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The Big Shot with Bethenny shows the limits of having a mean boss as reality star

  • "This strangely conceived series is rooted in the idea that the protagonist of a show full of ambitious people seeking a chance should be the rich person who mocks them," Daniel D'Addario says of Bethenny Frankel's HBO Max business reality competition. "It suggests Frankel’s ability to ride the waves of a changing culture has waned, or that her luck has finally run out. No one can stay scrappy forever, and the way Frankel runs things off-camera clearly works for her, but — especially in the present cultural moment — 'surprisingly demanding boss' is a label that’s hard to wear while keeping the audience on your side. Many reality hosts try to stay above the fray. On this series, Frankel is the fray, a set of circumstances that those under her must first learn how to manage. Failing to do that won’t just get you booted; it’ll get the ire of reality television’s current reigning insult comic trained your way. That Frankel’s barbs end up injuring the one wielding the weapon and not the target — that her relentlessness as regards someone who she could just let go comes quickly to seem single-minded — may be lost on her. It’s as though she’s competing with the people whose fates she controls, if not for a job, then for our attention. It’s unclear what Frankel thought a show about her being a harsh potential employer who hectors her recruits would do for her personal brand. But as a portrait of what the ruthlessly competitive market for business success and for our eyeballs does to one’s sense of generosity and of proportion, The Big Shot with Bethenny is riveting television. If business and life go hand in hand, this series serves as an object lesson for the viewer how much richer their life is that they are not to a boss, and that they do not have this boss. I walked away from six episodes feeling bad for everyone involved. And I can’t believe how quickly I’ll watch the next one."


    • The Big Shot is a pointless mess full of hypocrisy: "The Big Shot with Bethenny is not The Apprentice," says Andy Dehnart. "It’s such a mess that it made me long for the original format, and we all know how that turned out. Sometimes her new series resembles the chaotic, unprofessional workplace of Bravo’s Flipping Out; sometimes it’s one of Bethenny’s Real Housewives’ spin-offs; and sometimes it’s like one of those flat, failed Apprentice clones from the late 2000s. There is plenty of unchecked ego and irrational, inconsistent decision-making, but it arrives inside a reality competition that feels like it was slapped together while being filmed. (The Big Shot was filmed between last fall and this winter, in New York City, but we never see Bethenny wearing a mask, nor any of the candidates or staff, even when they’re out and about or around other people. Bethenny’s charity has, impressively, provided more than 1.2 million masks to those in need; maybe she should buy one for herself next.)"
    • Even if you're a big Bethenny Frankel fan, it's really hard to care about her new reality show: "I don’t know if I was really expecting too much from The Big Shot With Bethenny to begin with, not least because I find girlboss-y careerist culture actively off-putting," says Shannon Keating. "In our age of Way Too Much Television, Bethenny joins other women entrepreneurs like Jenna Lyons, whose show Stylish With Jenna Lyons is also on HBO Max, in the evergoing name-brand revival of Apprentice-like reality TV competitions. Judging from the trailer, it didn’t really feel new, or necessary, or particularly interesting. And yet, because this is Bethenny — hilarious, cutting, sometimes infuriating Bethenny — I watched it. I suppose that’s what HBO Max is betting on: Bethenny’s sheer star power, and all of us missing her on our screens (especially after this last season of RHONY; woof). But just because someone’s star power gets you in the door doesn’t mean you’re gonna stick around. if I wasn’t reviewing The Big Shot, I doubt I would have made it past a couple episodes."
    • Bethenny Frankel on why she's starring on The Big Shot: "It is the ultimate job interview," she says. "It is such a good way to do it because there’s no way for me to just sit at a conference table in 20 minutes for me to understand if someone could possibly do this job."
    • Frankel wanted to break the mold of business reality shows: "I’m doing the show with Mark Burnett and MGM, who were comfortable with the fact that I wanted the show to find my successor," says Frankel. "They create such gangster, intense, big shows—years ago, when I was on The Apprentice, it felt like a military operation. But I think that they were used to such a formatted show, where someone’s going to be in a conference room, and they’re wearing a suit, and there’s a tagline. And there’s all this sort of in-the-box sort of stuff. Jen O’Connell from HBO Max understands that I’m not an in-the-box kind of person, and I can’t do anything that doesn’t feel totally authentic, which is why I didn’t like—nor was I good at—being a talk show host."

    TOPICS: The Big Shot with Bethenny, HBO Max, Bethenny Frankel, Reality TV