Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Announcing the Hulu Award for "Best Celebrity-Driven Reality Show"

And the Hulie goes to....

Kitchen Nightmares!

The celebrity in question is bad boy chef Gordon Ramsay, a man whose constant stream of furious expletives has turned him into the unlikely face of British fine cuisine. American viewers may not be aware that Ramsay's hit "Kitchen Nightmares" is a British export that has been given a slight makeover for US viewers.

The formula is as predictable as a sunset, yet compelling in its details. A local restaurant is on the brink of financial ruin. Desperate to keep the doors open, they ask Ramsay for help. He comes in, tastes the food, and pronounces it inedible. He spends the next couple of days exposing any dirt he can, with the focus on filthy kitchens and unhelpful personalities. Typically, he identifies a scapegoat, whether that's the owner or a manager. He berates the owner on everything he can until the owner breaks and agrees that major changes are needed. Then Ramsay retools the menu, gussies up the dining room, and hosts an event that fills the restaurant to the brim with paying customers. Afterward, Ramsay pronounces the restaurant cured of its ills, and rides off into the sunset.

The success of the show is based on Ramsay's proven entertainment factor, as well as the innate interest we have in seeing behind the scenes of the local restaurants that serve us our food.

Fans will be excited to hear that Fox has announced a third season for this fall.

There's also a lot of buzz on the web regarding the actual fortunes of the restaurants featured on the program. How many failing restaurants are actually given a new lease on life by Ramsay's one-week visit? According to Wikipedia, 10 of the 21 featured restaurants have been closed down, with two others changing ownership since they were made over by Ramsay.

By one measure, this is a pretty dismal score. About half of the restaurants are gone, despite Ramsay's much-ballyhooed best effort. On the other hand, half of the businesses have actually been saved by a simple makeover. It's a glass half empty/glass half full kind of thing. I think the show would be better served by being a little more honest about the rickety ground that some restaurants have been left on at the end of the week.

Still, there's another measure of success for the show. In a Hulu-landscape chock-full of crappy reality shows fueld by crappy reality stars, one man stands head and shoulders above the rest. Congratulations to Gordon Ramsay and the other minds behind Kitchen Nightmares!

After 20,000 votes, the Audience Favorite is "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List," which scored a convincing 31% of the audience vote.

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