Stay Tuned: 'Hotel Hell' is more of the same from Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay is a chef, but really, he's a one-man reality television empire. This summer, you can find him as the host of “Hell's Kitchen” and “Hotel Hell” and co-host of “MasterChef.” Previously, you could find him as the host of “The F Word,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” “Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live,” “Gordon's Great Escape” and “Ramsay's Best Restaurant.”
On his reality competition shows, he yells and swears and is the only person I've ever heard use the word “wow” to express deep disappointment. He is a culinary drill sergeant who isn't afraid to humiliate and embarrass any participant who doesn't meet his expectations. But over a season or an episode, the majority of men and women who spend hours hating him usually come to respect and even like him. The tough-love formula is a hit with contestants as well as viewers. It might be easy to dismiss Ramsay as TV's “last angry man,” but he's an angry man with an audience.
“Hotel Hell” is “Kitchen Nightmares” with a venue change. Instead of rescuing restaurants that are going under, Ramsay is tasked with saving hotels on the brink of financial collapse. Each episode more or less goes like this: After assessing the front and back of house operations, he tells the hotel owners that the guest rooms are dirty, the public areas are shabby, the décor is dreadful and their management style is unprofessional. He has a meal in the hotel's restaurant and naturally, it's terrible.
The owners, who initially welcomed his help, now feel insulted and resist change. Ramsay is exasperated but brings in his team to makeover the guest rooms and public spaces. The owners begin to see the error of their ways. There is a hotel relaunch party for the local community. Everything is great!
Then it's not. Someone slides back into their bad habits and Gordon turns into “frustrated counselor,” so he says things like: “You've just shut down on me!” and “Open up please!” The offending owner or staff member gets back on track. Ramsay packs his bags and leaves with reformed, re-energized and grateful innkeepers fondly wishing him safe travels.
On “Hotel Hell,” the mental makeovers feel as easy as the overnight room renovations but that's why it works. After all, this is reality TV. Who has time to watch how long it really takes for people to change their ways? The formula may offer nothing new to Ramsay's growing list of reality competition shows but that's not a bad thing. It's satisfying to watch people being told off for bad behavior and it's even more satisfying to see them change all in the space of an hour.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.