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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kitchen Nightmares: "The Mixing Bowl"

Illustration for article titled Kitchen Nightmares: "The Mixing Bowl"
Illustration for article titled Kitchen Nightmares: "The Mixing Bowl"

For the third week in a row, the failure of the shitpit du jour has been laid at the feet of an obnoxiously lazy manager. This time out it's "Mixing Bowl Mike," an inveterate tip-hog and scatterbrain whose mishandling of the dining room at an otherwise not-that-bad Long Island bistro is–according to the always-looking-for-a-loser Kitchen Nightmares producers–about to push his boss into bankruptcy. And granted, Mike doesn't appear to be any kind of keen businessman. His bright ideas for bringing more customers into The Mixing Bowl involve 50% off coupons and arcane specials, printed up on expensive signs. (My favorite: The wonderfully unexplained "Select Three.") And yet, when Gordon Ramsay asks him what award the menu's "award-winning crab cakes" won, Mike has no idea what he's talking about.

Actually, Ramsay's a lot ruder to Mixing Bowl Mike than necessary. The first time they meet, while Mike is still fawning, Ramsay asks the portly manager when he last ate a salad. Then, while he's dissing Mike to the restaurant's chef/owner Billy, he turns to the manager and says, dismissively, "I'm sure you used to have a spark."

Two things about this treatment bother me:

1. Nothing in Mike's demeanor or behavior is so egregious that he deserves to be kicked around so much–not unless Ramsay has some ulterior motive for tearing him down. (As he so often does on the UK KN, where he practices tough love as a form of encouragement.)

2. I don't believe that any of this happened even close to how it's shown.

Part of my skepticism relates back to point one. On the UK show, Ramsay's a lot more relaxed around the people he's trying to help; and even in this episode, there are plenty of shots of Ramsay and Mike in casual moments, looking reasonably chummy. Other awkwardly framed fact-fudges: During the first dinner service, Ramsay keeps yelling at Mike about how the restaurant is empty, and yet the shots in the background show a room at least half-full; and on the flipside, when Mike later yells at Ramsay about a botched reservation, the producers insert shots of diners craning their necks to hear the argument, while a few medium shots reveal that this shouting match most likely took place after closing.

So yeah, this week? The yelling was not so fun. It's feeling more and more like formula, and less like a natural reaction to outrageous incompetence. This show is becoming more disappointing by the episode.

Grade: C-

Stray observations:

-Back to the long intro again…crap.

-Veteran KN-watchers can usually predict a few problems that Ramsay's going to have with a restaurant, like enormous menus, and food that's over-sauced. We can also anticipate the problems the restaurants are going to have post-revamp, because they're usually related to overbooking. The fact that these elements are common to the US and UK versions either means that these are the flaws the routinely torpedo restaurants, or the producers of both shows are really lazy.

-The rest of this episode pretty much fell into line, with Kitchen Nightmares springing for a restaurant-remodeling and Ramsay presenting Chef Billy with a new menu; and since Billy's actually quite competent, there was nothing much to see here. But there was one bright spot to the episode: a cooking challenge in which Billy and Ramsay took the same set of ingredients and prepared different healthy dishes. More of this please, KN, and fewer trumped-up villains.