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Kitchen Nightmares Fires up My Television Viewing

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Maybe I shouldn't be, but I am. I am excited, and there's very little you or anyone else (save the television gods) can do it about it. Last night, for me, the television season truly began. Last night Kitchen Nightmares aired its season premiere, and while the show is by no means my favorite show, it is the first show that I watch regularly to return this season. In general, it makes me smile. It makes me feel as though everything is right with the world. If only everything (or even most things) had been right with the episode.

The whole point of the premiere was to have Ramsay go back and revisit some of the places from least season (six of them to be exact) to see if the changes he'd instituted had stuck. In all six cases, they had. For each of the six restaurants, the things Gordon had done to change the restaurants for the better – from the menus to the décor to adjusting the attitudes of the staff – had worked perfectly. Gordon Ramsay was shown to be wholly infallible.

We really didn't need two hours of TV to show us that. What was the point in it? I absolutely refuse to believe that every restaurant the man went to had miraculous turnarounds. He may be very good at what he does, but last night's episode seem to indicate that he was perfect. That, I simply can't believe.

Frankly though, it was wrong of the show to suggest that he was perfect for a reason I'm not sure that they've contemplated. Showing Ramsay as perfect actually gives the impression that the restaurants were specifically selected to prove as much, thereby undercutting the argument. If they'd done snippets from all the restaurants and Ramsay had improved, say, 8 out of 11, that would have been wholly believable and quite impressive. Eight out of 11 is nearly 75 percent. If the man had a 75 percent success ratio, I think we would all applaud that and agree that it was impressive. Instead, we were shown that he has a 100 percent success ratio, and that's not believable. That's so far gone as to imply to the audience that we're being manipulated.

The whole thing last night could have even worked if all six restaurants were shown as successes, but Gordon showed that there were ways that they could still improve, that there were bits and pieces here and there that could still be made better. To have shown the process of improvement as an ongoing one would also have shown us that Ramsay is good, but not a miracle worker, and it's the miracle worker message that ruined the episode.

The British version of the show (also starring Gordon Ramsay) revisits the restaurants for the last 10 or 15 minutes of each episode, and there the audience get to see that things don't always pan out. Sure, everything is still tilted somewhat in Gordon's favor (at least in every episode I've seen), but it's a far more realistic picture. And that makes me feel insulted. Does someone out there really believe that we, as Americans, can't handle the truth, that we need things sugarcoated? I don't buy that.

As Gordon Ramsay himself would say, "Grow up, big boy."

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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.
  • Of the ten (not eleven) restaurants that Ramsay took on last season we actually know the fates of nine. One of the restaurants (The Seascape) was sold five months after production on the episode wrapped, but enough time that its fate was included as an epilogue to the episode. A second restaurant (Lela’s) closed after the show was produced because of debts from before Ramsay worked with them. The third restaurant – Sebastian’s – was the show’s biggest failure. There are conflicting stories as to why the place closed down. What is known is that the owner went back to his confusing menu almost as soon as Ramsay left. While he and his surrogates have been quite vocal about saying that Ramsay was an idiot and the restaurant closing had more to do with the owner wanting to move somewhere else, the fact is that the restaurant went back to its original style and it is closed. The one remaining restaurant that wasn’t visited in the episode was The Secret Garden. Apparently it is still in operation but the chef has reportedly gone back to his old menu, and old working habits. So what we really have is six out of ten successes, with two restaurants where we don’t know how things would have gone either because the restaurant was sold or went broke because of debts owed from before Ramsay arrived. That leaves two restaurants that went back to the way things were, one of which isn’t in operation anymore. Draw what conclusions you wish from that.

  • Tyrone Pollan

    Ramsay is a successful businessman, and just happens to be a good enough chef to earn 9 Michelin stars. When he gives advice, it’s usually because he sees an opportunity for improvement. One thing that’s true, he steps in and declares “we’re in the shlt” and sort of places himself in charge. It’s his personality and his style. Many have had bosses like this. When people take his advice and throw it out the window and fail, they blame him? They insist they are on the verge of failing without his help. So if he never showed up, they’d still blame him for not showing up to help them? Geez Louise.