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From Across the Pond: "Mary Queen of Shops"

Just a few quick words about tonight's premiere of reality series Mary Queen of Shops on BBC America.

The series, which features fashion expert Mary Portas as she attempts to pull back boutiques from the brink of insolvency, follows a rather similar formula to the network's own Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Inspector, in which Gordon Ramsay and Ruth Watson respectively attempt to save failing restaurants and hotels, and Bravo's Tabatha's Salon Takeover, in which the snippy hairstylist saves sinking salons.

Here, Mary Portas once again provides tough love to some rather misguided entrepreneurs who have opened up clothing boutiques without really having an understanding of fashion, visual merchandising, or how to turn a profit (or sometimes, all three) and who typically seem to lack business acumen in general. Like Ramsay and Watson before her, Portas is outspoken, brusque, and generally given to tell things like they are. She doesn't seem to befriend the targets of her helpful ways but rather ends up breaking them down emotionally and psychologically before she's able to constructively help them turn their businesses around.

And, let's be honest, these people do need her help. They're often in danger of losing their businesses and they've been misguidedly running their boutiques into the ground. Sometimes, the owners are pig-headed and refuse to take on board Portas' advice, while others have seemingly just lost their way over the years and need her to provide a swift kick up the backside to get them back on track.

There are rows, feuds, and petty vendettas at times and Portas does get hot under the collar more than once in the first two episodes provided for review. Regardless, there's a sense of simplistic comfort to Mary Queen of Shops. Despite Portas' short fuse at times, she is coming from a good place and genuinely wants to see her clients succeed and there's a optimistic buoyancy about the program, particularly in these rough economic times, with seeing profits actually improve. Just look at it as a bit of financial escapism.

Mary Queen of Shops launches tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


Fan of Mary Queen of Shops said…
I was lucky - my British friends had already told me that Mary Queen of Shops was brilliant TV. And when it premiered on BBC America last night I was not disappointed. I laughed, cringed and nodded in agreement with Mary as she tried to sort out Kelvin in his fashion shop Floyds that he thought was as good as London department stoe Harrods but in fact was in the Welsh city of Cardiff next to a bus-stop and not selling luxury fashion at all. He was selling clothes Alexis Carrington would have rejected for her Dynasty wardrobe in 1986 as being too tacky. It's worth noting that there are no "retail critics" in the media today - we have restaurant, music, art, theater and fashion critics but no-one to set a standard of good practise for shop-keepers selling fashion goods. Now we have Mary Queen of Shops - and Mary rocks! From what I read in the British media Mary - aka Mary Portas - is fast becoming an icon. I can't wait for the next show on BBC America!

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