Monday, January 27, 2014

Esquire TV

There’s been little buzz about Esquire’s new endevor, television. Ivy-Style ran a post about it, but it was merely a +1 for Ben Silver. It’s a men’s lifestyle/living magazine. How could it not be relevant?

Anyway, I decided to take some time to watch some uninspired television and let you what I think.

First up: White-Collar Brawlers. The premise of the show is to get two office mates who don’t like each other particularly much, train them for two months and then have ‘em beat the snot out of each other. 

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You get a good primer of current #Americanofficewear. The guy on the left is going to be fighting the guy on the right. You can already tell where this is headed. Where is the suspense?

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#americanofficewear continues. It’s like “The Office” but they’re not wearing it as a mirror of reality. 

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Gym-trainer-guy is skeptical of the chubby asian man and is regretting to get involved in this TV show. When gym-trainer-guy asks the chubby asian man why he is getting in the fight, the man, on the spot, replies that he is trying to get fit and prove to his wife that he can take care of himself... and her... when they’re at the bar. The TV producers run with that theme and make it the subject of the episode.

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 Chubby asian man’s wife.

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Jeff Gordon’s old Dupont car weighs in. He has little insight. He could be fed lines from the producer. I can’t tell because the lines are wish-washy and flaccid. 

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Allegedly fit man has run a marathon. They don’t tell us his time. Darn. I was hoping for an ego inflation. Cool sunglasses, right?

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Chubby asian man pep talk. Do it for your wife, chubby asian man! You can do it!

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The fight is about to start! They have a tuxedoed announcer and rustic chairs filling an old manufacturing room. Friends and family are there. Chubby asian man’s wife looks anxious. 

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Chubby asian man has lost weight and is ready to take on Donkey Teeth. 

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This isn’t going well for our hero.

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Donkey Teeth wins. 

It’s ok though, chubby asian man has gotten more fit and has self-respect. Self-worth comes from inside, the show implies, as everyone cheers for the chubby asian man as well as Donkey Teeth, validating their existence. The irony punches you in the face much harder than either of these guys ever could.  

Either way, this show is kind of boring. Two men who don’t know how to box are pitted against one another, story lines are created, and then they box ungracefully and on unequal levels. If I wanted to watch bad boxing, I’d go get drunk with my volatile friends.

Next show: special about the best bars in America.

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Two comedians, one possibly of Polack descent, the other likely of Italian, get drunk, posit some fed lines to the camera, and don’t live up to their job description. 

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In one scene, the Italian comedian approaches two women by asking if they frequent there often. The camera pauses as the Polack shakes his head at his friend’s ineptitude, building a climax to see if the Italian will get shut down. He doesn’t. Why doesn’t he? Why can’t there be a crest, fall, and crescendo like any good flick? Why is there not heartbreak here, only to be mended at another bar? Or even just a storyline about how cool brodom can be (a la Superbad or any military flick)?

“Do you guys come here often?”

It just rolls right off the tongue.

I’ll have to try it next time. I bet it works.

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They count their drinks like proper frat dudes. Pro. We wonder why we have a binge drinking problem.

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The dudes spend like anywhere from $200-$500 per night on drinks. I hope Esquire foots the bill. The beers pictured are only like $5, which isn’t bad.

This show is set up like a History Channel or TLC special and performs like one.

Next show: Alternate Route feat. Matt Hranek of The William Brown Project. 

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The episode I watched was the one were Matt goes to Charleston and does stuff.

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They show us his hotel room. It’s either a Hampton or a fancy one downtown. Can you tell?*

*It’s a fancy one downtown.

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Matt goes to a restaurant and eats food like he knows exactly what he’s looking for. He’s an expert.

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He drives a nice car around for the weekend. They tell us, “Matt is cool. He drives this car.” Hranek explains why he likes the car so much because he knows a lot about cars as well, apparently.

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He visits legendary store, Ben Silver and is shown around by ‘also-legend’, Bob Prenner.

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Hranek proclaims to the audience that he has found his style sweet spot. He knows. 

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Prenner discusses his shop with Hranek and shows him their product, which is all dope. Hranek tells Prenner that he has been thinking about brass buttons on his grey jacket. Prenner tells Hranek to stop being daft while avoiding telling the camera that Hranek’s idea is bad and will result in a poor looking jacket.

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Hranek then goes to a flea market and tells us how to shop for deals, using the phrase “I” a lot when describing how to do things. 

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He also goes digging for clams. He lets the pros take care of this one.

This show appears to be a “No Reservations” knock-off but lacks severely. Where Bourdain sold his show through a balance of knowledge and self-deprecation, this show is stuck in a weird sort of self-aggrandizement. In “No Reservations”, the host frames the show and not the other way around. If were grabbing a formula show (that being “No Reservations”), you should at least complete all the variables appropriately. G. Bruce Boyer, whose’s Ivy-Style response is a bit more vicious than my review, nails it on the head.

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Next show: Risky Listings, a show about restaurant real estate in NYC.

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This show is petty, silly, a little forced, but so goddamn brilliant. It’s the quintessential reality show, only the reality occurs at work and not in a hot tub. Each character is looking out for numero uno, as Mr. Bossman herds them like cats.

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Because I am generally interesting in clothing and how people wear it, it was interesting to see how these guys picked up one certain things. They’ll pick up on some stuff that has been circulating what we would call #menswear and then they’ll completely miss certain stuff, have a void, an fill it with old frat wear or european club wear. 

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This show has absurd premises, ridiculous buyers (see above), and lots of character infighting. There are a couple of decisions where you can see the writing on the wall. Reality is coming like a freight train and it looks so good. This is the best show on Esquire TV that I had the opportunity to watch.


Next show: How I rock It. 

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This show does anything but. Baron Davis, the host, awkwardly introduces each awkward guest, who have screen time devoted without the presence of Davis or any competent host to mitigate the unseemliness. 

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Even if Davis were there, the cursory overview of each person or people hardly breaks down any sort of glass that exists between the viewer and the guest.

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Most telling is the segment of Shimon and  Ariel Ovadia. While brilliant menswear designers, the Ovadia brothers don’t seem to be fit for the camera. The segment painfully bumbles along as the brothers provide awkward answers to sterile questions, using a tone not unlike a tone some one would use when their doctor asks them about sex, cigarettes, or alcohol. The segment is bizarrely rescued by actor Vincent Piazza, who, accustomed to the camera, warms the scene with just a few slick lines. I don’t know how he does it, it’s not like it even has any authenticity to it, it just flows. 

The producer foists the responsibility of carrying the segment to the subjects, which not all are capable of doing. The Ovadia brothers were probably put on earth to design men's clothing, not cater to a TV audience.

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This is probably where the show fails: Baron Davis is the “host” but the real hosts are the subject of each segment. Some are accustomed to being followed around by a camera and are brilliant in their own narcissism (see above), which this show lauds. Others, not so much, and the show flounders despite having a Sesame Street style clip rotation. 

Esquire TV has growing pains, that’s for sure. It has some bright spots and some new TV shows that I didn’t have time to get to (disclosure: I was doing the watching over Christmas Break). Like any fledgling, it’s a work in progress. Viewers are an easy telling guide of whether to drop a show or not. However, when I watch some of these shows, I notice a lot of these problems could be nipped at the bud with a bit more oversight by “head honcho” Esquire TV. 

Esquire TV appears to be largely letting producers do what they want. However, for a network to be brilliant, I’m pretty sure Esquire TV has to (a) only get good producers or (b) explicitly structure a network frame so that each show furthers the network’s vision, tell the producers what you want, and then ensure that the man behind the camera does what you want. Don’t dabble in TV, grab it by the balls.

Of course, not being experienced in TV, I could be way off base. But that seems unlikely.