Can a restaurant go from the brink of disaster to culinary and financial success? And can this happen in a single week? This is the challenge of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, a British show where chef and restaurant owner Gordon Ramsay tries to help restaurants turn themselves around in seven days.

Each episode features Ramsay trying to make a failing restaurant succeed again, along with his voiceovers and interviews with the restaurant's staff. Most episodes follow a pattern: The first day Ramsay visits for the first time and tries the food; the second day he inspects the kitchen; the third day he observes a typical dinner service; the next three days cover changes -- menu, decor, staff, etc; then the last day is a relaunch for the restaurant with the changes.

This sort of show hinges on the host, and Gordon Ramsay is certainly engaging. Very passionate (and swearing enough to get bleeped frequently, even on BBC America), Ramsay is critical and argumentative -- and willing to roll up his sleeves and do the grunt work along with the chefs and staff. He approaches each challenge with a new strategy (though simpler, less pretentious food is a frequent fix) and the receptions vary from unconditional acceptance to shouting matches. There's usually a visit a few weeks or months later, when we see how the restaurants have done after Ramsay's visit. (Some do well, some close, and one sued Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares for causing it to fail.) The show does use narration and dramatic music to manipulate the audience a little, but it's nice to see a show where the star is willing to do some real work -- and effect a real change.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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