Kitchen Nightmares: FOX Dumbs Down A Good Show Commentary by Maja Seif
October 4, 2007
Kitchen Nightmares' took on The Mixing Bowl Eatery in Belleville, New York in last night's episode, and as this is the third show of the season, I am beginning to notice more and more the repetitive formula that FOX's producers have been framing each show with. It didn't help matters that there was a Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares marathon on BBC America this past week giving me a fresh look at a show I haven't watched in some time.
I originally opined that the FOX version of the show was "nearly identical" to the UK version. I was wrong. The BBC version is far better - it is more focused on each restaurant's individual problems, contains more personal critique and speak-overs by Gordon Ramsay, and doesn't constantly replay segments of particularly heated moments. The FOX version seems to run almost like a sports highlights show - clip after clip of seething anger and cursing, and replay after replay of the most dramatic moments.
Perhaps I was thinking wishfully when I proclaimed these shows to be nearly identical. I truly enjoyed watching the UK episodes, when I first saw them and then again this past week - much more than watching the FOX version. When watching the UK version, before it was announced that Ramsay would be starring in a US version of the show, I had often wondered how his restaurant makeovers would go over here. I wondered if Americans would be open to his ranting restaurant genius or would be sophisticated enough - in the land of triple bacon extra-cheesy burgers - to appreciate the cuisine he often presents on his shows. I wanted to know.
I don't think that my questions have been answered now that a version of the show is being produced in the U.S. I'm not sure that I am really being allowed to see a lot of the nuts-and-bolts information sessions Gordon often has with the restaurant staff on the U.K. version.
There's some of that - for sure. Last night, we saw Gordon bring out maps of the neighborhood The Mixing Bowl Eatery is located in. One map, from a few years ago, indicated a handful of restaurants in the area. Another map, which was current, displayed a few dozen restaurants in the area. Using this visual aid, Gordon led the restaurant staff to the natural conclusion that they were now in the midst of a great deal of competition that The Mixing Bowl did not have to consider in its earlier glory days. He then led them to understand that in order to be successful in such a situation, the restaurant would need to find a niche that was not being presented in the area already. This scene could have easily been on an episode of the UK version of the show.
What wouldn't be on the UK version of the show, is the endless replays of manager Mike's temper tantrum in the middle of the restaurant's re-launch dinner service. Don't get me wrong - Gordon did plenty of cursing and ranting on the UK version, and there were extremely tense and outright hostile moments displayed by restaurant staffers on that show as well.
What was different though, was that the producers of the UK show didn't rerun these moments relentlessly. In fact - they showed them once, and then moved on to the next aspect of the task at hand - whether that be Gordon speaking in a quieter voice and asking the offended chef, owner or manager if they could talk after an outburst, or an excursion to the local fishermen's boats where Gordon showed the restaurant staff where they might find fresh local seafood.
I suppose, in structure, the shows are quite similar. We still get the essence of what Gordon's visions for each restaurant are and we get some insider information on how a good restaurant is run and its food prepared. To me, these are the most interesting aspects of the show and I appreciated that the producers of the UK version seemed to agree.
Watching this week's FOX show, I felt a little underestimated as a viewer. FOX assumes that people are tuning in only for the temper tantrums and that we want to see the exact same things several times in an episode. And considering the general audience - American triple-bacon-extra-cheesy-burger-eaters - they are probably right from a marketing standpoint. I'm not sure that most Americans really care about the business aspects of the show - they really are only there to see Ramsay bite off the heads of lazy managers, unambitious chefs and neglectful owners.
And I'm not saying those moments.....
Maja Seif is a freelance writer residing in the Sacramento, California area. Holder of a B.A. in Journalism, she has published feature articles in Outword Magazine and has experience writing political news and opinion pieces, as well as marketing material. Reality television is one of her favorite diversions, so writing for Reality TV Calendar is a perfect combination of two of her hobbies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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