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TV Post-Mortem: The Chopping Block

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On Wednesday night, NBC aired the third episode of The Chopping Block. The numbers it received were dismal. In the 18-49 demo, one that NBC tries to cater to, the show ranked fifth in its time period… fifth. That means it came in behind CBS, FOX, ABC, and The CW.

After reading that do you even need me to tell you that the network has canceled the show? Sure, the entire season has already been shot and it's possible that all the episodes have been edited and are ready to go, but we won't be seeing them. They may have given that old line about promising to air the remaining episodes in the future, but I don't know why they would. Maybe they'll just throw it up on NBC.com and Hulu; that'll sort of count as "airing" them, right?

Even though last week I complained mightily about the quality – or lack thereof – of the show, I'm sorry to see it disappear. See, I was the person watching the show. I'm going to end up standing by what I said about the show last week — the potential for the show was really high, but it was never going to hit its full potential. Never.

That failure is something I have a difficult time understanding. It was edited in a manner which created a highly disorienting experience. One was never quite sure what the rules of each challenge were, what the chefs were supposed to accomplish, and how they were supposed to get from point A to point B. I've railed against overuse of narrative voiceover in the past, but The Chopping Block was in desperate need of someone to smooth the whole thing out. White could have done it; he would have been great at it I think, but the series eschewed any such option. So, what we saw were episodes as disorganized as the restaurants appeared to be.

I'm not suggesting that the show would have been a success had it been more understandable – the numbers were very low even in its first outing – but at least then it would have had a shot. There are, it should be noted, precedents for shows in the vein of The Chopping Block succeeding. On the other side of the Atlantic there's Last Restaurant Standing (the second season is currently airing on BBC America) and over here there's Hell's Kitchen (season five currently airing on FOX). Both of those shows use narrators to help tie things together and both make the challenges and tasks clear.

NBC is having problems all over with their ratings right now, so why they wouldn't try to put their best foot forward with every series they launch is truly perplexing. I find myself exceedingly curious as to the behind-the-scenes machinations that took place here. Who decided to not make it clear to the audience what was taking place? Why were these incredibly odd, seemingly lackluster chefs and partner chosen? Let's face it, having chefs ducking the responsibility of being in charge of the kitchen and not knowing how to run the line doesn't speak well of the show.

I know, we'll never get the answers I want; I shouldn't hope that they'll ever be forthcoming, but I am curious. I do want to know. These sorts of questions eat at me. At least I'm not a cat, then I'd be in real trouble.

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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.