Hell’s Kitchen’s fifth season is more of the same great insults, incompetent chefs

Gordon Ramsay returns tonight to berate another group of incompetent chefs when Fox debuts Hell’s Kitchen 5 at 9 p.m. ET. If the first episode is any indication, this season will be practically identical to the preceding four seasons, which is why it’s both awesome and surprisingly boring.

In some ways, Hell’s Kitchen is the most formulaic reality competition because the contestants are virtually interchangeable. It doesn’t really matter that this season’s group includes a food court cook and a buffet cook, a lesbian and a gay man, because they’re all just there for Ramsay to yell at and throw stuff at. And really, those insults are the primary reason to watch, because we’re certainly not going to see amazing culinary skills demonstrated.

Ramsay doesn’t disappoint, sampling one contestant’s signature dish and saying, “I feel like I need some plastic wrap on my ass.” And that’s not his only ass-related insult. Although those remain entertaining, they’re no longer surprising or even shocking. The first time Ramsay puked out some sampled food, it was incredible; now, it’s just expected. Ditto with him berating chefs in the kitchen and throwing things at them.

Thus, the show’s kind of getting worse even though it’s staying the same, just because it no longer offers any real surprise. But there is, perhaps, one thing that’s different this season that could change things.

The (annoying, grating, obnoxious) narrator starts by telling us that “this year’s field is the strongest Hell’s Kitchen has ever had.” Generally, for contestants on this show, that would mean they can tell the difference between their feet and hands. For parts of the first hour, at least, it seems true, and pushes the show in a new, insult-less direction that doesn’t really work but is at least something different. For the majority of the first episode, though, Ramsay and Hell’s Kitchen deliver what they always do.

Hell’s Kitchen 5: B