A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this restaurant-set reality series stars famously foul-mouthed British chef Gordon Ramsay, whose motivational techniques consist of harsh insults and rude personal attacks aimed at anyone he deems negligent. Though the strongest words (including "s--t" and Ramsay's personal favorite, "f--k") are bleeped, swearing runs rampant throughout the show, coming mostly from Ramsay -- although the restaurant employees express themselves colorfully as well. Hot tempers sometimes lead to utensil-throwing tantrums or physical exchanges (mostly pushing and shoving), but no injuries are shown.
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What's the story?
Having tackled the worst the British have to offer, infamous chef-turned-kitchen consultant Gordon Ramsay sets his sights on struggling restaurants across the pond in the U.S. version of KITCHEN NIGHTMARES. As in the British version of the series, each episode follows Ramsay as he visits an eating establishment to hone in on the reasons for its current downward spiral. He samples a dish or two, pokes around in the kitchen, observes the staff in action, and interviews employees. Whether it's lazy kitchen staff, unreliable appliances, inefficient management, or an appalling bug problem, it doesn't take the critically acclaimed food pro long to identify the problems and set his own course of restaurant rehab in motion. Often the plan includes new menu ideas, updated cooking equipment, and, of course, a vat of good old-fashioned elbow grease.
Is it any good?
While Ramsays' dedication to the projects goes without question, fans familiar with the U.K. show will notice a definite lack of hands-on effort from Ramsay in this version. Instead of rolling up his sleeves and pitching in, he spends even more time critiquing from the sidelines, hurling his famously brutal insults at everyone within ear's reach when their work isn't up to par. And, true to form, he makes no effort to tone down his famous red-letter language, which often is so doused with multiple forms of his favorite word -- "f--k" -- that the rest of his message gets lost in the percussion of bleeps. (In episodes where the kitchen staff jumps on the cursing bandwagon, too, you might as well turn off the TV for all the enjoyment you'll get out of any positive dialogue among teacher and students.)
While the restaurant transformations -- each of which takes place over the course of a week -- are amazing and Ramsay's expertise certainly helps the struggling owners save their businesses, overall Kitchen Nightmares focuses too much on its star's fiery personality and the interpersonal dramas between him and the staffers he's been sent in to help. There's little to enjoy here unless you're hooked on the hot-tempered drama of reality TV.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of reality TV celebrities like Ramsay. Do you think Ramsay is famous for his talents or for his personality? Why does society respond to larger-than-life types like him? Could a chef with the same expertise but a quieter persona develop the same kind of following? Why or why not? Families can also talk about work environments. How would you describe your ideal work environment? How can you adapt to a less-than-ideal one?