Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Did you all see Hell's Kitchen on (where else) FOX last night? I didn't, but it’s not like that's gonna stop a pseudo-journalist like me from writing about it anyway. I, for one, would like to know when it was that British people all became such assholes. I always thought that "Spot o' tea, gov'ner?" Cockney crap was like the Ozark dialect from across the pond and, on the other end of the spectrum, nothing would make me happier than seeing that smug bastard James Bond — especially the humorless Roger Moore variant — die in a horrible kidney pie accident. But my feeling is that if American women are going to swoon over Brits, the least the Brits can do in return is put on that foppish Hugh Grant persona. You know the one, where he meets cute with Julia Roberts or Elizabeth Hurley or Renee Zellweger and falls out of the rowboat on their first date.

Of course, I'd really prefer the Ricky Gervais or Paul Merton species of Brit — physically unattractive and semi-understandable — who don't screw up the attractiveness curve for the rest of us. (Damn you, Matthew MacFayden, your accent and your rugged good looks!)

From this side of the Atlantic, it feels like Restoration time again, with the British shipping all of their obstreporous, self-satisfied people over to the New World so they won't kill the buzz in England. Remember Anne Robinson, hosting The Weakest Link, always finding new and creative ways to tell Americans, who to be honest were largely retarded, that they were retarded. And of course there's Simon Cowell, who enlightens us all with comments like, "That was awful. Just awful. I'd rather listen to a dying bullfrog vomit up its own rectum than your rendition of Piano Man." It used to bother me that he'd crush the hopes of these desparate kids, most of whom were really no less talented musically than certain pop stars who won't be named.

(Cough, cough, J. Lo... ahem, Ashlee Simpson... cough, gag, cough, that guy from Creed... ahem.)

Sorry, something stuck in my throat there.

Now Simon just drives me crazy by carrying kids belting out banal pop standards to a Hollywood recording apotheosis. (I do believe this is the only place where you'll find the word "apotheosis" in an article about the Hell's Kitchen TV show.) This is a guy who'd give Hayley Duff a recording contract and tell Bob Dylan to get a lozenge.

Okay, I'd tell Dylan to get a lozenge too.

Along comes Gordon Ramsay who follows in a proud FOX tradition of giving guys their own TV shows even though they're still working through childhood issues. While I'm writing about the poster child for Valium here, I need to mention the most pointless online poll ever, from the FOX website.

If you were training on Hell's Kitchen, who would you rather train under?
  • Attila the Hun
  • Genghis Khan
  • Henry VIII
  • Gordon Ramsay
Uh... well I'd probably learn a bit more from Ramsay, seeing as how he's an actual chef. Although with Attila and Genghis, the looting and pillaging and raping is probably pretty good. I mean, seriously.

Now, Ramsay's bio calls him "the most accomplished chef in Britian," which, stereotypes aside, is like saying someone has the healthiest teeth in Britian. His first restaurant earned two Michelin stars, which leads me to ask, "You mean the tire people?" Basically, Gordy's a thirty-seven year old ex-football (i.e. "soccer") star who's not so much a perfectionist as a man-toddler chimera throwing temper tantrums when things don't go his way. He doesn't need a sous-chef, whatever the hell that is, so much as he needs Nanny 911. In the premiere episode, Gordon refuses to let a meal leave his kitchen unless all of the dishes in the meal are perfect; if one's not right, his hapless proteges have to cook the whole meal over again. It takes a few hours before anything gets served. Naturally. The restaurant's first customers — obviously extras the producers hired — are getting antsy, the contestants are stressed, Gordon's yelling at them like so many angry New York City cabbies during gridlock, as if that's gonna help. Maybe Gordon thinks the passage of time is his chefs' fault. I don't know.

