Back in February, I wrote about my excitement for the Return to Amy’s Baking Company episode of Kitchen Nightmares that was set to debut that week. After two months of unexplained delays, Friday night saw the surprise premiere of two hours of Kitchen Nightmares. One was an actual episode. The hour dealing with Amy’s Baking Company was not. It was some form of PSA, or historical documentation, or (at worst) a legal or public defense against the Bouzaglo family.
Opening on a black and white title card which treats the original episode’s premiere date as some red-letter day in history, the Return to Amy’s Baking Company episode launches into the first of many re-caps of the previous episode’s events. If you’ve seen the original, you can skip the first 40 minutes or so of broadcast, since you won’t see anything new. The much maligned managerial duo of Samy & Amy is repeatedly featured in their most manic and shouty moments, intercut with chef Gordon Ramsay hosting tonight’s follow-up from some non-descript sound stage, far, far away from the people we want to see him interview. Despite promises of shocking new material, it becomes obvious very quickly that we will not be getting the kind of “Return To…” episode that Kitchen Nightmares is famous for.
A large chunk of the episode is dedicated to interviewing bloggers from Buzzfeed, Huff Po, and Reddit, who establish the “media firestorm” which occurred after the first episode, but can also say the kind of things Kitchen Nightmare’s producers must wish they could claim about Samy & