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Hell’s Kitchen Has A Wipeout

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I'm more than happy to admit that this season's edition of Hell's Kitchen (which ended last night) was moderately disappointing. Everything about it felt as though it were a poor imitation of previous years. But the most disappointing thing about the whole season were the contestants. They simply didn't, even in the final episode, make the audience feel confident in their abilities.

Usually, the season story arc runs from the chefs being mostly incompetent to their eventually being hugely impressive (at least the ones who don't get fired). That didn't happen this season; instead Ramsay just eliminated week after week the people who clearly ought not be running a restaurant (save, maybe, Ben, whom Ramsay just didn't like). By the end of the season, Ramsay was left with two people who probably ought not be running a restaurant, and he chose the one who probably ought not run a restaurant the least. It was not really terribly inspiring.

What it was, however, was head and shoulders better than the other show I watched last night – Wipeout. What is up with that show? It performed well in its timeslot, so clearly someone is interested, but I don't get it. It consists solely of people running around obstacle courses and performing tasks designed to make them look stupid.

Erin Medley and I talked about Wipeout on our show last week, and she insisted that it was well and truly funny – hence my watching it. But, I'll be honest, I don't get it. I like to see people do dumb things and get hurt as much as the next guy, but the obstacle courses, particularly the first one, seem set up so as to be impossible to do without falling. The goal, it seems to me, is not to avoid falling into the mud and water, but to avoid falling as much as the other people. Shouldn't obstacle courses actually be do-able?

Worse than that, it seemed like the obstacle courses were not only not do-able without falling, but that trying to do them without falling would actually cause the contestant to get a slower time than if they just jumped into the mud and went to the next section. What sense does that make? Plus, and I hate saying this, the commentary on the show was absolutely horrific. It was, I guess, meant to be funny, but it wasn't. The two hosts, John Anderson and John Henson, pretty much just repeated the same thing over and over and over again about the contestants. I'm not sure whether that was because the contestants had absolutely nothing interesting about them, the production folks working up bios didn't do their jobs, the hosts didn't care what the bios said, or the general assumption was that the audience was too dumb to remember that the hosts were repeating themselves, but it was really disappointing.

It's a shame, because Wipeout seems like a great concept, but it needs to either have the first course ratcheted up a notch, so that it's even more ludicrous and far longer, or taken down a notch so that it's manageable. Right now it's on a middle ground that doesn't work.

Maybe I'll tune in for season two to see if they fixed the problems, but right now I have to go prepare for my interview this evening with Kevin Michael Richardson of The Cleaner.

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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.
  • David

    How can you be in the studio audience of Hell’s Kitchen? Where is it taped?

  • anji’s baby girl

    I am thoroughly disgusted with the outcome of this seasons Hells Kitchen. I am sooooo disappointed, I thought Chef relied more on his own skills when making his decisions. Petrozza was the man for the job. Clearly.

  • I would add the Contraceptive Sponges which feature in the same game as the Nards of Doom.

  • duane

    A few of the 500 things that I like about MXC:

    (1) The ridiculous costumes.

    (2) Vic Romano and Kenny Blankenship as a couple of decked out fast-talking Japanese guys, not to mention the lecherous Guy LeDouche.

    (3) All the women’s voices are done by one person.

    (4) Someone, a Japanese someone, in almost every episode has the last name Babaganoosh (sp?).

    (5) The total American cultural bias, even though everyone is Japanese.

    (6) The completely irrelevant raised-arm “spirit cries” made by the contestants before they prepare to fail at some near-impossible stunt, “I like to shoot things!” or whatever.

    (7) “Right you are, Kenny.”

    (8) The various disgusting “fluids” used for the contestants to fall into, always thorughly described by Vic and Kenny.

    (9) At least 10 tasteless innuendos per minute.

    (10) the Nards of Doom.

  • What makes MXC so good is that no-one is taking it in the least bit seriously – not the hosts and producers of the original Japanese show, nor the contestants, nor the American performers and writers who’ve taken the original show and turned it into something completely and hilariously different.

    Wipeout‘s problem is that despite the strained humor, it’s really – as with all things American – first and foremost about the competition. It’s deadly serious. And in that respect, it just doesn’t get it.

    Its companion piece on ABC, I Survived a Japanese Game Show, works slightly better, if only because the contestants are appearing on a real Japanese show, not a pale American imitation. Still, we have the usual tiresome reality show bickering and backstabbing to put up with. And frankly, the funniest parts are when the Japanese host talks trash about the American contestants – who of course don’t have a clue what he’s saying – to the studio audience.

    The trick to appreciating Japanese game shows – as MXC so brilliantly realizes – is just to immerse yourself in the ridiculousness and hilarity of what’s going on. No-one cares who wins MXC – the ‘teams’ are absurd and the games aren’t even edited together from the same episodes of Takeshi’s Castle. There’s more fun in one game of ‘Rotating Surfboard of Death’ than in an entire season of Wipeout.

  • “Wipeout seems like a great concept”

    It is. Ask anyone who has seen MXC.