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THE TINY SCREEN: The British Infestation:

Who suddenly decided that the British have a right to come over here and tell us entitled, lazy Americans what to do?  Isn’t it bad enough that most of our film directors have decided that English actresses sound better (more intelligent) than American actresses, even when they’re doing a bad accent?  Or that many of our most popular television shows were popular first in England?

For some inexplicable reason, American audiences continue to be fascinated with the arseholes from across the pond. “The Weakest Link,” “American Idol,” “SuperNanny” – and now, “Hell’s Kitchen,” featuring the latest in knuckle-wracking, esteem-ripping, uptight Brits coming over here and telling us what to do (and even what not to wear). 

Gordon Ramsay, purportedly the number one chef in London for the last three hundred years has his own, you guessed it, reality show in which two teams of would-be chefs compete for their very own restaurant.  The good news is that they will no doubt learn how to be great chefs by the end of the competition. The bad news is, they have to endure Ramsay on a continual basis.  Long-term exposure to the warthog could lead to various sorts of maladies, like heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, you get the idea.  The guy is bad news.

What’s funny about “Hell’s Kitchen” isn’t how they use  the village bully to whip the team of chefs into shape, but how willing the participants are to shortcut the usual channels of working toward a goal in order to simply get their own restaurant.  How very American: I want what I want and I want it now. 

Ramsay is a petulant, abusive, irritating bore.  The idea that he could create culinary masterpieces that would delight restaurant goers everywhere makes one’s stomach turn.  Sure, not all talented chefs are as pleasant in real life as they are on television (Martha Stewart and Mario Batali are supposedly horrifying behind the scenes),  but for god’s sake, who could ever eat anything by Ramsay again after watching him berate his students? 

The would-be chefs are split up into two teams and put to work their very first day when Ramsay announces, amid much pomp and circumstance, that they’re opening the restaurant immediately and the weakest link will rise to the surface and cast off the program.  In the first episode, it seems as though Ramsay is just throwing his hissy fits for show – after all, the chefs are all working as fast and as adeptly as possible.  It is not visible to us the audience how “bad” they are.  Besides, let’s face it, how many television-watching Americans (let alone those who would tune into Fox) know what a risotto is supposed to look like?

Unlike “American Idol,” where we can mostly tell the good singers from the bad, all we have to go on with the chefs is what they look like and how they respond to the Tasmanian Devil shouting obscenities at them, throwing their food back at them, playing favorites and doing everything in his power to break them down like Marines the first week of boot camp.

Though he’s dubbed the “Simon Cowell of the kitchen,” in fact, he isn’t at all like Cowell.  For one thing, Cowell has control of himself – he is calculated about what he says and to whom.  For the most part, he’s dead on.  Ramsay, on the other hand, has no control and is in desperate need of a hearty bitch slapping to get him to shut the hell up.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.  The beginning montage of scenes to come features shots of Ramsay hugging the chefs and high-fiving them – will this end up being the feel-good reality show of the summer?  If so, it’s possible that everyone could cash in big if they keep their promise to turn Hell’s Kitchen into a real restaurant to which tourists could come and not only meet the winner, but eat the pricey, well-cooked cuisine.  I think I’d rather stand in line at Pink’s.

Hell’s Kitchen airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on FOX.

 

Notable TV This Week

 

Thursday, June 2

 

Charlie’s Angels (**), the movie just barely does justice to the series, 8 p.m., ABC.

 

Indecent Proposal (*), hilariously bad romance drama with Demi Moore becoming the object of Robert Redford’s obsession, 8 p.m., WE.

 

 Hit Me Baby One More Time, veteran musicians compete to win, 9 p.m., NBC.

 

Dogtown and Z-Boys (****), 9:45 p.m., IFC.

 

Friday, June 3

 

The Magnificent Seven (****), 8 p.m., TCM.

 

Reservoir Dogs (****), 9 p.m., IFC.

 

Dying Young (*), with Julia Roberts “serious acting,” 9 p.m., IFC.

 

Biography: Jim Jones, 10 p.m., BIO.

 

Saturday, June 4

 

Bambi (****), 8 p.m., ABC.

 

Forget Paris (**), awful romantic comedy with Billy Crystal and Deborah Winger, 8 p.m., KTLA.

 

Sling Blade (***), 8 p.m., BRAVO.

 

The Usual Suspects (****), 8 p.m., IFC.

 

Sunday, June 5

 

Forces of the Wild: A `Nature’ Miniseries, 8 p.m., KCET.

 

Second Sight, 8 p.m., BBCAM.

 

Four Weddings a Funeral (****), 9 p.m., ABC.

 

Swingers (***), 10 p.m., IFC.

 

Monday, June 6

 

Coldplay Live Leak, 9 p.m., MTV.

 

The Ring (***), inexplicably terrifying albeit badly written horror flick, 9 p.m., ABC.

 

Staying Alive (*), not to ‘80s what the original was to the ‘70s, 9 p.m., AMC.

 

The Scholar, Ten bright high-school students arrive at the Los Angeles house where they will live and compete for a full scholarship to the college of their choice, 8 p.m., ABC.

 

Tuesday, June 7

 

Sands of Iwo Jima (****), 7:30 p.m., AMC.

 

Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, 9 p.m., UPN.

 

Fire Me, Please – Two people begin new jobs with the goal of being fired by 3 p.m. the same day, with a $25,000 prize to the person who is fired closest to the deadline, 9 p.m., CBS.

 

Village of the Damned (**), 9 p.m., TCM.

 

Wednesday, June 8

 

Body Parts (**), on Howard Stern, 8 p.m., IFC.

 

Dancing with the Stars, 9 p.m., NBC.

 

Good Will Hunting (***), 9 p.m., A&E.

 

Talk to Her (****), Pedro Almodovar’s masterpiece, 10 p.m., IFC.

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