If you hate-watched Bethenny’s Apprentice show last year, HBO Max’s The Big Shot with Bethenny, I have a new show for you: Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime on Food Network, which is some real hot garbage that I will probably be tuning in to mock every week.
If you haven’t yet seen Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime, imagine the judges on Guy’s Grocery Games assembling to choose one of the business owners from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but subtract all the fun and joy, the thoughtfulness about food and ingredients, and add some inept producing.
The series (Food Network, Sundays at 9) is effectively an informercial for Chicken Guy!, Guy’s new-ish fast casual chicken restaurant that differs from all the other fast-casual chicken restaurants in that it features chicken tenders prepared by people who have no idea what they’re doing, at least on the day Guy and his producers let his contestants run his busiest restaurant despite having basically no training.
That was their first test in a competition to win—well, the exact prize is unclear.
In the opening minutes, Guy describes his search for “a brand ambassador” to “run my next franchise,” while the press release refers to winning “the keys to their very own franchise,” which is just vague enough to be suspicious. (It made me think of all those Hell’s Kitchen winners who didn’t become executive chefs.) Guy also says the winner will be “owning this Chicken Guy” and is looking for a “partner.”
That partner/ambassador/owner/runner must “know food,” and he wants to make sure they “know business, they know marketing … and most importantly, they can lead a team to victory,” Guy says. But do they also need to know they’re in a bad reality TV show?
Early in the first episode, Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime gathers a talented panel—Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl and president John Thall, chefs Anthony Hoy Fong, Antonia Lofaso, and Christian Petroni—together in a small conference room, sits Hunter Fieri next to them, and then basically ignores them.
Instead, it focuses on milking drama out of a late arrival of someone who everyone pretended they didn’t know was going to arrive late, but was still miraculously filmed arriving by the camera crew waiting outside.
That late arrival, Cayton, has all of the experience necessary for success, such as being “a food service business development manager and owner of a diner” and previously appearing as a contestant on CMT’s Redneck Island.
All the contestants appear to have been carefully selected based on a singular quality: the ability to shit-talk each other in interviews and to each others’ faces. That’s what gets the most focus in the season premiere.
Together, the contestants go to Disney Springs, where the first Chicken Guy opened at the base of Planet Hollywood, and where the show focuses more on their complaining about each other than on the actual restaurant and its food.
Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime does everything it can in the first episode to establish its cast as grating and irritable, which is quite a choice, and I’m sure really disappointing for them.
Any time there’s a little momentum, the editing jams in a bunch of interview clips of the contestants talking about each other, indicating that the priority here is drama. The second episode gives the candidates a little more depth, but by that point it’s difficult to be invested.
Their first challenge is working the line during a lunch rush at the first Chicken Guy, which is located at Disney Springs.
There’s nothing more appetizing than seven people flying in from all over the country to Central Florida and then serving food to people, unmasked, at a major tourist attraction after having basically no hands-on training. (The airline ticket shown in the opening moments was dated May 17, so post-vaccines and pre-Delta, perhaps the best time to film in Florida, where COVID is welcomed into an ocean of unmasked faces.)
And there’s nothing like celebrating the hard work of America’s generally underpaid, overworked, mistreated food service employees like pretending a bunch of yahoos can do their job after a few minutes of watching someone else demonstrate, while actual employees try to recover from their screwups.
Guy’s other shows are so good at celebrating the people on them, whether that’s the owners and chefs of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives restaurants or the chefs who appear on Guy’s Grocery Games. And more importantly, for television’s sake, those shows are fun while still taking business and cooking and competition seriously.
That’s a balance Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime has not yet found, even when Guy is hanging around.
The second episode’s challenge asks the contestants to create a new milkshake and sauce, which is a decent challenge. Even better, they each get one-on-one time with Maneet Chauhan, who is great as always with strong feedback and encouragement.
But the show even botches this scene, which is filmed in a chaotic way, with unnecessary close-ups and zooming in and out and camera whips, which the editing makes that even more dizzying.
When the contestants present their work, it’s amazing television, because there are several full-blown trainwrecks. One contestant, Chase, explodes confetti as part of his presentation, and does so right over all the milkshakes and sauce he’s prepared. Meanwhile, Phil turns himself into a Chicken-Hulk or something.
During the competition, the contestants are scored with money instead of points, or maybe they’re getting actual money; it’s not clear, nor is it clear why that money is awarded in pairs instead of individually: $1,000 to the two who did the best, $500 to the next-best, and $250 to the weakest. The second challenge awards different amounts. Why? Who knows.
Will the person with the most money at the end get the franchise? “How much money you have can make a difference later,” Guy says, perhaps because they are making this up as they go.
I like the idea of not eliminating one person after every episode, like Tough As Nails does, but I will not compare the two shows, because Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime does not celebrate its contestants or their work in the same way.
Because it has a decent concept and premise, and a host who usually knows how to make good television, this strikes me as the kind of show that really went sideways in post-production, perhaps as the result of obnoxious network notes.
Or maybe it was just ineptly produced, because there’s a lot that’s just so obviously bad. At the end of the first episode, there establishing shots of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando and then an overhead shot of Universal Studios’ Citywalk, which is the direct competitor of Disney Springs, where Chicken Guy! is located. So, you know, exactly the wrong location for the restaurant the show is advertising.
Meanwhile, there’s so much ADR, which to me is a signal that something went wrong, and on top of that, the dubbing is comically bad.
To illustrate Doug leaving, we see executive producer Vivian Sorenson knocking on a door, and ADR of her saying, in stilted monotone, “Doug. Everyone. Is waiting for you. The next challenge. Is about to start.” Yes, that’s how reality TV producing works, just like that. (Doug left for unspecified family reasons, and I hope everything is okay, but also think leaving makes him the big winner.)
Guy Fieri said in a press release that Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime says will give Chelsea, Phil, Eboni, Chase, Kevin, or Cayton “a life-changing opportunity,” but the show itself is, at its best, a missed opportunity.
Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime
Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy job interview is a wreck of a reality TV show that’s missing what makes his other shows great. D+
What works for me:
- The general concept
- The absurdity of it all
What could be better:
- More fun and playfulness
- Less ADR and fewer shit-talking confessional interviews
- The overall execution and attention to detail