Reality Bites: Wahlburgers

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There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Was this really necessary?

I probably ask that question every week. Arguably none of the garbage I subject myself to on a weekly basis for your quote-unquote amusement *needs* to exist, in the purest, Maslow hierarchy sense of the word. And in fairness, once I realized A&E's Wahlburgers wasn't about famous siblings Mark and Donnie Wahlberg attempting to open a restaurant, but rather their brother Paul -- who is actually a chef -- I more or less accepted the premise.

Even though it significantly diminishes the potential for Marky Mark-related kitchen mishaps.

I suppose the most surprising thing about Wahlburgers is how often blockbuster Hollywood leading man Mark shows up. In The Episode I Watched ("The Real Entourage"), the real-life versions of Johnny Drama and Turtle, here also called Johnny Drama (Alves) and "Nacho," show up at the restaurant (technically in the Greater Boston town of Hingham, MA). Nacho, ne Henry Laun. Laun is known for accepting extreme eating challenges. To emphasize this, Nacho eats 18 of the 20 burgers he was supposed to take from Boston to L.A. for Mark's consumption.

Two thoughts. First: isn't that, like, a six-hour flight? Do burgers keep that long? Maybe Nacho was performing a selfless act in order to prevent a salmonella outbreak. Second: Nacho kind of looks like a less repulsive version of the creature Lisa turns Chet into in Weird Science.

Mark and Donnie are also present in interview segments (in fact, about the only time we see Donnie is in studio), where they discuss the decision to support Paul's restaurant. Amusingly, Donnie notes it isn't "capitalizing on the coincidence of our name working with the word hamburger." No, as Mark puts it, "We're doing this for our family's future."

No offense, Max Payne, but that's a lousy investment strategy. According to a report by Franchise Business Review, the *average* profit for a franchise restaurant comes in around $82,000, with over half earning less than $50K annually. Mark Wahlberg reportedly made between and $16 and $18 million for Transformers: Age of Extinction. Put another way, he earned more in each minute of Transformers running time than 93 percent of all food franchises do in an average year. I'm no accountant, but those numbers don't appear to even out.

Somehow I've made it all this way without making a "Say hi to your mother for me" joke, but Wahlberg matriarch Alma is indeed one of the main characters. One of the more enjoyable running gags involves her obsession with reading screenplays. It seems aspiring screenwriters hang out in the parking lot to give Paul scripts to forward to Mark (and maybe Donnie, if they're spec Blue Bloods treatments or something), and Alma actually reads them, often to the detriment of whatever it is she does at the restaurant (hostess, I think).

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Mark taunts Nacho into his home boxing ring in order to get shown up by an actual light-heavyweight contender. This is in response to Nacho's claims of past boxing prowess. Then Drama shows up at an audition for one of Mark's movies and ... shit, I'm confused. Was this suppose to be about the burger place? We never even see Paul cook.

The show is only a half hour long, but they utilize every available moment to impress upon us all how important "family" is to the Wahlbergs (Mark is the youngest of nine, which we're reminded of at least four times). It's a nice sentiment, but vaguely condescending and repeated often enough I wanted to switch over to a Yankees game out of spite.

Coming in a close second to family in importance to Mark Wahlberg is AquaHydrate, his "fitness water" venture with Sean "P Diddy/Puff Daddy/Bingo Was His Name-O" Combs. Paul pointedly carries a box of it into the restaurant while fending off budding William Goldmans, Nacho wears am AH t-shirt, and it festoons the backdrop to a red carpet premiere that takes place later in the show. The show about hamburgers.

The second half of Season One of Wahlburgers starts tonight. It's been successful as a series, but also as a restaurant, averaging 4.1 on Google Reviews. Though upon skimming those it appears there is a healthy contingent of out-of-town Wahlberg (either one) fans contributing. These are evened out by people annoyed at the lengthy wait times.

The idea of people traveling from across the country to Boston in order to wait two hours for a burger reminded me of Henry Rollins' rant about Australians going to Dublin to see U2's studio. The moral of the story, I guess, is that we avoid anything Irish.

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