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NBC Serves up The Chopping Block

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Last night, to much fanfare and few viewers, NBC premiered its latest reality series, The Chopping Block.  Most easily described as a mix of the British show Last Restaurant Standing and Hell's Kitchen, the show introduced U.S. audiences to chef Marco Pierre White, whom NBC put front and center on the show's advertising campaign.

The promos for the show attempted to depict White as a harsh, abrasive man, someone loud and bombastic, an individual even more over the top than Gordon Ramsay.  In fact, during the opening of the show, The Chopping Block touted the fact that not only has Ramsay trained with White, but that White hosted the British version of Hell's Kitchen, which Ramsay has done to great success here in the U.S.  I thought White was great last night, but he was certainly not the guy whom we saw in the promos.

Oh, don't get me wrong, White looks big and scary and forceful.  He certainly seemed like the kind of guy whom people listen to.  In short, he had a fantastic presence.  What he didn't do was yell, he didn't shout at anyone, he didn't make anyone cry.  I'm not saying he won't do that later, and I'm not saying he doesn't have the ability to be over the top, he just wasn't last night.  White was able to convey his desires and wishes forcefully, but quietly.  It was great and a huge change from what we're used to seeing in reality television in the States.

We're going to discuss the actual elimination for a minute, so if you don't care to have anything spoiled for you, don't read the next two paragraphs… 

It was a virtual certainty that Than and Zan (those are nicknames for two brothers, but why they were given those nicknames were never explained) were going to be going home after the Black team's restaurant performed abysmally.  And then Khoa piped up and said that he and his cousin would quit, that they didn't like the fighting amongst the team. 

Leaving aside the foolishness of the idea that Khoa didn't realize that there would be fighting, backstabbing, and general angry between the various teams put together to comprise a single kitchen, let's think about White's response.  More often than not, when someone quits in a reality series, at least early in a season, before proving themselves, the host of the series does something like calling them weak and foolish.  Think about what Trump did with Dice a few weeks ago on The Celebrity Apprentice.  White, however, didn't do that.  He sat there, looked at the camera, and explained to us that the way Khoa explained himself was almost admirable, that there was nothing to do but to give Khoa "respect."  What's more, one actually truly believed that White meant what he was saying, he wasn't just blowing smoke. 

I'd guess that by the end of the season we'll see White make someone cry, that even if he doesn't raise his voice, he'll so intimidate someone that they'll lose it.  I'm not convinced though that he'll do it by simply raising his voice, I think he'll do it with the force behind his words, by his bearing and presence, not through sheer volume. 

It really is a shame that no one watched the show last night, it came in fourth place in its time period, it may be similar to a lot of what we see, but it really appeared as though it could be a cut above.  It actually was a little more laid back than the average reality show and, forgive me for saying this, seemed, somehow, a bit more British.  White was more Raymond Blanc than Gordon Ramsay, and while I love Ramsay that was a nice thing to see.  Of course, as we're the colonies and completely uncouth, that may be why people didn't tune in.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.