Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!: Is Gordon Ramsay Spreading Himself Too Thin?

I'd like to share with everyone an article I wrote on Gordon Ramsay's massively expanding popularity and the damage it may be doing to his reputation.  If you followed my MasterChef and Hell's Kitchen nightly recaps then you know how critical I was of Ramsay this season for the deterioration of what were once his "world class standards".  This article first appeared on Pulsify.net, a tech website I'm writing for.  Check it out when you have the chance.

Is Gordon Ramsay Spreading Himself Too Thin?

I can't take it any longer. I've seen every episode of every season of Hell's Kitchen since its inception in the summer of 2005. An astounding ten seasons later, we’ve arrived in the midst of the inevitable decline from quality reality television show into the realm of piece-of-crap-even-watching-toadstools-grow-is-better-than-this-nonsense.

Let me break it down for you: people love Gordon Ramsay because of his no-nonsense attitude, his arsenal of creative insults, and his array of multiple personalities that he can switch on you faster than Mitt Romney can refuse releasing his tax returns.

The truth is, however, that Hell's Kitchen has been doing its best impression of Titanic's maiden voyage all season long and finally hit the iceberg when it crowned Christina as the season 10 winner. I can't help but wonder how many miles beneath the ocean's surface this show will continue to sink. Why is Captain Smith letting this happen? The answer is easy: Gordon Ramsay is spreading himself too thin.

I started pondering this after the second "To Be Continued" episode of the season, where we were in the midst of a fashion show hosted by a guy with one of those noses that you'd love to test the resistance of with your fist and some woman who was doing her best impersonation of a mannequin. We went straight to a TBC right in the middle of this circus, one of six this season. For those counting at home, that's one out of every 3.3 episodes that doesn't give us an ending with the most outrageous being the second to last episode, cutting right before announcing who would be cooking in the finals. Absolutely disgusting. It seems that the editors have spent more time this season creating conflict that's not really there and transforming Hell’s Kitchen into some kind of coagulated skin mold that you’d find on one of the fake tans from the orcs on Jersey Shore.  

But it's so much more than that. This season's selection of contestants is the worst it has ever been. Christina and Dana were the only legit contenders (though I wonder why Dana would always yell while speaking to the confession cam. It’s like she was pretending she was acting in the first Austin Powers film since she apparently HAS TROUBLE CONTROLLING THE VOLUME OF HER VOICE), Kimmie's vocabulary consists of the word "bitch," followed by whatever incoherent sounds hicks regularly emit from their mouths, Robyn must have missed the memo that you only need to take one 5-Hour Energy Shot at a time, Roshni is short, Clemenza is big, Patrick looks like Eddie Van Halen, Danielle looks like she's about to cry at any moment, the Rolls Royce of cooking left too early, Barbie is a contender only because everyone else sucks, Tavon I liked because he was so terrible, and Justin, Chris, Don, Brian, and Guy are all the same generic white guy because none have any distinctive personality. Heck, I can't even remember who Chris is or if Chris is even a guy for that matter. Oh, and Briana is hot.

Seriously, with the producers (i.e. Ramsay) sacrificing quality entertainment for a couple loud-mouths bitching back and forth at each other, the product suffers. Look, maybe some people enjoyed hearing Kimmie talk about how easy it was for her to down five lamb testicles during a punishment. Maybe some people found the battle of Caffeine vs. Fried Chicken (a.k.a. Robyn vs. Kimmie) entertaining. Maybe some people actually think Justin has a personality. But me? After 10 seasons of an otherwise really entertaining show, Hell's Bitchin' is now the equivalent of a garden salad dressed with rusted nails extracted from a septic tank.

But the thing that clinched it for me more than the boring contestants or the TBCs every 3.3 episodes or bringing in Lee Dewyze as a VIP (which is even lamer than when NBA bench scrub Sasha Vujacic made an appearance a few seasons back) occurred in episode 12 (which ended in a TBC, coincidentally) was when Gordon Ramsay, literally, mailed it in. In this episode, each team was asked to assemble their own menus for the next dinner service. Usually a pretty cool challenge, right? But what was so painfully vexing about this scenario is that Ramsay wasn't anywhere to be found to deliver this news to the contestants. You'd think with this being Ramsay's kitchen, Ramsay's show, and one of these people will be Ramsay's future employee, he'd be around to monitor everything. But no, you'd be wrong.

Instead, a package was mailed to the dorms containing an iPad and a pre-recorded message from Ramsay informing each team that they were to make their own menu for the next dinner service.

Ramsay mailing it in.

But it gets worse.

