Posted by: mikeduckett | February 8, 2011

Positive TV

Did you happen to watch the recent Michel Roux Jnr reality TV series, ‘Service‘?

At last a program that uses the power of television positively! The show took 8 young people who had lost their way or never had one – from public school & graduate James; “I haven’t got a definitive direction of where I want to go” to Ashley; “opportunities like this don’t happen for kids like me from my estate in Leeds” – and offered them the opportunity to compete for two apprenticeships, one as sommelier and one as maitre-d.

At first I thought was this was going to be yet another reality program that set people competing against each other simply in order to film the sad drama of how each ‘loser’ was kicked out and how they coped (hopefully badly); the winner just providing a brief contrast.

The producer’s blurb cut little ice with me: “….. this isn’t just about transforming these young people into great waiters. Good service involves discipline, care for others and self-confidence so, for Michel, learning to serve others will mean developing essential life skills.” Oh yeh? – this is TV and I’ll believe that when I see it!

How wrong I was! Michel actually meant what he said, even to the extent that the only booting off was done with genuine reluctance and with the other’s morale in mind. The show wasn’t even about Michel, although he and his staff became excellent supporting cast.

This is how this extremely powerful medium (TV) should be used.

Soon after the first dreadful ‘reality’ shows appeared (Big Brother, Castaway etc) I discussed the new genre with a client of mine who is a TV presenter. We both agreed, what a waste of a format! What a missed opportunity to do something useful with the tremendous reach of modern TV. We just didn’t agree that viewing figures could only come from watching attention seekers being manipulated and focusing on their weaknesses.

We even tried to interest production companies in the alternative, where participants were given real opportunities with the focus on how, with the right support, they can come back from failure and achieve against the odds. About achievement, not beating others. Of course no one was interested so we’ve had to wait until viewers seem to be tiring of the negative norm before a production company has stuck its neck out. Well done them and BBC 3.

Throughout the series Michel has shown genuine concern (along with much frustration) for his trainees. So much so that right at the end when he’s trying to decide who to award the single once-in-a-lifetime maitre-d apprenticeship to, in order not to have to choose between excellent candidates, he creates another apprenticeship and immediately offers another trainee a job at Le Gavroche! Can you imagine that happening on X Factor……..

I already have feelers out to talk to Michel – if anyone knows him please put him in touch!!!!!


  1. I agreed wholehertedly with Mike Duckett about Michel Roux’s programme Service. What a refreshing change to watch youngsters having such positive experiences, and to see how encouragement has such great and life changing results. Michel must be an excellent manager and wonderful to work for. I’d be interested to be able to follow the fortunes of all the youngsters, but especially of Ashley.

  2. Thanks Anne, interesting that you also warmed to Ashley. I too hope he really takes this as his springboard to greater things for himself. I was even impressed with the fact that he had applied for many jobs in the past only to get no reply – at least he kept trying!

  3. hear, hear. I loved it, to see people shine like this, the way the negative was turned into fun in life. I want to know how they are doing now, but also know that that is to much ‘TV’ and will undermine the good attitude the show has/had.

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