Life in the Slow Lane

September 12, 2008

‘Nightmares’ more dramatic on this side of the pond

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 9:20 am

I finally had my first chance Thursday night to watch the Fox version of “Kitchen Nightmares,” the show that sees celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay whip lousy restaurants into shape so they can turn around their fortunes.

I’ve watched the BBC version of the show for some time now, so it was good to see the U.S. version to get a comparison between the two.

As one would expect, the U.S. version relies more on controversy and “dramatic moments” to keep viewers turned in. The narrator (the same voice from “Hell’s Kitchen”) kept going on about “You WON’T BELIEVE what happens next” or “it’s unbelievable” or whatnot, which for some reason those in the TV business seem to think American viewers need. The British version of the show has none of that, yet the program itself provides more than enough reason for me to stay tuned in. Even the intro puts the spotlight on the drama rather than the restaurant’s renovation, which should be the real point of the program being on the air.

As for the show itself, it largely is the same quality program on both sides of the pond. For a reason that may never make sense to me, though, Dee Snider made an appearance to help the restaurateurs pass out fliers for their grand reopening. Do they think we Yanks need celebrities to hold our interest, as well? Snider being there wasn’t bad, it was just … really, really odd.

There also was a focus on the footage of the restaurant’s owner blowing up at Ramsay and his employees, which is a necessary part of the story but got a bit overblown. The show probably would have flowed better with more action shots (although granted, Thursday’s show had a more cranky owner than is seen in most weeks on the British version).

Americans borrowed this show from England, like we do many programs, but we didn’t necessarily improve it. It’s still imminently watchable, but the BBC version is just a wee bit better, proving once again that the copy is never quite as good as the original.

I don’t need the accent, but those Brits make a bloody good TV show.

U.S. VERSION: B+

BRITISH VERSION: A-

•••

This is new today from Fox, which has secured Ramsay’s services for both his series and other specials to air on the network.

FOX has sealed a new deal with world-renowned Chef Gordon Ramsay. The arrangement will keep Ramsay at the network for several more years and includes an agreement to produce two more installments of the sizzling series HELL’S KITCHEN, another season of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES, a yet-to-be determined special and another series.

“Gordon has done an amazing job of creating exciting franchises for FOX,” said Mike Darnell, President, Alternative Entertainment. “From the first time I met him, it was clear that he would be a big star in America. He has become one of the ‘faces of FOX,’ and we’re thrilled that he will be on our network for years to come.”

In HELL’S KITCHEN, hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay turns up the heat as he puts wannabe chefs through a culinary boot camp as they try to slice and dice their way to the top. HELL’S KITCHEN 5 is scheduled to air midseason. Season Four of HELL’S KITCHEN finished as the highest-rated season in the show’s history, ranking No. 1 for Summer 2008 among Adults 18-49.

KITCHEN NIGHTMARES explores the softer side of Ramsay where he attempts to turn one ordinary and empty restaurant into the most popular, sought-after venue in town. Chef Ramsay coaches, cheers and challenges the restaurant staff, all the way from appetizers through dessert. KITCHEN NIGHTMARES currently airs Thursdays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

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