For those keeping score: We can clone a sheep, we can't clone a human, and Spike TV can definitely clone a television show. The network has taken the restaurant renovation show Kitchen Nightmares and copied it for troubled bars in Bar Rescue, from brash-but-knowledgable expert to near-hopeless owners and employees.

Bar Rescue features Jon Taffer, the expert with over 30 years of experience in fixing up bars and making them profitable. Each episode, the owners of a failing bar request his help, and the same things happen almost every episode. Taffer (or a friend) go in incognito to the bar to see how the service, food, and drinks are. He fills the bar with tons of customers, to see how the staff and management work under pressure. He brings in experts (usually a chef, a bartender, and a service coordinator) to work with the staff on proper and improved customer service. He packs the bar for a "stress test," seeing how well they perform under tough conditions. He plans and executes a renovation of the bar, from simple decor to new equipment (supplied, I suspect, by the show's sponsors) to sometimes changing the identity of the bar. A relaunch happens, testing how well the revamped bar does. And there's a brief report, from days to months later, on how the bar is doing.

Then there's the yelling and manipulation. If Taffer were an actor, he's be a great Brooklyn tough guy: He's loud, passionate, and profanity-filled as he screams about the mistakes made and problems found in the bar. (Basically, Gordon Ramsay without the British accent.) At the same time, Bar Rescue uses pretty standard reality tv trickery to play with our emotions: dramatic music to tell us how to feel, cuts to people talking to the camera in the middle of conversations, and plenty of editing to make the bad employees look even worse.

But there's entertainment to be found here as well. Brash as Taffer is, he certainly knows his way around a bar -- and the bars that take his advice seem to do well in the long run. (I think the toughest part of the show must be finding bars that are having massive financial problems, yet are run by people who ask for help but fight the changes and advice every step of the way.) It's somewhat fun to see how the bars improve, often turning things around in the space of less than a week. And there's plenty of drama that happens between Tafferty and anyone he considers incompetent.

I might like Bar Rescue more if it had come first (and definitely if it had fewer commercials), but it's still a somewhat enjoyable guilty pleasure. Where else can you see a bar virtually indistinguishable from its attached strip club get turned around, or a pirate bar go corporate?

Overall grade: C+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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