Strategy Consultation: A warning to Top Chef from Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The summer of 1999 unleashed upon us one of the most powerful forces in the American pop culture pantheon. (No, not Livin’ La Vida Loca.) It was a juggernaut big enough to catapult the affable though skill set-less Regis Philbin to “Nation Treasure” status, along with monochromatic ties (cf. my homecoming outfit that year). The force was Millionaire (née Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?) and the story of its downfall must reach the ears of Bravo executives toute suite.
Millionaires was the same in every country—the lights, the music, the Indian slumdogs who rise from poverty to compete and show their love via phone-a-friend. Even in the cultural anomaly of America, the formula worked. But in traditional American fashion, ABC destroyed Millionaire by giving us too much of it (cf. Ponderosa restaurants). The slippery slope moved from celebrity Millionaire, to Olympic Millionaire to couples Millionaire, to Muppet® Millionaire (I wish!) and soon no one wanted to watch unknowns compete when the likes of Annie Potts or Kristi Yamaguchi were sweating out the 50:50’s cruel options. (I don’t care what they say, it’s not random,folks.) And lo, Millionaire did die. Not even Meredith Vieira and all her charms could revive the one-time superpower. (cf. Greek economy, Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Wendy’s Greek Pita.)
And so, I am unable to enjoy the joshing and reminiscing of Padma and Tom on Top Chaf All-Stars—or for that matter, the return of Top Chef Masters. How could regular contests compete with Carla and Fabio on the same team? Surely Andy and the rest of the Bravo team have seen the failings of the food pyramid—when left to our own devices we will gorge ourselves on the favorites! Much like seventh grade, I have no interest in meeting new kids while the option exists of knowing the cool kids better. Most alarmingly, Top Chef Masters has eliminated Kelly Choi and her perma-smile/scowl—engineering a program that I will watch without complaining! Bravo needs to recognize that they’re cooking up a delicious recipe for disaster. (Ask the audience.)