Bar Rescue (Seasons 1-8) (2011-2021)

I’m not generally a fan of reality TV, but every now and then, something like “Kitchen Nightmares” or “Survivor” will grab my attention. Even though I know the whole thing is contrived, forced and manipulative, I let myself get into it, albeit in a shut-my-brain-off way… and that’s exactly how to enjoy “Bar Rescue.” Host Jon Taffer is a cross between a mob boss and a colorful mentor-type, which makes him an interesting onscreen presence, even as his act starts to get a bit tired after a while. The arc that Taffer goes through as host in most episodes is predictable and cyclical, which starts to take away from the excitement of watching a new episode because you’re pretty sure where it’s going to go (almost as if… it’s following a script??). That’s when you start putting things together in your head, like how Taffer’s onscreen tantrums at the expense of the economically desperate bar owners, which reveals the underlying current of humiliation that carries through most reality TV shows, and once you see it you can’t unsee it. As the show goes on, some episodes here and there focus on inspiring stories of everyday folks overcoming odds with a helping hand, but Taffer’s disinterest in those narratives is fairly obvious, and his subdued performance in those moments is positively somnambulant and reeking of disingenuousness. But then again, all that being said, the things I complain about in this write-up are true of the majority of reality TV shows, so I suppose my objections with the show are more about the overall genre; but I won’t lie, I enjoyed passively watching “Bar Rescue,” and I will likely continue to watch as long as it’s on, so I guess I’m part of the problem.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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