The F Word is back on our screens. I've struggled manfully on several occasions to get into the audience, but failed totally, mainly because I was too lazy to fill in the questionnaire. I'm kind of glad I failed now.
I mused a while back when the return of the second series was first mooted about what tweaks they were going to make to the format. I couldn't work out what they were going to do to invigorate it. Turns out, they couldn't either and didn't do any better than I did. You see the tweaks seem to be
- Get rid of Giles Coren - not a totally awful idea but he served a useful “consumer reporting” purpose
- Get rid of everyone whose surname isn't Ramsay or who doesn't work in Gordon's restaurants
- Give Gordon a chance to insult some other chefs, which he does at every possible opportunity anyway
- Add a bit more Hell's Kitchen
Not really much original thought there, huh?
In particular, the removal of the first series' competition in favour of the Hell's Kitchen elements has definitely been a move for the worse. The reason I wanted to get into the audience of the first series was that they got to eat food prepared by chefs from his kitchens, as well as by a few enterprising junior chefs from other kitchens who wanted a job working for Gordon Ramsay. Each week, he'd decide who would go on to the next round and in the final episode, the winner got the job after a bake off. Nice idea, really.
This time round, Gordon just gets to shout at non-chefs while they find out what life in a kitchen is like. What's the point of that? They don't really gain anything apart from “an experience” and a good slagging off at the end of it. And as for the second series' audience, all they get is to suffer poor service and bad food, get insulted by Gordon occasionally and then decide whether the food was edible enough to pay for. You can see why I'm not so keen on the idea of joining them any more, can't you?
The rest of the show is still pretty much the same, just variations on the previous series' themes at most. Gordon going round blokes' houses to teach them how to cook, instead of going round women's houses. No more turkeys being reared for slaughter; hello pigs being reared for slaughter (the animal lover in me is both pleased and appalled). Similar but different. Different but similar.
And while some of the better elements of the show have been replaced with worse ideas, some of the poorer elements are still in there. Whatever you think of Gordon as a chef, one thing he's not is a celebrity interviewer - he makes Davina look like Parkie. When faced with Cliff “easy listening” Richard, all Gordon could was try to goad him into swearing. Nice.
Of the returning elements, the wine-tasting was a corker, though, and seeing Janet Street-Porter beat Gordon at the cook-off again was more than worth the hour I invested in the show.
All in all, a few more recipes, a bit more variety and a bit more fun would have been far better ways to improve the show than simply giving Gordon more chances to insult people.
Still, overnight ratings for the show are pretty good, according to the Media Guardian (registration required), with the show getting the highest ratings of its time slot. Combined with Big Brother and Property Ladder, The F Word gave Channel 4 its second-highest rated night of the year so far. So what do I know?
PS The theme, by the way, is The F-Word by Babybird, as regular blog readers already know.
PPS Paul Jackson, the ITV exec who was trying to poach Ramsay from Channel 4, has described the new series of the show as “a pile of poo”.
“I am not alone in thinking that he has injected a lot of Hell’s Kitchen into the middle of the show.”
For once, an ITV exec has said something sensible. Amazing.
PPPS Can't believe I missed the return of Property Ladder! Repeat after me aspiring property developers: “Listen to the Beeny”. She knows what she's doing: you don't!