Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Visit to the Rachael Ray Show

Earlier this month I was in the studio audience of the Rachael Ray show. Overall, I’d rate the experience as so-so. The hour or so I spent in the studio, seeing Rachael live, laughing at the warm-up comic’s humor, seeing her guest Ty Pennington, learning how a show is made (including all the natural-looking things that are actually scripted), and spinning around on the rotating audience platform were all fun. But the three hours of waiting it took to get in (most of it standing) was not. If someone is a huge fan it would probably be worth it for them. If, like me, you have other things to do with your life, it’s probably not.

Here’s how the experience went for me:

1. Somewhere around January or February 2008 I request tickets for the show. I did this on behalf of a relative who lives in the Midwest and who LOVES Rachael Ray. I thought I’d make her happy if I got tickets and I’d join her just for the heck of it.

2. I hear nothing for a very long time. I think I didn’t get tickets.

3. Out of the blue, on August 29th, I receive an email saying that tickets are available. I’m given the choice between four shows on three different dates, September 14th, 15th and 16th. If those dates don’t work for me, I’m kindly requested to “resubmit another e-mail request form for tickets on our website. Please do not ask us for another date to choose from.”

4. I must reply by September 2nd if I want the tickets along with the ages of those attending. Of course, I receive this on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, so it would have been easy to miss and not reply on time. I did, however, meet the deadline.

5. On September 4th, 12 days before the show, I receive my virtual ticket. It says the check-in is at 2:15. “Entry is not guaranteed,” however, as the ticket reads. So if you want to make the schlep to New York worth your while, you better get there sufficiently early to make sure you get in. How early is early enough? Who knows. You must guess.

6. It’s not easy, nor is it cheap to fly across the country on 12 days notice. Because of this, my sister-in-law is not able to come and I have four tickets in hand.

7. I invite all my friends. They all have jobs and/or children. None of them consider it worth taking the time off or paying for a babysitter.

8. I freecycle my three extra tickets and take strangers with me.

9. We arrive at the studio at 1 p.m., an hour and 15 minutes before check-in. We stand outside. There are no benches to sit on and the street is inclined, which kills your feet after a while.

10. We stand outside until around 2:30. We, who got there over an hour early, were one of the last groups allowed in. Most of the people behind us were sent home without much remorse from the staff. They reminded us that “entry is not guaranteed.” Certain people are treated like vips (escorted in right away instead of having to wait in line).

11. We get in and go through check-in and security, which wasn’t too bad.

12. Then we are herded into a room that is way too small. There aren’t enough seats for everyone. They say coffee and snacks are available, but the snacks are nothing more than Sara Lee packaged white bagels. Yuck. One would expect better from a cooking show.

13. People are escorted to the bathroom. Then we are told we should go to the bathroom only if it’s an emergency.

14. A warm-up comic comes in and cracks jokes. He’s pretty funny. But he tells us the show appreciates us, relies on us, succeeds only because of us.

15. A staff members barks at us that cameras are not allowed and if anyone is even seen with a camera, we will be sent home, even though we’ve been waiting for hours.

16. People begin to complain. We’ve been waiting for three hours. It really is quite pathetic. I hear one woman say to her friend
a. “You’d just be getting out of work now.”
b. “Yeah,” her friend replies. “And I’d be less tired.”
c. “Are you ready to do this again soon?”
d. “No. I’ve been to other shows and stood in line, but once we got in, the show started a few minutes later. Not this hours and hours of waiting.”

I think a show that appreciates their audience could respect them. One idea would be giving away less tickets than are available, not more, but making them a reserved, guaranteed seat, given with advance notice. Then have a standby line available for people who happen to be in NYC and who can fill in the remaining seats. Just my idea.

17. We enter the studio and enjoy the hour of taping. We’re given a bag of multi-grain snacks as part of a promo.

18. The show ends and we are escorted out. The smell of spaghetti squash with a tomato-meat-basil sauce wafts up as the staff eats it. Cranky staff members yell at us to cram back into that room that’s not big enough. We are handed out cheap samples and a copy of Ty Pennington’s new decorating book.

19. I asked a staff member how one can get tickets with more advance notice (so someone like my family member could realistically come). She told me to write on the ticket request that advance notice is needed to travel. However, when I look at the ticket request form again, I don’t see a space to note that. They also say that two weeks notice is needed to accommodate handicaps. And let me tell you, if you have any handicap that doesn’t allow you to stand for three hours, you’ll want this. However, I received less than two weeks notice from the date my tickets were confirmed to the date of the show. So I don’t know how that works.

Some other reactions from people who’ve had this adventure:


shannymarie said...

Wow. You've described our trip to the tee! I didn't think Rachael herself was all that great once we got inside either. She seemed rather snotty actually. I can check that off of the list to NOT do again. Thanks for sharing! :)

Anonymous said...

I went to the show today and I agree that the waiting was pretty ridiculous. Rachael didnt even come into the audience to interact with anyone. I waited a year and a half for tickets. If it werent for R.C. Smith, the warm-up comic, then the entire experience would be a bust. And to top it off, we didnt leave with any freebies other than a copy of her magazine!