bar_rescue

When it comes to TV formats the ‘business makeover’ concept is far from a new idea. There’s Tabatha Takes Over, Kitchen Nightmares, Remodeled and many more.

But recently one show has emerged as the king of this mini genre. Its name – Bar Rescue, currently airing its third season on Spike (and in virtual non stop reruns at weekends)

The idea is simple. Each week, bar industry expert Jon Taffer arrives at a different struggling bar somewhere in America and endeavors to turn the business around through a team of experts, staff re-education, an ambitious makeover and lots of tough talk (and frequent shouting). The result is one of the most addictive reality shows currently on our screens!

Okay, on paper it all sounds very like Kitchen Nightmares, the horrible Gordon Ramsay shoutfest that airs on Friday nights on Fox. But Bar Rescue is different – mainly because it feels less contrived and a lot more real. The problem with Kitchen Nightmares (the US not the UK version) is that the whole point of the show is essentially to see Ramsay lose his temper and belittle people. But Bar Rescue feels different. Taffer shouts and screams but you feel he genuinely wants to help. And his advice is top notch.

Which brings me to another key component of Bar Rescue – the makeovers and improvements themselves. A business makeover show is only as good as the person overseeing the reinvention. It’s why I savaged an episode of Tabatha Takes Over last year when the Bravo star attempted to renovate a rundown bar of her own. Tabatha may know her stuff in the world of salons but she knows squat about the bar industry – and it showed!

Jon Taffer on the other hand lives and breathes this world and the authenticity is all over Bar Rescue. The changes Taffer proposes always make sense. And the makeovers are fantastic. We’re not just talking a quick paintjob and some new glasses (hello Tabatha) – but an entire overhaul of each business.

Best of all, Bar Rescue is beautifully produced by the team at 3 Ball, makers of The Biggest Loser. These guys do a great job at producing compelling reality shows that are ‘produced’ but not ‘over-produced’ – trust me, there’s a big difference! I’m sure that Bar Rescue is heavily edited, subtleties are dropped and storylines built up to create dramatic arcs. But the show doesn’t feel fake. And Taffer doesn’t feel like he’s coming in and putting on a performance each week.

Another reason for the success of Bar Rescue is that it’s a world everyone can identify with. We’ve all drunk in bad bars. And many people have dreamt of opening a bar of their own. Plus there are so many different types of bars out there that it will be a long time before Bar Rescue runs out of storylines. By contrast, the CW’s Remodeled, which took on struggling modeling agencies, was a bad idea from the outset. Who can identify with a run down modeling agency? And how does the show not become the same concept week after week? (No wonder the show was a one and done series)

Bar Rescue airs on Spike and I think it’s a great sign that a network that used to be known for uber macho fare like the Ultimate Fighter is now expanding its brand. I’ve always hated the cliché that guys only want tits, ass and action. Between a refreshed Spike and the new Esquire network, the TV industry is finally taking a cue from the saturated men’s magazine market and providing some real choices for guys. That’s great news!

So if you haven’t checked out Bar Rescue yet – do give it a go. But watch out… you may lose big chunks of your weekends to the constant reruns…!