5/10/2014 0 Comments
On a Friday night in May of 2013, I was sitting down in front of the television, scrolling through channels when I came across an episode of ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ – another Gordon Ramsay reality television concoction. He’s only slightly less abrasive in this version as opposed to his ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ which has him going off at every turn. For a complete turn of events, he’s a pussycat in ‘Master Chef’. But I digress.
I just happened to come across this particular episode of ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ (and the repeat of it a year later) and the opening teasers were, of course, intriguing. Shows like this usually follow the same formula – a setup, a backstory, a crisis (or train wreck in-progress), an intervention (by Ramsay) and then a solution or conclusion. Something was different however with this episode. The cameras filmed a service-in-progress before Ramsay arrived (nothing new about this concept). But what was captured was truly unbelievable and eye-popping: a train wreck of a restaurant operated by two people with severe mental health issues.
At first it was entertaining, laughable (they have to be making this up, right?… right? People who own restaurants don’t act like this, right?… right? They’re being coached to act like this to ‘drama up’ the situation, right?… right). Then, as this train wreck of a dinner service ended, you’re left sitting there wondering why the restaurant is still operating if this is the way they treat their staff and their guests. It must be an act for the cameras, right?… right?!
Then, as Ramsay arrives and sits down with the owners (both before and after the next train wreck of a dinner service), you end up realizing that, yes, the owners are totally delusional, there is no act and what you have just witnessed is a case of two mentally unstable people put on display for entertainment. But that is what is wrong with reality television. These people (and hundreds more contestants, guests, teams and players that make up the meat and potatoes of reality shows) with mental health issues are put through the meat grinder of reality television for our entertainment. What is wrong with that?
I’m no psychologist, but I have been around long enough and observed endless human behaviour to know that the kind of behaviour that Amy and her husband exhibited on ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ is not normal human behaviour. They have severe mental health issues that need to be addressed in psychotherapy. But again, that is what drives the engine of reality television – unbalanced, out-of-control, over-the-top, sociopathic contestants (who everyone calls ‘crazy’). Without these people who are displayed to us like circus freaks, would we watch reality television? I would suggest, no. It would be dull and boring watching the ‘normal’ contestants battle each other with their ‘normal’ behaviour.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how much goading (if any) or poking at Amy and her husband was done by the producers to provoke them into their tirades. I also don’t know any of Amy’s backstory. This would be insightful knowledge to get at the root cause of her problem. In any event, both ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ and ‘Amy’s Baking Company’ are to blame for the train wreck that was the episode and that is Amy and her husband’s life. ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ gets a thumbs down for putting two people with mental illness on display for our entertainment, but also a thumbs up for bringing this issue to the table. And although you end up feeling the slightest bit sorry for Amy, the wrath she, her husband and her restaurant got after the episode aired was justified. You just don’t treat people like that. Mental illness is no excuse. Fix your own personal problems before involving others in your train wreck. It’s not our fault.
When reality television took over the medium, I tuned out. There is something to be said for really well scripted television. That is the reason why (to combat the reality television craze’s heyday) I took to watching what was left of scripted television (Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU to name two). Mercifully, the reality television craze is dead and now only a few survive. But still, it seems that when you watch one of them, it’s like watching a car crash – you know it’s horrible but you can’t stop watching.
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