How exciting television must have been when it first hit the market. With moving images and sound broadcast across great distances at light speed, the free flow of information entered a new epoch, and a revolutionary new entertainment industry was spawned. Yet the scientists and inventors who labored over this creation must have been agonizing in their graves when FOX unveiled the latest new reality show to hit the airwaves (drum roll please…)

Sit at home and WATCH PEOPLE COOK!

Reality TV has finally reached the bottom of the barrel [Ed Note: Yeah right]. This kind of “entertainment” has me wishing I could go back in time, find the man who invented the TV, and beat his skull in with my television remote. Unfortunately, at Ruthless it is my duty to wade through the tedious crap that infects the airwaves and is broadcast — against my will — into my house. So sit back and relax as I bite into yet another shit sandwich, just so I can report back to you on how bad it tastes.

The host of the show is a professional chef by the name of Gordon Ramsay. If the show is set in Hell’s Kitchen, then he is the Prince of Darkness. Somehow FOX was able to find Simon Cowell 2.0; that is, unless all British people are this ill-tempered and cranky. Ramsay is mean-spirited, he talks and looks like Cowell, and he is just as entertaining to watch. In fact, he might actually be Cowell, I wasn’t really paying attention.

Like all “reality” shows, Hell’s Kitchen portrays men and women in situations they would never find themselves in “real” life. It is a game of elimination in which several intermediate chefs compete to be the last one standing at the end of the season. The chefs engage in such “hair-raising” games as wearing blindfolds and earphones and guessing what food they are eating. Who knew food tasting could be so fascinating!?


In the latest episode (07.25.05) the show began as the contestants were awakened at 4:00 am to “conquer the bread crises.” Yes, they used the word “crises” and there weren’t even any mutilated bodies, ninja ambushes or escaped mutant viruses involved. They simply had to make enough bread for the dinner they would prepare later in the day.

Maybe FOX thinks this constitutes entertainment. Maybe they have finally run out of ideas. Or maybe they should stop fucking around and bring back truly entertaining shows, like Andy Richter Controls the Universe! I guess shows like Hell’s Kitchen are to be expected from the network that once cut Family Guy, one of the best shows on TV.

Hell’s Kitchen is a mix between The Real World and Survivor, and possesses all of the back-stabbing, bitching, and conspiracies that had me avoiding those two shitty shows ever since they debuted. I never knew the culinary arts were so competitive and dramatic. Each episode begins with some challenge that pits the contestants against each other. The best thing that can be said for the challenges (I guess) is that they are mercifully short and crammed into the beginning of the show. On the bad side, this means the show’s competitive edge is transient and followed by what literally feels like 45 minutes of watching the contestants cook for customers as they rush against time, coordinate everything, and sustain Ramsay‘s shouting. Each contestant cooks a meal for the restaurant and the winning meal is chosen by Ramsay at the end of each episode based on appearance and customer satisfaction.

This is a major problem for Hell’s Kitchen. The audience is sitting at home completely removed from the competitive process, having no way to observe it directly or determine who is in the lead. Rather, viewers sit there dumbfounded with their thumbs up their asses wondering which random contestant will be voted off by Ramsay at the end. At least with other competitive shows, the viewer can observe the race and follow along. With Hell’s Kitchen, the viewer is so removed from the process that he has no idea who will win at the end, and doesn’t care.

If there is one unforgivable mistake FOX made with this series, it is the absence of big-breasted, scantily clad women needed to draw in the coveted 18-49 demographic. FOX misses its time-tested recipe for success because there are no babes on the show whatsoever. When I started watching halfway through the season, there were only two female contestants — a plain middle aged woman and a butch, young lesbian. At one point the butch girl’s slightly less butch girlfriend shows up and they kiss. Until this point, I thought there was nothing finer than some good old-fashioned lesbian action. Now I am not so sure; it was like watching two construction workers make out.

Not even FOX knows what demographic will find a show like this exciting or even interesting. But I will say this — just as Simon Cowell was the only factor that made American Idol palatable, Ramsay is cool because he doesn’t take shit from anyone and he tells it like it is when the contestants suck. Maybe we should put it in perspective — Hell’s Kitchen is not worse than World War II, bubonic plague, and Ryan Seacrest combined.