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Jul 8, 2013 10:43 PM

The Freshman Class

I don't know what I expected.

On the one hand this is the sort of show that some people say they want: true stories (as far as we know) with no manufactured drama (as far as we know). On the other, and perhaps as a result, it's kind of boring.

Actually, one student has manufactured quite a bit of drama, at least in one episode dedicated mostly to her butting heads with the teachers and administration. But honestly I've known people like that--and much worse--so it didn't strike me as extreme.

I guess the reason I don't think there's much fakery going on is that all the conflict is so pedestrian. Will Ben come up with tuition? Will Tiffany break her academic probation?

The show does knock out some of the glittery expectations of culinary school (and there is a clever play between Tiffany, who has a few entitlement issues going on and acts as if her life difficulties should earn her leeway, and Ben who owns a taxidermy shop and does not complain when he's called up on his late tuition, allowing "They've got a business to run") but what is culinary school without glamour? It's school. And it's not a school we as viewers get to learn anything from.

Other than Ben and Tiffany there's a secret stripper with a heart of gold and a young veteran working through mental and physical damage from the wars. They've both been given quite a bit of screen time but have yet to make a huge impression on me. (Except that the vet has short term memory loss and he's struggling with what that will mean in the kitchen; that kind of got to me.)

Cooking Channel has promoted the heck out of this show (although the commercials are so drab they might be hard to notice) and it's strange that so little has been said about it, here or anywhere else. I couldn't even find a Wikipedia entry for it. CC surely likes it because it's super cheap to produce, and also, as I mentioned earlier, this has a lot of the attributes that reality fans say they want in a show. As far as we know it's a no-phony real deal documentary of life as a culinary student times four.

I wouldn't tell anyone to watch this because it's particularly good. What I am afraid of is that, if the show isn't successful, it can be used as an example of how what viewers say they want isn't really the case. "We tried low-key, we tried honest. No one watched."

In which case, we can either refine what we say we want in a reality show, or we can prepare ourselves for Guy's Cooking School.

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  1. I think the problem with low key reality shows is that they're simply not as easy to just bang out and actually require skilled directors, editors, etc.

    I don't have a good food example, but in the early 2000's HBO did a documentary, "Living Dolls" about child pageants that's really fascinating and engaging and completely different than TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras" (not that I even think they're so much at fault for manufactured craziness, but more so general creepiness). Even as a non-film/tv industry person, it's just obvious that there's a huge difference in how both productions are made.

    I'm sure there's a great documentary, mini-series, etc. to be made about cullinary school - but that probably means a lot more investment than is now standard in reality tv.

    6 Replies
    1. re: cresyd

      I want Tiffany to leave. Go.
      On another note: there is a fabulous documentry called Boiling Point about a group of inter city highschool cullinary students competing for top scholorships to big schools. It is amazing. I cried.

      1. re: girloftheworld

        I HAVE heard of Boiling Point, what network is it on?

        1. re: hill food

          I got it off of netflix and it was just a documentry... it would make a good series though...

          1. re: girloftheworld

            I tried when I was on WiFi at a friend's house, but it wasn't available to stream. oh well.

        2. re: girloftheworld

          It's not called Boiling Point, it's called Pressure Cooker. It's available for streaming on Netflix, I watched it a few weeks ago.

          1. re: juliejulez

            well no wonder I could never find it again ! DUH! Thank you! for undersatanding what I was meaning to say!...

      2. isn't there paint to watch dry? oh yeah that's HGTV.

        1. I'm watching. I'm intrigued. And I'm rooting for all of them to succeed.

          The difference is the lack of craziness and controversy that would have us posting our outrage all over the place.

          This is not Big Brother. (thank goodness!) It's not even Top Chef. But it's a darn interesting slice of life and reality - as reality.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chicgail

            I agree. They are all a bit annoying, but they are down-home real. That concept is entertaining.

            Having written that, CC, in their summer network press preview last month, made it quite clear that they are going to follow Big Sister FN, and go all reality, or all "I went here and ate this and cooked that, maybe' all the time. I do not like this concept. At all. People still need to learn how to cook.

            1. re: nikkihwood

              As a home cook and a CH, I have learned tons about how to be a better cook from FN and CC -- and I have wondered what it would be like to go to culinary school. I am learning things about that that I would not have known otherwise.

          2. Had never even heard about this show.

            1. I watched one episode, the one where Tiffany was butting heads with her instructors, and I basically just wanted to kick her ass once the episode was over. But otherwise, the show didn't bring about any other feelings for me, so I haven't been watching it.