My photo
Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Friday, November 28, 2008

An American Nightmare

There are very few things in life that make me sublimely happy.

Indians games at Progressive Field, buying the latest DVD of my current TV obsession, blizzards that give me a reason to stay inside and get fat; these are a few of those things. But there is one sight that will make me so deliriously happy that it puts my heart in danger of exploding. That sight is a marathon of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America.

I don't know what it is about this show but if one of my loved ones passed out in front of me during Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, I sincerely think that I would wait until the program was finished  before I drove them to the hospital. I know I have always liked British people, good food and explosive anger (not necessarily in that order), but who knew that when combined those three aspects would create one of the most compulsively watchable TV shows ever.

To those of you who are unfamiliar with the brilliance of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, or worse, only know the fiery British chef Ramsay from his Hell's Kitchen reality competition on FOX, let me explain what you are missing. Gordon Ramsay is a cranky man, but Gordon Ramsay also happens to be one of Britain's most talented and popular chefs. In Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay uses his food expertise and his knowledge of the business aspect of running a successful restaurant to save struggling British restaurants from bankruptcy and failure. Inevitably, the restaurant owners are unsure of Ramsay's advice at first and their pride clashes with the ornery chef's ego. But usually, they have given in to Ramsay's ways by the end of the episode. And when they don't....well, that's just good TV. Gordon, himself, serves as our narrator through the whole ordeal, informing the audience of just where these overzealous cooks and businesspeople are going on. 

The program is brilliant in its simple format and structure. And the presence of Ramsay as a grumpy, yet life lesson delivering Mr. Kotter elevates the proceedings to must-see levels. In short, it is the one sure-fire reality program that cannot be messed up or ruined. 

Or so I thought.

The United States of America has raped Gordon Ramsay and his brilliant BBC show. The show entitled Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on the FOX network is not Kitchen Nightmares at all. FOX should have called it: "FOX tearing apart everything you hold dear." "FOX exploiting fresh British talent and programs like the British used to exploit its colonies" "FOX being a network full of dumbasses", or my personal favorite "FOX, stop doing this to Gordon, Oh God, please stop now." 

I am not very happy with FOX's incarnation of Kitchen Nightmares. Remember all those things I described above about why I liked the show? Well, they're all gone. Gordon Ramsay still goes to failing restaurants and still attempts to rescue them from misfortune, but the soul of the show is simply gone. Instead of the real men and women that populated the BBC program, their is a virtual cadre of idiotic tools who would not seem out of place on the next season of The Real World or Big Brother, and who all happen to be quite young and quite photogenic. Gone is the quirky British soundtrack that was used so sparingly, and it its place is a constant symphony of ominous music that attempts to "build the drama" when drama just isn't there to build. And then there's the narrator. Instead of having Ramsay describe his practices for himself, there is a smooth toned American narrating the proceedings who sounds like the jock that used to beat you up in High School and can only say things like "the customers are upset," "the kitchen is moving to slow," "Gordon is going to try to fix things pretty soon."

It isn't Kitchen Nightmares. It is a Cribbs Notes version of what Kitchen Nightmares used to be, only with obviously replicated drama replacing genuine human drama. It is a travesty so severe, that I think I may not even watch 24 this year just to teach FOX a lesson. 

I usually am not the type of person who bemoans the supposed dumbing down of American culture. I am traditionally of the opinion that Americans are just as smart as they have ever been and the presence of a few idiotic shows are nothing to worry about. But FOX's handling of this show's (former) brilliance may cause me to rethink my cheery proposition about American life.

Hell, it may even make me rethink that "tea party" we Americans threw a few years back.

1 comment:

Woozie said...

It's a strange paradox of sorts. While raping foreign television is certainly one of the most American things possible, you'd think that America would be able to appreciate a foreign man going to sucky restaurants and being a total dick and not fucking with that formula at all. But no.