Why the Amy’s Baking Co. Kitchen Nightmares update was so embarrassing

As adapted by Fox and A. Smith & Co. Productions, Kitchen Nightmares went from a terrifically entertaining, dramatic UK series to a loud, dumbed-down, badly produced mess. Throughout its run, it’s only gotten worse.

But last year’s fantastic finale episode, featuring Amy’s Baking Company, was different. Sure, it had some of the eye-rolling bullshit we’ve come to expect from the Fox show, such as Ramsay feigning surprise that the restaurant was locked–even though he was being filmed by a camera that was actually inside the “locked” restaurant.

But mostly, that episode had rich, real-life characters reacting in unexpected ways, and it was absurd fun from start to finish. (When Amy started meowing? Come on!) What happened afterwards was also entertaining. So, I was looking forward to last night’s season premiere of Kitchen Nightmares, a follow-up episode.

Instead, we got a whole lot of evidence that the show learned nothing.

Most of the episode focused on reaction to last year’s episode, which came off even more self-serving than it was. Ramsay narrated from the Hell’s Kitchen set as if he was a Dateline reporter. A lot of what Ramsay said was just absurd, like when he insisted reaction to the episode was “the number-one trending story on the Internet” (what does that even mean?!). At one point, he also non-ironically said “online bloggers,” which is a redundant and clueless phrase that unintentionally recalls Amy’s description of redditors as “online legion trolls.”

Having a few journalists recap what happened last year and flashing tweets on the screen (including mine!) only told people what they already knew: it was a great episode. But by hammering that point over and over again, re-using the same footage, it unintentionally made the counter-argument. The show seems incapable of not blowing things out of proportion and revealing its desperate attempts to be entertaining.

Eventually, it got around to including never-before-seen footage that, at best, didn’t add much, and at worst, made this seem like an illustration of how badly produced Kitchen Nightmares really is. For the worst example: Trying to make the argument that Amy and Samy needed the show’s help, the producers had Ramsay introduce the couple’s “submission video” by saying they’d asked for help.

But that “submission video” wasn’t a casting video that someone might shoot on an iPhone and send in, hoping to be selected for a show. Instead, it was clearly shot by producers, very possibly even during production of the episode, though the footage was filtered to look amateurish.

Yet it included sit-down interviews with Amy and Samy, and included Amy acknowledging that she was being interviewed by a producer (“I can’t remember the questions you’re asking”) and talking to the camera crew (“can you film him?”). To label that as a “submission video” and pretend that was their desperate attempt to get cast is just absurd–and totally unnecessary.

Amy and Samy finally appeared in actually new footage during the last few minutes of the episode, when Fox’s LA affiliate reporter Ana Garcia ambushed them. Yes, that’s literally the best they could do: sending some random reporter to barge in with a camera crew.

Of course, it worked, resulting in more on-camera crazy. For example, Amy insisted that their social media accounts were hacked last year and that while “we didn’t say those things–now we are, because now you have lit the fire inside of us.” Amy also said Ramsay “tried to destroy us” and, going on a crazy, unedited rant, said “obviously the whole world thinks we’re psychotic because of the way they edited us.”

But by that point, Kitchen Nightmares made it clear that it’s a show that lacks integrity, not that we needed Amy to convince us.

At the very end, Ramsay said “what happened in Scottsdale was actually quite disappointing.” As Ramsay likes to tell people, he’s delusional: of course it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to the Fox series. If only the people that produced it knew why.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.