Although Gordon Ramsay's tirades on "MasterChef," "Kitchen Nightmares," and "Hell's Kitchen" already fill FOX's schedule, "Hotel Hell" manages to reveal a slightly different version of the cantankerous chef. Ramsay still tears his target down before molding a confident professional, but there is more humor as he suffers through torturous hotel stays and delivers zingers.
Hotel inspector Ramsay?
The opening credits follow a literal interpretation of "Hotel Hell" with a leather-clad Ramsay walking through fiery red halls. It is a bit cheesy and more appropriate for a Syfy channel original movie.
"Hotel Hell" seems like a miscast retread of "Kitchen Nightmares," but Ramsay's restaurant knowledge, perfectionism, and hospitality experience override the low expectations. The belligerent Brit yells, turns frightening shades of red, and drops the usual f-bombs. Surprisingly, he cultivates a new flavor of reality TV Ramsay and adds a dash of insult comedy.
The first episode begins with an evil villain, innkeeper Robert Dean II. He is a riddle, wrapped in an enigmatic haircut, hiding inside a $100,000 RV. He has no business sense or people skills, but loves the finer things in life -- antiques, artwork, and rescued potbelly pigs. He has several storage areas filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of personal belongings even though he cannot pay wages to his dedicated staff.
Dean is inhospitable to the townspeople and prefers to cultivate a wealthy clientele despite the fact that his inn suffers from high prices, bad food, and a stinky sewage problem. He is arrogant and utterly unsympathetic, making him a welcome target for Ramsay's wrath. The chef compares Dean's clutter to an episode of "Hoarders." He does an Oliver Twist impression before telling Dean to forget his "Antiques Roadshow" and focus on the inn.
The staff and Dean have some heated exchanges a la "Kitchen Nightmares," but sassy 70-year-old server Barbara adds some much-needed fun. The self-proclaimed cougar flirts with Ramsay, who responds with his usual charm. A cute split screen of her and Joan Collins flashes, and it's fantastic.
The pilot episode spans two nights, but the first hour drags due to unnecessary recaps and teasers surrounding the commercial breaks. Complex shows like "MasterChef" can handle that treatment, but it does not work with this simple plot and small cast.
Ramsay's narration sometimes feels excessive and unnatural as he delivers repetitive one-liners. His funny side is a welcome treat, but no one needs to watch two hours of Dean and the Juniper Hill Inn; shorten the narration and cut this episode to one hour.
"Hotel Hell" is better than expected, but it is not appointment viewing like "MasterChef" or "Hell's Kitchen." The pilot episode is creepy and as slow as an old-fashioned educational documentary. However, future episodes look more dynamic as Ramsay uses CSI tactics to inspect his room, deals with an insect infestation, and stays in a haunted hotel.
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