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.
As someone who has returned to school (one night class left to go!), I found this show really interesting.
I like that they covered the money issue. Ben worked all night before a huge test and had to cram the morning of. And he got an A-.
I see the gamut of how people in school deal with money. One woman I took a class with is living off student loans and just doesn't seem to really like school or even have a goal for her education. I think of her every time I see students living in their cars (the number of homeless students is increasing).
As for the cooking, I like seeing that it is a struggle for everyone to learn to tournet a vegetable. I also appreciate the obvious emotional growth with some of the students.
As for low key - Yay!
Disappointed to hear that CC is going the way of fewer cooking shows. Will they rename the channel? Reality Bites? Nearly Cooking Channel? Just remember - Stay Hungry. I have always loathed that tagline.
Huh, I don't find it boring at all. I'm really enjoying it. I could actually do with even MORE of the cooking school stuff and less of the individual character stories, since the scenes filmed at the school are the most interesting to me. That being said, I don't particularly mind the character back stories.
I also was surprised that there wasn't any discussion here about it, but I realized I was ok with that, considering how unbearable the Top Chef threads have become.
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.
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.
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.