Here's what gets me. This ain't polite little England. This is America, baby. U! S! A! We don't give a fuck what you think of us, and we don't take crap from anyone. (I mean, I take crap from people all the time, but that's because I have low self-esteem.) We're bombing the shit out of a country that didn't even do anything to us, okay? Those French cheese-eating surrender monkeys didn't go along with us in Iraq and what did we do? We took their fried potato sticks and renamed them "Freedom Fries!" We renamed their egg-dipped toast "Freedom Toast!" We bought all their wine and poured it down the sewer, bitch!

...wait a second, there... thinking... oh, that didn't help, did it....

How hard did these Hell's Kitchen producers have to work to find the other ten Americans (aside from me) willing to put up with Gordon and his hypoglycemic rages? Jesus, kids, demand some fucking respect, give Gordy a time-out (if you're a liberal pussy) or a few whacks with your belt (if you're a psycho conservative). Maintain eye contact with him, speak in a firm voice and say, "No, Gordon. That's not how we behave." Take away his cutting boards and pressure cookers until he learns to control himself.

At least make some good TV and walk the hell out of there, people.

I'm not seeing much hope, though. In Britain, people literally get into screaming matches on the Parliament floor. Did you see the debates over there for the elections they just had? We had old ladies asking Dubya, "Would you please pray for Oregon?" They had one kid after another in the audience just berating Blair for the faulty intelligence on the Iraq war — probably not the best three hours of his life. It's not that I think we're passive over here; I think we're star-struck. Our American dreams are that we'll all get to be the next Donald Trump, the next American Idol, the next... uh... Fabio. (He had a reality show, too — Mr. Romance. Oh, what, you missed it? Sample Fabio line: "People always tell me, 'Fabio, you have the body of Hercules and the brains of Zeus,' to which I say, 'Thank you.'" Fabio, buddy, you have the head of a drag queen and you can't tell butter from margarine. No one's saying that shit to you. I think mostly people are calling you that chick who got cracked in the face with the goose.)

If these dumb shits could make it to the top, then why not me?

For starters, God doesn't like you the way he seems to like the Donald. Also, the space at the top is limited; even if we could all be the most distinguished chef in the Commonwealth, someone would still have to work the Fry-o-later at Burger King. But mostly, you're just not that talented — not necessarily artistically or businesswise or whatever, but in terms of marketing yourself. You're just not the type of asshole who'd throw a tantrum in front of fifteen adults and a national audience if that's what it takes to get to the top. Like they said on South Park, it's always between a giant douche and a turd sandwich cause they're the only ones who suck up enough to make it.

Now, while Gordon's getting his irate persona on, FOX also shows House, an almost-brilliant show where Hugh Laurie (another Brit, although you'd never tell from his acting) plays an acerbic doctor who berates and insults his colleagues, staff, and frequently his dying patients. And, to the credit of Laurie and the show's creator Bryan Singer, House's vitriol is refreshing and cathartic, especially opposed to Ramsay's childish outbursts. House gets away with his behavior (barely) because we appreciate that House is trying to do a logical, rational job within a system that wavers between the extremes of arbitrary bureaucracy and incapacitating, irrational emotion. All he wants to do is diagnose a disease, and he can't do that his patients lie out of fear or shame or whatever.

Ramsey, then, is the system of arbitrary bureaucracy — throwing out a perfectly good crab risotto because the penne with spicy aiolo it's supposed to be paired with isn't al dente enough — and the irrational emotion — do I even need to present an example here. Is the chicken really simultaneously too dry (i.e. overcooked) and undercooked, or does it just not stroke your massive ego enough, Gordo?

Worse yet, the whole thing's totally trivial. I'm New York's biggest (er... I mean poorest) food snob and I'm telling you that if the beef Wellington isn't perfect on opening night, it will be after your chef makes about six hundred of them. Besides, if you cared that much, Gordy McAngrypants, maybe you shouldn't have hired amateurs to staff your new hoity-toity restaurant. Lindsay Lohan's not gonna want her Chilean sea bass with wasabi cream cooked by someone who doesn't know radicchio from endive.

God, take a hint from Rocco DiSpirito.