How you feel about the latest season of Gordon Ramsay’s foulfest HELL’S KITCHEN — premiering with a two-hour debut tonight at 8PM on FOX — will depend largely on how you’ve reacted to past cycles.
If you were left thinking, “Wow, I wish they’d find more obnoxious, less pleasant contestants”, you’ll probably be pleased. And if you were hoping that some of them would sink to their supposed-mentor’s level by getting in his face and being equally abusive, well, this cycle will make all your dreams come true.
The new season focuses even less on actual cooking skills — and really, who thought that was even possible — and more on the obscenities which are served up with more regularity than edible meals, which seem few and far between. And it’s clear that this time around, producers have insisted upon even more conflict, with even Maitre’d Jean-Philippe getting into screaming matches with the aspiring chefs. Perhaps the most ironic moment comes when Ramsay, having been yelling at the top of his lungs throughout a dinner service, takes Jean-Philippe and a contestant to task for “yelling in front of the customers” as if that’s not exactly what they — and we — have come to see.
Make no mistake: This is not a cooking show. Unlike TOP CHEF, where viewers may come away inspired to reach personal culinary highs, HELL’s soul purpose is to serve up one cringe-worthy shouting match after another in an effort to bring down the collective IQ of its audience. It is without doubt reality television at its worst. But it’s most egregious affront is a complete lack of originality. As in seasons past, the menus prepared by the crude contestants seem exactly the same as they have been at every dinner service since this show first hit the airwaves. The “competitions” are repetitive as well. Heck, even the prizes (lunch with Gordon!) and punishments (clean the kitchen) are exactly the same as in previous outings. Why? Because producers and Ramsay — who at points appears to be walking through the entire affair, even when he’s shouting at the top of his lungs — know they needn’t bother being more creative. As long as he spits food out and calls contestants a bleeper-bleeping donkey several times an episode, he’s done his job.
This show caters to the basest of instincts by offering up a smorgasbord of banality. If that’s what you’re looking for, pull up a chair and enjoy. But for those looking for even the smallest morsel of decency, humanity or intelligence, be sure to stay out of this KITCHEN.