Reality tv isn’t the most edifying entertainment offering and often isn’t even very “real” but love it or hate it, it occupies a large swath of American pop culture these days. There are plenty of garbage offerings in the reality tv landscape but one show stands out as not only highly entertaining but also appealing to the “flyover America” so many shows pretend don’t exist.
Bar Rescue on the Paramount Network sees businessman and self-proclaimed “bar expert” Jon Taffer travel to failing bars around the country and work to turn them around in a matter of days. Taffer has run some of the most successful bars in the country. He uses his over 30 years of experience in branding and bar service to try to turn flailing owners into successful entrepreneurs.
Naturally it doesn’t happen without a lot of drama, tension and a few blowouts..and of course there are always stubborn owners or employees to revel in. There was the owner who thought it was funny to call her female bartenders derogatory and sexually explicit names in front of the customers and the male owner who hit on his female customers so much women stopped coming into the bar altogether. One owner had turned to goldfish racing in the middle of his bar to help boost profits. There are the bars in shambles because of feuding families and the bars losing revenue because of poorly trained and/or entitled staff. One woman refused to fire the bartender Taffer exposed as stealing thousands out of the till because the owner didn’t want to seem “mean”.
There are moldy walk-in freezers, roach infestations and chronic over-pours; saucy staff, drunk owners and outdated themes. There are owners who are really performers and bought a bar just so they would have a guaranteed stage and there are owners who are really drunks and bought a bar just have a place to drink. The spectrum is wide but the misery is entrancing.
But what makes Taffer’s show more engaging than other shows is his drive to genuinely lift those stubborn or put-upon owners out of their misery and create a lasting success. Unlike shows about aspiring designers or love matches, bar owners are largely the working class. They’re middle-class Americans with families. Each bar is an accessible representation of the typical American dream – find something you enjoy doing, work hard at it, build it up to hand it off to your children or grandchildren one day. N matter how ornery the owner it is hard not root for their turnaround.
Taffer ‘s tactics are tailor-made for reality television. The New York native is brash, brute and loud. He’s not afraid to shout and scream and shame people for their laziness, poor attitudes or arrogance. However, it isn’t just for show. On the program Taffer says he uses anger to stir up the passions of owners and employees who have given up on their business and have become numb to the problems around them.
“I don’t embrace excuses,” Taffer often says. His confrontational style might seem sensational but it frequently does the trick. It helps that the author and motivational speaker knows what he’s talking about and has the business record to back it up. Taffer’s style is also highly attractive because it knows no boundaries – man, woman, Black, White, Asian, old, young, rich, poor, ghetto or suburban – Taffer treats everyone the same. No kid gloves. No politics. No apologies. Once he has the attention of the offending parties its clear Taffer is on their side.
With his team of experts the popular motivational speaker offers a crash course in training, branding and management. Each episode ends with a grand reveal and reopening. The occasional owner hates the redesign and walks away from the help, but more often than not they are grateful and end up looking to Taffer as a positive force for change. One of the show’s most successful rescues is Spirits on Bourbon bar in New Orleans which started out as a dive bar weeks away from closing. It is now one of the most popular bars on Bourbon street, making millions in profits.
What sets Taffer’s rescue show apart is his work ethic and belief in the principles of hard work, personal responsibility and community. A bar is a place where people meet to commune and commiserate. It welcomes people from all walks of life to share in the same experience for a brief moment. When one of his projects is reopened the people who complained about and derided the establishment are the very people who come back to celebrate and congratulate.
Its a true redemption story with just enough drama to make it advertiser-worthy.
Taffer is the Mike Rowe of “rescue” television. It is obvious he comes from and reveres the working class and believes they are the fuel in the economic engine of America. His show – for all the tv bells and whistles – reflects the admiration he has for the American worker and the American dream.
Taffer’s management style and conflict resolution techniques are so popular he is actually expanding his show’s brand. Marriage Rescue will see the consultant work to repair marriages in shambles…and before you roll your eyes at that go watch an episode of Bar Rescue. It just might be crazy enough to work!
The reality tv landscape is crowded and dirty, but Bar Rescue stands apart as an ode to the American working class.