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Going To Hell - June 14

Regular readers of On the Buzzer are probably used to the pattern that goes on here; I pick a show, and complain for 500 words about how awful it is. At least that seems like how it's been. I aim to fix that today. Can you believe it? A show I like? It's inconceivable!

Nah, it's just a game show that puts everything together.

And that show is...Hell's Kitchen. Yup. FOX's cooking death match on Monday nights has won me over from last year. It has everything: compelling competition, interesting contestants, and of course, a great host.

For those that didn't follow the show last week, Hell's Kitchen is Yet Another Elimination show on its face, but there are a few things that set it apart. One, contestants are competing not for a cash jackpot or a record deal, but partial ownership in a restaurant chain. That's a neat prize. Apprentice contestants never had it so good. Two teams of six compete in a pair of challenges, one for a reward, and one for immunity. (So far, so Survivor, I know) but the challenges are based in the culinary arts. Where else will you see contestants trying to pare stacks of squid, or preparing an entire menu with $100 worth of ingredients? This while Survivor falls back on the Three Strikes Trivia contest they do every year. The other neat thing; while immunity is immunity, the losers are left on their own. The 'best performer' on the losing team puts up two of his own, and the head chef determines who will be leaving. So I suppose a bit of bootlicking is in order, but in the end it is the contestant's own skill that will determine their fate.

And what would a game show be without contestants? While we've only seen the first two episodes, but the twelve contestants this year all have some sort of experience in the food service industry; whether that is as a prison chef, a fishmonger, a deli manager and a cafeteria chef. These people should know what they're doing. For that matter, they should know what they're in for, since there was a whole other series of shows last year to watch. Each player looked completely surprised to find out that their first task was to create a signature dish in a half-hour. For that reason I laughed just as hard this year as I did last year.

Finally, what would a game show be without a host? Gordon Ramsay is no Jim Perry or Bill Cullen, that's for sure. Then again, Uncle Bill was never putting up his own job as part of the prize package on "Blockbusters." A world class chef by trade, Gordon Ramsay alternates between laughing it up with reward winners on a luxury dinners, and barking orders during the immunity challenge where both teams operate half of the titular restaurant. Ramsay's is at his best when he's pushing around his recruits. These people are competing for a share in a world famous restaurant; not living in a house for three months or something. This is supposed to be hard. Ramsay puts the players put their paces, and drills into their head that 99% just won't cut it. Things have to be right the first time. I wholeheartedly approve of that. That sort of fire-in-the-eyes seems to be lost in the States
these days, with people willing to do the bare minimum to get by and letting mistakes out in their work.

If you like food even a little bit, you'll find something to like in this show. If you don't, watch anyway, you'll find something else to like.

Travis Eberle has a yummy recipe for a rice-and-sausage dish. E-mail him at if you want details.


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