Thursday, 9 January 2014

Elegantology, KL - Not Really Rising, Not With Much Style

The only thing rising as I write this is my sense of frustration and bewilderment.



"Reality Bites: Rise Above with Style", an Asian Food Channel original production, is an "Odd Couple"-type programme following the exploits of chefs Sherson Lian and Johnny Fua as they establish their new restaurant / bar / fashion boutique Elegantology at Publika, Solaris Dutamas, KL.  Now, I have been trying to follow this unadulterated crock of a reality show.  I have been trying very hard.  What irks me is that it takes us, the viewers, as complete idiots.


Now what's wrong with this show?  Where do I start...I like lists.  So here's a list:

1.  The Show is an Ad for Martell - Do you remember Salem Holidays back in the 1980s?  When I was six, I tried booking a Salem Holiday as a present for my parents.  Little did I know, poor innocent little me, that it was merely a front for a cigarette company.

Well, the Salem Holidays for the 2010s, is Martell.  Yes, you read right, Martell, or as Sherson the French language purist would say, MAHR-TELL.  The product placement is so blatant that it would make Brosnan-era James Bond blush.  Let's see the logos side by side:

Those little golden doves may be brothers from another mother, they look so similar.  And the last time I checked, there was no "M" in "Johnny", "Sherson" or "Elegantology". But spelling was never my forte, so please let me know if I am mistaken in this.

The show, if you believe the voiceover man on the Asian Food Channel, is brought to you by Elegantology.  Bollocks!  When was the last time a restaurant sponsored a reality show about ITSELF?  (actually, when was the last time a standalone restaurant sponsored anything on TV?)  More than likely, the producers couldn't resist the chance to shove the MAHR-TELL, err, I mean, the Elegantology, logo in your face.  Not a single episode has passed without someone mentioning how to pair MAHR-TELL's incomparable cognacs with food, or how to use them in cocktails.  Last night, I was treated to the knowledge that MAHR-TELL is launching a new cognac in a gaudy gold bottle with a ridiculous name, Château de Cantaloupe or something similarly fruity.  Presumably, it will appeal to to us gaudy gold-loving Asians who have a taste for rockmelons.  For heaven's sake.  

Now I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure there are laws in various countries in the region which ban alcohol advertising on television or have very strict restrictions on them (for example, Elegantology's home country of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, etc.)  Bravo, Martell, on discovering such a brilliant loophole.  Or should I say, VIVE MAHR-TELL!

In short, I reckon "Reality Bites" is the most obvious front for alcohol advertising since Great Dinners of the World took us to the wonderful properties of The Glenlivet, G H Mumm Champagne, MAHR-TELL's Château de Cantaloupe and Chivas Regal.  Not coincidentally, that programme also featured our favourite product spruikers, Chefs Johnny and Sherson.  Also not coincidentally, all of those alcohol brands belong to the good folks at Pernod Ricard S.A.

2.  The Drama on the Show is as Artificial as Heidi Montag's, well, Everything!

Here is a sample of the genius dialogue that I was put through on last night's episode, when Johnny and Sherson are discussing how many bloggers they want to invite for a comped blogger tasting (slightly paraphrased as I couldn't bear the agony of watching a re-run):

JOHNNY: I want 10 bloggers.

SHERSON: No, I want 15, man.  The more bloggers we have, the more publicity we get.

JOHNNY: Yeah, but what if they write bad stuff?

SHERSON: ???  I want 15.

JOHNNY: If you want 15 bloggers, Sherson, maybe you should quit Elegantology.

SHERSON: ??? Bro, that is just not funny man.

Maybe not, but this show sure is.

3.  Johnny Fua, a Fatally Flawed Villain

Johnny has clearly been briefed to play the role of the "heel", the antagonist to the blue (-green-grey)-eyed boy Sherson.  This involves being lazy, surly, unco-operative and just generally acting like a dick.  If this schtick was authentic, which it clearly isn't, he would be a prime candidate for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares or a stint with a counsellor, not his own reality show.  I understand that he also runs a successful modern European restaurant called Tanzini when he is not pretending to be Malaysian superhero Tidak-apa-man, proving once again the artificiality of his screen routine.

On a completely irrelevant point, don't you think he also looks like the orange-haired Japanese guy in Fist of Fury, whom I will always remember as "The Lion" (albeit a more rotund version).  You know, the guy who Bruce Lee forced to eat the paper about a quarter of the way in.  Here's chef Johnny on the left, and on the right, Peter Chan Lung, the actor who played the Japanese guy.


4.  People on the Show Act Really Dumb

Johnny receives a call from someone wanting to book out the restaurant for the evening for 60 pax. So what does Johnny do, Johnny the enthusiastic, driven, co-executive chef who wants only the best for his fashionable new restaurant?  He writes it on a post-it note and slaps it onto a lamp.  When Sherson asks him if he took the call, he clams up and denies all knowledge, which is a great way to build your working relationship with your co-executive chef.

Last night, the boys had Christophe, a brand ambassador for MAHR-TELL, hosting the abovementioned bloggers' dinner and sharing food-pairing tips with MAHR-TELL's exquisite elixirs.  And as hosts do, he sits down, not at the head, but on a seat at one corner of a long table seating 15 guests, and talks in the most sotto of possible voces.  Because when you are trying to suck up to a bunch of entitled freeloaders such as bloggers, this is how you get the entire table involved in the conversation and stop people from feeling left out (a great entertaining tip for you aspiring dinner party hosts out there).  

Now, a blogger at the other end of the table was so obviously upset at missing Christophe's ingenious MAHR-TELL cognac-matching tips, that he literally packed up his toys and ran away.  Now that blogger was admittedly acting like a spoilt little tosser, but Christophe really should have known better.  Or maybe he's been hanging around TV Johnny too much.

5.  A Wasted Opportunity

Most of all, I detest this show because it represents a massive wasted opportunity.  It may well be the first English language reality show made in Asia about an Asian restaurant.  It had the chance to be good.  Reality TV can be good, despite the Kardashians and dancing shows doing their best to ruin the genre.  But it needs to be real.  The blatant scripting, product placement, general douchebaggery, all combine to make this show about as appetising as a steaming turd served on a silver platter.

And I detest it because the boys were given a gilt-edged publicity opportunity and squandered it to pander to the lowest common denominator.  The result?  Cheap, gimmicky, faux-reality rubbish.  A lot of other hard-working souls in the industry would have killed for the same opportunity, and not wasted it yukking it up for the camera like these two.

So, in summary, Johnny, Sherson, MAHR-TELL, give yourselves an uppercut for making a balls-up of what could have been compelling food television.

Oh, one last thing: I also prefer Hennessy...

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