An Honest Critique of Gordon Ramsey Shows (TV Thursday)

Gordon Ramsey is one of the biggest names in both the world of cooking and television. His skill is nigh unparalleled, and his ability to scream is completely unmatched. Yet he can also be highly childish and kind. It’s safe to say that he’s earned his place as an icon of cooking/television/both of them combined. I grew up watching his shows with my parents. He’s been an idol of me since I was roughly five.

Which my parents would regret later in life.

But nothing is flawless. Chef Ramsey’s cooking and teaching abilities may be monstrous. Unfortunately, the composition of the shows themselves do tend to struggle. Particularly in one regard.

Once you’ve seen one episode/season of a show, you’ve seen all of it.

Repetitive structures are a problem that plagues all of reality TV. Finding a show that doesn’t start to go around in circles can be pretty much impossible. They rely instead on the personalities of the people in these shows to carry the audience through the same events they’ve seen before. But if the events in each episode prove too repetitive, then the show can suffer greatly. This is a problem that permeates most of, if not all, of American television.

Thus, we get back to Chef Ramsey. First, let’s discuss what may be his most iconic show: Kitchen Nightmares.

The premise is simple. Chef Ramsey seeks out restaurants that are struggling, goes to find out what the problems are, then does what he can to save the business. It’s a simple and uplifting show. But it does struggle more than any other show I’ve ever seen with the repetitive formula problem.

Every episode of Kitchen Nightmares goes the same way. We’re introduced to the restaurant in question, as well as the people running the place, and how it’s struggling. Chef Ramsey arrives, tests the food, hates it, sits in on a dinner service, then goes to solving all the problems. Then the people running the place struggle to put the new practices in place for another dinner service. With his job done, Gordon rides off into the sunset for his next adventure. Every now and then, you’ll have a two-part episode where Ramsey’s abilities are put to the test. And every once in a blue moon, Ramsey will have no choice but to leave.

If you’ve seen one of these episodes, then you’ve seen everything. Sure, it is undeniably entertaining to watch Gordon react to the differing varieties of terrible food. But you can only watch him eat mediocre, microwaved food so many times before you start feeling like an insane person. You watch the same thing and expect a different result.

But this insanity is even worse. Because every now and then, it will be different. And in some ways, that can be even more maddening than being wrong.

His other iconic show, Hell’s Kitchen, does fare a bit better. Each season brings new contestants, new challenges, and new disasters in the dinner service. Unfortunately, the smaller details become incredibly repetitive over time. Most of the time, the punishments are ‘clean this’ or ‘unload that’, and the rewards are ‘go do this pleasurable thing’ or ‘go eat at this nice restaurant’. It’s not as repetitive as Kitchen Nightmares, but its still dangerously close.

Despite this, the shows have an extremely addictive quality to them. You can’t help but think ‘Just one more episode’ or ‘Yeah, I’ve got time for another’. There is just enough variety in the details to keep it interesting, and Chef Ramsey is just so damn charismatic! It is so easy to see the flaws of the shows. But it’s so damn hard to put them down!

They are undeniably repetitive. Sometimes to a mundane degree. But there is just enough charm and entertainment there to keep you hooked. And isn’t that what makes a great TV show? The ability to keep your audience with you? If you have that, maybe it’s okay to sweat off the little details.

Or maybe not. I mean… just look at Game of Thrones.


Maybe a little more than charm is necessary.

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