Ramsay didn't make his "official" reappearance until just minutes before Hell's Kitchen was to open its door for dinner service. It was at this point that he sampled the dishes put together by each team that were going to be served to the customers THAT VERY NIGHT. Like, within a few minutes.

Naturally, both menus kinda sucked.

But think about that for a second – here's a guy who has "world class standards" and he puts the responsibility into these two teams of amateur chefs to create their own menus, yet he doesn't try them until the doors to Hell's Kitchen are about to open? Dude, even the people who accidentally include rat testicles in a bucket of fried chicken have higher standards than that. If I'm going into a fine dining restaurant and am about to spend 40 dollars on a piece of meat that weighs about as much as a clipped toenail, then I want to be ensured that the meat is ACTUALLY UP TO STANDARDS!

So, why wasn't Ramsay there to announce the challenge? Why did Ramsay not even try the dishes until dinner service was to begin? It's because he's got 6,000 restaurants and 5,000 reality shows to manage. He's a busy guy – I can appreciate that. He's got places to go, people to see, things to destroy. It's cool that he gets around. But his diversification is beginning to compromise his work and "world-class standards."
Case in point: Hotel Hell. Naturally, Hotel Hell premiered in two parts, much to my displeasure, but for a series premiere I'll give it a pass. Why is this show necessary? It's two hours of name-calling with a couple segments dedicated to the kitchen, and for twenty minutes it's like we're watching Kitchen Nightmares in a different candy wrapper. It is kinda funny to hear Ramsay call people bastards in that proper British accent of his, but I just don't see the purpose of this show. Oh, by the way, the premiere featured a shot of a naked Ramsay stepping into a bathtub.  What in the name of Anthony Wiener are these people thinking? What’s the purpose of a naked Ramsay, other than to make me vomit in my mouth?

The blur is a target: vomit here.

But it didn’t stop there. Each episode in the six-episode premiere season has included some sort of a naked Ramsay shot. Seriously, guys, this program is called Hotel Hell, not The British Guide to Brothel Transformation & Improvement. In all fairness, it looks like Ramsay is having a good time with Hotel Hell, which alone makes it a watchable show because his passion translates to entertainment. But what I can’t fathom is that he’s going around telling professionals that everything they’re doing is wrong, yet here’s a guy that’s letting his own product suffer because of his lack of dedication to one project at a time.  

It seems that MasterChef has taken over as Ramsay’s bread and butter, as it requires the most energy and effort than all of his shows. But there’s still problems that could be fixed with a little of that good ole fashioned concept, shoot, what is it? Oh yeah: creativity.  For example, MasterChef has bastardized the concept of product placement this season, most notably with the steaks supplied by Walmart. “You will be cooking steaks provided by Walmart” is the common phrase with the corporate logo right beside the beef. I mean, really, guys? That’s the best you could do? Seinfeld was a master of product placement and I think it would serve Gordon Ramsay some good to watch a few of the classics (“Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint, it’s delicious!”).

Don’t get me wrong; MasterChef had a terrific third season with Christine, a girl who has been blind since 2003, dominating the competition. But the show that generated Ramsay’s initial popularity in America is suffering. Badly. That’s what brings us full circle to the show bottoming out during winner Christina’s (yes, it is kind of confusing: Christina with an A won Hell’s Kitchen; Christine with an E won MasterChef) victory celebration. Don’t get me wrong again; Christina deserved to win, hands down. She was terrific all season and is probably one of Hell’s Kitchen’s best chefs ever. But the fact that she was going up against a guy with zero personality who was barely even featured in the early episodes this season made for a real lackluster finale.  Seriously, I couldn’t even identify Justin until halfway through the season. That’s how boring he is. Reality shows are supposed to be known for gathering terrible people and putting them in a small room together for a drama-drowning battle royale in front of millions of home viewers.

That obviously did not happen this season and the show might have gotten away with it if this wasn’t a joint effort of suckiness from the casting people to the editors all the way to the executive producer, Mr. Gordon Ramsay. This is what happens when someone has absolute control over something and/or surrounds themselves with yes men. See also: Emperor Palpatine.

Insert bodily function joke here.

But maybe there’s some good news on the horizon. For example, Jean Philippe is scheduled to return as the Hell’s Kitchen MaĆ®tre d’ next season, assuming the reports from Twitter are correct (as they so frequently aren’t). Also, season four, which in my opinion was the second worst season of Hell’s Bitchin’ up till now, was followed by the show’s best season ever. I think the crap editing this season is like the producers admitting to a lack of content, so if Gordon Ramsay and his people are capable of improving their own work rather than that of others, then there’s still hope for Hell’s Kitchen.