TLC’s latest foray into the reality TV world — known as Cake Boss — sounds like it should be a cooking show focused on baking and sugary confections and anything coveredin frosting. Yum! And it is — sort of. But don’t expect to find a recipe in the show — at least not in the sneak preview pilot, which aired last night. Aww, not so sweet.
No, TV watchers, Boss is less cooking show, more reality show about a a big Italian family in New Jersey owns a big bakery called Carlo’s. The Boss part of the title refers to Buddy Valastro (pictured), who’s in charge of the bakery and is the show’s “star.”
Early on in this first episode, the lovable but slightly dim-seeming Buddy is swamped with a busy week when — can you believe it! — he gets a call from Brides magazine. For a shoot this coming Friday, they need a multi-tiered wedding cake with excruciating detail. He goes into overdrive. Then! His two sisters — Mary and Grace, who manage the retail part of the bakery together — trick him into making his own birthday cake in the shape of a boat. The bakery runs out of sugar in the midst of all this, and Buddy flies off the handle. For, really, no good reason. And, naturally, the day before the cake is due to the Brides photo shoot, the editor — who is, creepily enough, named Maria McBride — calls to say she needs to additional cake options. See the staff go into continued overdrive! They’ve gotta make dozens of icing flowers in one day!
The problem — for us viewers, at least — is that there really are no problems. The bakery actually seems to run like a well-oiled machine. Which is boring. The cakes get done, beautifully. They get delivered, on time. Everything that does kind of transpire — the whole we’ve-got-no-sugar thing and a fracas with sister Mary not providing customer service — seem so contrived and, frankly, in consequential. Honestly, I wanted one of the Brides cakes to go splattering down the stairs while in transit or there to be some sort of cake-encrusted food fight in the bakery. Maybe just a fallen souffle? Something to make me laugh, cry, or — please, please, please! — hate or love one of these characters.
The problem with Buddy as a reality TV star is that he seems to be pandering to the cameras and is out solely for self-promotional purposes. (But, then again, what else is the motivator for doing a reality show?) Buddy explodes at his cousin Little Frankie (yes, that’s his name!) after the bakery is out of sugar. But why? Couldn’t some sort of underling just go to the grocery down the street and pick some up? Later, during the fracas with his gruff sister Mary, he calls her into his office after he receives a complaint about her and tells her to read the email outloud. When would you ever do that besides on a reality show? I called Buddy “dim” above because he just isn’t quite all there. He keeps referring to “breaking my chops.” Isn’t the phrase “bust my chops”? Just sayin’. But, then again, he’s not dim enough that he’s endearing and fun to watch.
Cake Boss is not a bad show — it’s just that (pardon the really bad pun) the recipe hasn’t quite been perfected yet. But with a tweak or two — or maybe just another few episodes, so we can really see the dynamic of this whirling bakery and its cast of characters — it could be rather sweet.