Having been a bit of an addict back at home, I’ve barely watched any TV since I moved to America. With Sky+ (that’s Tivo, to the Americans amongst you) now a distant memory, by the time I’ve navigated through what seems to be 1003 different channels, I’ve generally either fallen asleep or missed the one programme that was vaguely worth watching in the first place.
In fact, the only show* I seem to have managed to watch on any kind of regular basis is Kitchen Nightmares with our very own Gordon Ramsay. But forget Rococo in Norfolk, or Mamma Cherri’s Soul Food Shack in Brighton – this is Kitchen Nightmares, American-style – with all the glamour, tears and tantrums that American television demands.
They say that everything in America is bigger than its equivalent elsewhere, and they’re not just referring to national debt. Indeed, the level of US debt has undoubtedly been increased by the amount of money thrown at Kitchen Nightmares on this side of the pond by Fox TV. Where in the UK Gordon saves a restaurant by giving them his coveted fish pie or burger recipe, here the master chef gives them a complete restaurant makeover, with every glass, table, fork and plate replaced with sparkling new products.
To be honest, new plates are about as close as you get to food with the US version. Unsurprisingly for a country gripped by such a fervent desire for self-examination, the show is dominated by blazing arguments, personal breakdowns and meltdowns and confessional vox pops. It’s like the Jerry Springer Show meets Jamie Oliver. With more swearing.
Ah, the swearing. There’s one thing that doesn’t change about Kitchen Nightmares. There’s more ‘f****’ and ‘f***ings’ than a boat trip with Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Although every single one of them seems to be beeped out. After all, you can’t expect people watching TV at 9pm to be grown up enough to hear the odd swear word, can you?
For two shows with the same name, it’s difficult to imagine them being handled so differently. With one a food documentary, and the other a soap opera set in a restaurant, comparing them is like pitting Mike Tyson in the ring against Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes. Even so, you can’t help but admit that Kitchen Nightmares USA is entirely superficial but pretty damn enjoyable.
Sounds like a pretty good metaphor for life in America, if you ask me.
* When I say ‘the only show’, I obviously have to exclude CSI: Miami from that. But then, that’s less television and more a religion.