9/21/2007

Kitchen Nightmares

There may be spoilers below - though this isn't necessarily a show that has such things. Regardless, if you don't want to know about the premier episode of Kitchen Nightmares, then you might skip on along.

I've been a fan of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (on BBCAmerica) for about as long as I've known the show existed (so...coming up on two years?) When I saw that they were making an American version, to be aired on Fox, I was filled with trepidation. There was potential there, after all. The BBC show is fantastic and shows a side of Ramsay you rarely see on Hell's Kitchen - you know, the side where he isn't a screaming, raving lunatic but actually cares about chefs and their success and is genuinely motivated to help people succeed as restaurateurs. Sure, he still swears a blue streak - but he also takes time out to work with and encourage dish washers who have dreams of working their way up the chef ladder. On the other hand, it was being made for Fox, the station that seeks to shock and sensationalize and who is responsible for making Ramsay appear, at least to Americans, like the Dr. House of the restaurant world. Finally, anyone who's seen Trading Spaces or What Not To Wear knows that American TV has a long, sad history of ruining really good shows from across the pond.

So it was that Kitchen Nightmares met my expectations.

Where the BBC version shows Gordon with a heart and restaurant owners who want and need help really learning how to better manage their businesses, the Fox version has Hell's Kitchen on the road with cartoon-like Americans posturing and trying to out bluster Ramsay. I wasn't sure if I was more annoyed by the jazzy camera angles and attempts to make it sound like the most shocking thing ever(!) was going to happen after the break or by the fact that it made you realize that this is how the rest of the world perceives Americans. Perhaps a large part of this is due to the fact that I haven't seen an Italian man posturing like the dude in this episode since the movie While You Were Sleeping ("It looks like he's leaning. .") Maybe he really is that way and the camera just happened to reveal the ugly truth, I don't know. But it was hard to watch. If he'd fluffed his collar one more time I probably would've started smacking the TV.

On the other hand, it was slightly milder than Hell's Kitchen. Slightly. And Gordon did manage to help them identify the problem (Hint: He spouted "Are you talkin' to me?" a lot) and revamp the menu to something that they could handle and get out and also use to set them apart from the 8 other Italian restaurants in the area.

On the other other hand, in the BBC version the restaurants are given the tools (new menu, new decor, advice/training from Ramsay) and then they have to make it work. In our version we apparently have to replace kitchen equipment. Ramsay (or Fox, or heck, maybe Viking donated it since their logo was hugely visible) replaced the huge non-working range and ovens. And while this is an amazing and wonderful thing - seriously, it's incredibly generous whoever paid for it - that just removes the responsibility for making things work from the hands of the owners. If you're going to run a business, you need to be able to realize that you don't take the money allotted for the new range and buy a new suit and a diamond encrusted Rolex. And if you do, do you really deserve to have Gordon Ramsay bail you out?

I'll watch it again. Obviously there's no telling if this will be a trend or if it was the only way Ramsay could come up with to actually help them succeed (though again, I can think of at least one BBC episode where he helps them get on track only to find that they've been fired by the people who held the notes for the debt and replaced and now, with a baby on the way, they're out on their rears and faced with personal ruin - if anyone needed bailing out, it was them - not this caricature of an Italian-American family.) But the glossed up Fox treatment, complete with hush-voiced announcer (who I think is the same one from Hell's Kitchen) wasn't overly impressive and I worry that this, like Trading Spaces and What Not To Wear, will degenerate into Americanized farce before too long.

6 comments:

Jaynee said...

As my husband and I discussed last night, Peter from Babylon is pretty much typical of the Babylon stereotype. DH's sister lives in West Babylon and yes - a good portion of folks in Babylon are JUST LIKE THAT FAMILY. So while the episode made me cringe, it also made me laugh.

I much prefer the BBC version of the show, though.

beth said...

Huh...ok. Well, there's one place I don't think I'll ever go. :) I guess it's good they weren't just sensationalizing it! Still, the BBC version is better.

Michelle said...

Yanno, I kind of thought it would be that way from the previews. I didn't watch it--no desire to! Let me know if it improves. :)

beth said...

Michelle, I was wary from the previews, but I just really was hoping that it would be more like his BBC show. Of course, I should've weighed the Fox factor. :) I'll keep you posted - hopefully it'll improve. If not, well, I'll get an hour each week back. ;)

Dawn said...

First of all I can't believe I missed the show. So much going on and driving me crazy! But I just love Gordon Ramsay so I'll be watching just to watch him :)

Also I need your email address..I've started password protecting some of my post and couldn't find your email to send you the password :)

beth said...

Dawn, I was wondering if you'd been watching -- I'll be curious to see what you think if you get a chance to watch it! Gordon Ramsay really is awesome. :) I sent you an email with my email.