I have to admit I'm still watching this show, even though I'd deduced after the first episode that it was absurd - nobody can possibly do good work of ANY kind when some crazed lunatic is screaming at them and switching the agenda every five minutes (as in the last episode, when he had the four of them switching stations like hamsters in a maze). I would never allow myself to be at the mercy of Ramsey for any price, including my own restaurant (which the supposed 'winner' will be getting - whooptee doo).
Nonetheless, the show is undeniably watchable, as has been noted by others here; part of it is gaping at how much abuse these poor schlubs are willing to put up with (and Ramsey, a Scorpio, has no limit to the level of sadism he can dish out), and part of it is watching the unbelievably petty ego stuff that's going on between the contestants and the ridiculously high jealousy level (for instance, with the long-suffering-but-still-noble Elsie getting to do the TV show in the last episode, before she was booted off).
I really don't care who wins, it's the human spectacle I'm intrigued with, sort of like how I used to find myself watching Jerry Springer's horrendous debacle every other night.
8/2 (a day after the Season Finale) - Here's the epitome of stupidity, boys and girls: after declaring Michael the Winner of his OWN RESTAURANT, Ramsey, in the midst of the celebration, asks Michael if he wants to come with him to London to work beside him, become a better chef, learn the tricks of the trade, blah blah blah. And guess what? Michael says yes. After going through all that torture just so he could get his own place, he agrees to go work with Ramsey in London instead. Doesn't this kind of negate the entire show? And questions remain: does Michael still get his restaurant? Does his girlfriend go to London with them? And most importantly, does Ramsey wind up getting tattoos over nearly every inch of his body?
6/25/06 - Started watching the second season, and I found myself thinking during the first episode of brutality that this series really shows the amazing gender double standard that still exists in this country. Can you imagine, for example, a reality series where a raging, foul-mouthed WOMAN shrieks, screams and viciously insults her charges for a hour each week, forcing them to work under the most hideous conditions known to the human race? And the charges in question not only submit to this endless torture, but they spend their evenings praying in their respective dungeons that they won't get kicked off, so they can endure more? What Ramsey gets away with here would never be even remotely accepted or acceptable if a woman did it, although, come to think of it, that would make a really funny SNL sketch, wouldn't it, with, say, Tina Fey in Ramsey's part.
7/17/07 - So now, we're well into season three of this deranged debacle, and the male contenders and Ramsey have taken to calling the female contenders "Hell's Bitches". Sounds like a supremely sellable spin-off to me, sort of like "Charlie's Angels" except they're armed with spatulas and cilantro instead. It would be a horror series, of course. Very much like this one.
Related notes: Ramsey Revisited ~
I've been watching Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, where in each episode he visits a different restaurant that's on the brink of disaster and works to revamp and revitalize it. Generally, there's always an ego problem at the core - the owner or the 'chef' usually - and it's a much gentler Ramsey who deals with these deluded freaks. Only in one episode did it actually dissolve into a yelling match (Ramsey won, of course, when the 'chef' slunk away licking his wounds, only to return with nothing but respect for Ramsey for finally putting him in his place). I have to say, I'm impressed with this version of Gordo, and I think he should use these more subtle tactics on Hell's Kitchen, which would make for a far more humane but equally watchable presentation.