With Coffin Ed.
Channel Seven labelled it one of the TV events of the year. Well they do say that about all their new ‘franchise’ shows and Hell’s Kitchen on Sunday night was a classic piece of rehashed formula entertainment. Take a concept originally pioneered by the potty mouthed Gordon Ramsay, import yet another celebrity chef in the shape of Marco Pierre White and cast the show with a disparate collection of local celebs – and bingo you have yet another reality style cooking show. When will they ever end?
We all know that this type of entertainment depends on a strong degree of theatre, played out as the supposedly tyrannical chef orders his hapless trainees around the stoves and benches, often humiliating them in the process. It’s an almost totally contrived soap opera that nobody really takes seriously. However it does make a case that workplace harassment, where the boss continually badgers the employees, is somehow acceptable – even when it amounts to whether the goddam fish are properly cooked or not.
That said, this type of confrontation in the cook house is nothing new and Arnold Wesker hit upon it as way back as the late 1950s with his play The Kitchen. Set in the busy and at times hectic kitchen of a London restaurant it’s a mixture of drama and black humour, permeated by a theme of the workers being constantly dehumanised, all in the name of serving up a respectable meal. Does that sound familiar? Later made into a movie in 1961 the film version carried the catchy advertising slogan, “Where life simmers and sometimes boils over”.
Hot on the heels of Hell’s Kitchen downunder, Seven screened the first of a two part sequel to the original Blue Murder series, starring Richard Roxburgh as the notorious Roger Rogerson. The two shows were packaged together as a Sunday night ratings behemoth, although you would be hard pressed to find a connection between the two. Or would you?
Maybe Seven missed the mark by not including selected members of the criminal milieu amongst the cast of Hell’s Kitchen. Commercial TV loves that endless segue of one show into the next and a few colourful characters in the kitchen would have been the perfect entrée for the psychopathic exploits of Roger the Dodger.
The late Mark “Chopper” Read, who always loved a media moment, would have been a natural and a fitting adversary for the short tempered Marco Pierre White. Whilst Chopper would no doubt have been kept well away from any kitchen utensils bearing a sharp edge, his mere presence would have been foreboding, let alone his extensive vocabulary of expletives (putting Gordon Ramsay to shame!).
Eddie Obeid has a strong restaurant background and surely day leave could have been secured to include him in the cast along with his good buddy Ian “Sir Lunchalot” McDonald. It’s all theatre after all and whilst many of our best known criminals are no longer with us, Hell’s Kitchen could easily have looked to actors playing the roles of Ned Kelly (hey, his beard is back in fashion), Chow Hayes and even a reborn Tilly Devine.
After a while just about everything you watch on commercial TV these days morphs into one another, with the boundaries between reality and fiction often indiscernible. Cross promotion amongst a wide variety of shows is certainly the accepted norm. There are of course those who would argue that all reality TV is a crime against culture, if not humanity at large so maybe Seven has come up with the ultimate package. Happy viewing!