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Finding the Positive in Hell’s Kitchen

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We didn't discuss it last week, so we're kind of obligated to talk about it this week, aren't we? Hell's Kitchen. That bastion of flames; that over-hyped bologna; and, as much as I may loathe to admit it, that grand old bit of reality TV insanity.

I know, I know, I've complained about this season. I've called this season a weak one and I've suggested that perhaps the show has lost its way forever. It is a weak season, perhaps the show is headed for a long downhill slide, but there's still some fun to be gleaned from it, and it's that fun that I'm here to discuss this week.

Look at tonight's challenge — it was a health challenge and the teams had to come up with a 700 calorie menu. The show has never done anything like that before, and while you can't quite call a 700 calorie meal a really light one, it's assuredly better than almost everything else they've ever cooked on the show. The men weren't terribly good at the challenge – that really was an awful dessert and a terrible-looking entrée they put before Ramsay – but the women's food looked excellent.

What I was more impressed by though last night than the challenge, was the dinner service itself. The chefs this season are clearly not terribly strong, but somehow they've managed to complete more than one dinner service. I've viewed that as Ramsay having gone soft on a group who clearly couldn't handle it. Tonight though, he gave them what for and not in a perfunctory "I'm Gordon Ramsay and this is Hell's Kitchen so I'm forced to yell" sort of way.

Yes, he did some of that, but he also booted Tennille from the kitchen and then rather than just kicking her from the competition, he went, followed her out, and continued to yell. That does happen on occasion, but it's been less the norm as of late. Lately when he's booted someone from the kitchen they've either packed their bags directly or he's gone to talk to them and not blown up more. He's actually acted semi-rational with them in the back and that's not what he did tonight.

If you watched you know it's true that Tennille kept talking back to him outside of the kitchen which is why Ramsay ratcheted up his temper, but he still stuck with the fight and with her. At any moment had he not wanted to play anymore he could have dismissed Tennille from the competition rather than trying to deal with her. Ramsay couldn't even have blamed had he done that, after all, Tennille had called him "crap" and dropped an f-bomb or two in Ramsay's direction. But, as I said, he didn't dismiss her outright, he went toe-to-toe with her and pulled Tennille back into line. Ramsay showed that he still has heart, that he too still has the desire to be there, and that I loved.

I also loved the fact that the men's team wanted to nominate Robert for elimination because Robert is out of shape and upon being made to exercise had to be brought to the hospital. That was cold. Robert wasn't there for dinner service and had to drop out of the competition last season due to his health issues. Obviously Robert shouldn't be there this season either, the men's team wasn't wrong about that, but to try to force the issue on Ramsay like they did was just plain cold. Of course, it was also a pretty brilliant strategy. Yes, it was cruel, but this is a competition, it being cruel didn't make it dishonest, didn't make them wrong, and didn't mean it was out of line.

I do think the chefs are weak this season, and I do think that weak chefs hurt Hell's Kitchen, but there's still definitely some fun to be had. If only they weren't having so many issues with the quality of video they're getting. Did they not realize that a lot of their cameras were giving horrible footage all the time? That is disappointing and not something I can easily find an excuse for. Maybe I'll be able to come up with one by next week.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://nickleshi.blogspot.com Nick

    Hell’s Kitchen is one of my guilty pleasures (along with some other reality shows my wife and I watch). At first I was put off by Chef Ramsay’s verbal assaults, but as Robert mentioned earlier in the season, he’s trying to bring out the best in the contestants. (And yes, of course, it makes for good drama for the TV). The Boot Camp Method is probably how Ramsay himself was trained.

  • Lisa K

    The show is growing me. Maybe I’m getting old and grumpy but I get a little thrill out of watching these young know-it-alls getting chewed out.