American Television: Kick it down a notch?

Lately, I’ve been spending some of my free time at home watching world-renowned professional Chef Gordon Ramsey on one of his many successful television shows, “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Netflix has both the American and British version of the show, which, in its most basic format, has Ramsey spend one week at failing restaurants all over the world so he can pinpoint their problems and attempt to fix them to help get the business back in the black.

I thought it might be fun to see the difference between the British and American versions, so I watched several episodes of both. Let me say, what a difference there is between the two versions of the exact same TV show.

Apparently, Ramsey narrating his own TV show isn’t good enough for us Americans, but it’s fine for the Brits. The Americans need some stale, overused reality TV voiceover telling us all about what was going on.

Americans also apparently need way more extreme things to happen to keep us entertained than the Brits do.

I haven’t made it through all the British episodes yet, but I have yet to come across a single British kitchen that was shut down during the course of making the TV show. But by the third season of the American show, it was almost as if Ramsey was told by his producers to find a reason to shut down every kitchen he walked into. Yes, some of the kitchens were pretty gross, but sometimes he closed them down in the middle of the dinner rush for almost no reason whatsoever, making the owners walk into their dining rooms and tell their customers they would not be receiving any food that evening.

I don’t know if Americans are just more confrontational than the Brits, but American owners were way more inclined to get into screaming matches with Ramsey than the British ones as well.

After awhile, the old, tired plot of the show began to shine through brighter than ever in the American version. Ramsey would walk into a restaurant, tell everyone it was the worst thing he’d ever seen, be disgusted by the dirty state of the kitchen, shut the whole place down, make everyone clean, makeover the front of the house, provide a simpler menu made with local foods and call the place a success. It got boring and irritating in its over-the-topness.

So I switched back to the British version and it’s like a breath of fresh air. The only similarity between the two versions is the amount of cursing Ramsey can unleash during the course of a 45-minute episode, but cursing has never really bothered me much.

The plots of each British show loosely follow the same line, but there is no screaming, no disgusting kitchens, no kitschy voiceovers or worn-out tag lines. Just people working at making their businesses succeed, which is dramatic enough for me.

American television is not for those of us who strive to live our lives on an even keel. Shows like “Duck Dynasty,” “Toddlers and Tiaras,” or the “Real Housewives” series just take long-held stereotypes of groups of people and blow them way out of proportion, for the entertainment of many and the embarrassment of few. And the American “Kitchen Nightmares” certainly want way over the top by its third season, embarrassing every restaurant owner featured by airing their dirty laundry where millions could see it.

We appear to be the only ones that watch TV like this. Maybe we could take a page out of the books of other cultures and tone the crazy down a few notches.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is