Quality Over Quantity in TV

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Gordon Ramsay-Quality Food, Sure. Is It Quality TV?

Every once in a while I allow myself to get drawn into a show I would never usually try. The availability of these shows on sites like Hulu and Fancast has given me the option of sampling these alternate programs. Insomnia is a catalyst of sorts, but once i get going on a reality show and there is a whole season accessible, I am hooked.

It started with Kitchen Nightmares which began as a BBC show. Fox picked it up with a new American series. It is really quite compelling in the way it shows the average American under foibles-microscope. That, in general, is what works best when it comes o reality shows. Find the knucklehead and make him see the error of his ways, then broadcast that spontaneous psychotherapy to the millions that identify with it. Gold.

Ramsay’s virtue is that he is a Michelin three-star chef with about a dozen successful restaurants around the world. He is known across the board as a stickler for detail and will bust skulls when necessary. He can take biggest ego down a notch for sure and all to find the best in everyone. You tune into this show for the fights and humiliation but you also get an even bigger helping of positive energy and heart.

His other Fox Series is the approprately named Hell’s Kitchen. Though it isn’t actually filmed in the West-side Manhattan neighborhood as it’s monicker leads on, this show takes place in dueling kitchens with the pressure growing as subsequent episodes build. Here we have a more competitive reality show format than the other, but what stays consistant is Chef Ramsay’s cooking standards. It would be easy to label him as a blustering bully. In reality what ultimately comes accross is a new respect for what amazing efforts go into the restaurants we mostly take for granted.

Both of these shows are worth catching if not during the original broadcast then as you like from on Tivo or online. I sat in front of a tiny computer screen and found both to be compelling. Guilty pleasures are ok even ones produced on a Fox-affiliated network.


November 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

A Haven For Quality Writing

At cable’s inception, there was CNN for news, ESPN for sports, HBO for Movies and Cinemax for movies with boobs in it. That was pretty much the deal. Time and channel expansion have changed that.

For a time it seemed like the expansion to 400 channels would make the world of cable even less appealing and the quality would be thinly spread. It sure was throughout most of the 90’s.  For a show to have realistic dialogue and action, like the Soprano’s, it was necessary to put it on a pay channel. The direct result of that trend was to open up a breeding ground where the best writers and show-runners could tell great stories over a longer arc than maybe they could in a film.

Also, the tendency of networks such as HBO and more recently Showtime, is to have a more hands-off approach with producers than a network gernerally would. When you don’t have advertisers to answer to, the network executive’s first thought becomes “Is this show going to entertain and absorb an audience?,” rather than “Is this show going to sell Brawny’s absorbant paper towels?”

For quality examples of this freedom, try these programs.

Old School
-The Larry Sanders Show
-The Sopranos

New School
-The Wire

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments