bankrupt mob. Or total nobodies are spotlighted in the hopes their quirkiness, raw edges, or awkward attitudes repulse or fascinated so you can't look away. This includes anyone from Richard Hatch ("Survivor" 1), Puck ("Real World 3"), and Omarosa ("The Apprentice" #1).

You can only plow a field once or twice - before figure out how to "fake it," and it doesn't help that producers are so intent on creating "Drama" that they intentionally contrive conflicts. The cast of the "Jersey Shore" is a warning...of how low TV has sunk -- and of worse things to come.

Comment posted on March 5, 2011 7:05 PM
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