Sunday, September 09, 2007

Must-flee TV

With the new television season about to begin, this is a perfect time to look at the programming additions that are sure to be a hit with restaurateurs, given some of the recent developments in their business. Here are our picks from the new fall line-up.

Catch that Alien! Thwarted from forcing restaurants and other employers to fire immigrants who may be using a bogus Social Security number, the federal government came up with this new reality show. Employers are awarded points for the illegal immigrants they turn over to the authorities, with the top vigilante bagging a free trip to Mexico. Participants get 50 credits for the deportation of an immigrant employee who’s been with them for at least five years, 30 credits for a head of household, and 20 for someone who’s sure to face abject poverty back home. Any score over 100 entitles the contestant to a free weekend at Lou Dobbs’ home. But, true to the program that a San Francisco court thwarted some 10 days ago, employers who refuse to play are fined $10,000 for each illegally residing employee they fail to bust. There was a movement to call the program the No Match Game, after the letters that would have been sent to employees with a directive to fire staffers with bogus Social Security information. But that title is being used for a new game show where participants point out where the country has veered from its heritage.

Ken Burns’ Celebrity Restaurateur A 30,000-episode series on the restaurant business’ irresistible attraction for film, television and recording stars. Then again, the latest convert, Nick Lachey, doesn’t exactly fit any of those classifications. Neither does his partner, Nicky Hilton, whose claim to fame is being the younger sister of Paris Hilton. Whose achievements, in turn, include being born into wealth and starring in an online sex video. Lachey, in case you don’t regularly visit, BANG or other rivals to, is the ex-husband of Jessica Simpson, the legendary successor to such songstresses as Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. The restaurant, to open in Las Vegas’ Luxor casino-hotel, will be an American-style place called Company American Bistro, according to US magazine. With the debut, Lachey would join a long, long list of celebrities who have given the industry a try, from Justin Timberlake to Minnie Pearl, Ron Wood, Johnny Carson, Mickey Rooney and Muhammed Ali. Each installment of this new PBS blockbuster will open with a shot of James Dean’s crushed Spider sports car, to symbolize the success of most ventures to date.

The Drive-thru Volleys Fed up with the web-fueled prank of hurling drinks and other missiles at drive-thru window staffers, restaurant chains fight back in this new program, whose episodes will also be posted regularly on YouTube. Staffers will be provided with tennis racquets to volley the drinks back at pranksters in their cars, with a video camera recording it all for the yucks of web surfers with far, far too much time on their hands. The defense is a reaction to the craze that has cited in this space before, called Fire in the Hole. It’s presently the height of hilarity for drive-thru customers to throw the contents of an open drink through the window to douse the employee on the other side, while someone else in the car videos the escapade on a cell phone for posting on the internet. The customers yell, “Fire in the hole!” and speed away with the rest of their order. Recent news reports suggest that some of the Einsteins who have embraced the prank are going farther afield in what they throw. Last week, for example, a snake was reportedly thrown through the window of a Taco Bell in Mississippi, though some stories quoted the unit’s manager as saying the snake entered the restaurant through other means. The incident drew the attention of writer Dave Barry, blogger Ariana Huffington and late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien. No wonder that it’ll be airing on O’Brien’s network, NBC.

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