Monday, April 20, 2009
One of the best ways to observe cultural differences is through comparing the different versions of the same show produced in different countries. Take Kitchen Nightmares, for example. This show is not only fun, it is also a perfect way to gauge just how unlike the British and the Americans are. Or, rather, how unlike the viewers' expectations are in the two countries.
The traditional structure of the British episode had to be changed to suit the US audience. In Britain, chef Ramsay always has to overcome the initial distrust and sarcasm on the part of the restaurant owners he is trying to help. They make snide remarks, refuse to follow his advice, and even try to get rid of him.
The American participants of the show are almost often extremely grateful for any help. They thank chef Ramsay for any suggestion he is willing to offer. They cry and say how much he changed their lives (I have never seen anything approaching tears of gratitude in the British version of the show. At most, some restaurateurs might emit some semi-grateful grunts.)
Another difference is the ubiquitous makeover that seems to be indispensable to any American TV program. Ramsay's team transforms the restaurant overnight. In one of the episodes, Ramsay even sends the restaurant owner to a spa for a personal makeover. This tradition is absent from the British version of Kitchen Nightmares. If any work needs to be done on the restaurant's appearance and decor, the employees of the restaurant do it on their own. There is no "team" to perform a miracle and change the restaurant in a few hours.
All in all, I prefer the British version. The American show is too predictable: tears of sadness, a miracle, happy gasps, tears of joy.