ESPN confirmed this week that it has no plans for another season of “Rise Up,” a reality series that was supposed to give needy high schools’ athletic facilities an upgrade.
It sounds like that's fine with Ingraham High.
Traci Huffer, Athletic Director at Ingraham High School, which participated in “Rise Up,” said the school will need to wait “a few years” before agreeing to do a makeover-type program again.
“I am still cleaning up some of the things that didn’t go the way they were supposed to go,” Huffer said, adding that she would rather “remain gracious to the things they gave us” instead of elaborating on what went wrong.
“Overall it was a positive experience, but there are a few things we have to clean up,” she said. “It was also a little time consuming and with the district being short on funds, it’s now in our hands.”
(An ESPN rep said said that the school's renovation was not the sole responsibility of "Rise Up," and that many goods and services were donated by local businesses and people in the community.)
"Rise Up" is the latest school makeover show to get the axe.
ABC’s “Food Revolution,” which focused on overhauling unhealthy school lunch menus, was canceled midseason with slipping ratings. NBC’s “School Pride,” which renovated aging school buildings, was not renewed for a second season. And ratings aside, several of the schools involved in the shows ended up on the short end of things.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) refused to allow Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” cameras inside their campuses last year on the heels of a “bad experience” filming NBC’s “School Pride.”
“‘School Pride’ wanted us to re-do some things on our campus and we ended up with a $106,000 tab for work they were suppose to do,” LAUSP rep Robert Alaniz claimed. “They did one coat of paint on one building and the paint was peeling in two weeks. They reneged on reimbursing us and we had to use tax payer money to fix that.”
Alaniz said the decision to turn way Oliver was cemented after someone from the Cabell County School District – which was featured on Season One of Oliver’s show – told them the show ran their finances into the red and didn’t pay its end of the deal. A rep for the Cabell County School District declined to comment.
Tracy Handline, a teacher at Needles High School in California which also took part in “School Pride,” said that while the show did benefit the community, it wasn’t all it was fluffed up to be on the small screen.
“They did make some improvements, but they didn’t do major change. It was pretty cosmetic, there was no systematic change in the way things happened,” she explained. “What the show tried to do was expose some kind of dirty dealing. They come in and do all this interviewing like they are exposing some big thing, then they leave. We are this little tiny town that has to deal with all the people that may have gotten their feelings hurt. (Producers came to us) asking for referrals and our involvement, but the show made it look is that the students wrote in and sent a video but that is not actually what happened."
“It's no surprise that (being featured) can end up costing already cash-strapped schools lots of taxpayer money. This is money better spent on good teachers, renovation and new technology,” communications and PR expert Jason Maloni, of Levick Strategic Communications, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “It's unfair to cast students in the roles of ‘savior.’”
However, L.A.-based television producer, Dianne Namm, argued that school makeover shows do shed light on important issues.
“America's school system is in need of attention. Hollywood's desire to make us aware of that is a genuine one,” she explained. “Perhaps the (reality show) format isn't yet right, but the basic story premise, that our schools need our help, as do our children who attend them, is what matters.”
Justin Hochberg of The Hochberg Ebersol Company, an unscripted television-focused production company, agreed that in focusing on school-related concerns, rather than ignoring them, helps the end goals of raising money, increasing community involvement and creating necessary change.
“As an example, our USA Network special “NFL Characters Unite” featured a student at Clairton High School in Pennsylvania. Our efforts not only changed one teen’s life, but transformed his school’s community,” he claimed. “They felt listened to and had a greater sense of togetherness as a result of participating in our program, and that is a fantastic example of the positive power of television.”
But based on the mixed grades many school “makeover” shows seem to have earned from schools and audiences, some industry experts predict that this reality sub-genre that will stay in Hollywood detention for a little while longer.
“The only ‘school on TV’ that’s ever gotten high attendance was Flavor Flav’s ‘Charm School,” former reality television producer Mikey Glazer added. “Right now, ratings suggest that America would rather watch bikini bachelor cattiness, or women throwing champagne glasses at each other’s head or social climbers marrying NBA players.”
ABC did not respond to a request for comment and NBC declined to comment.
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.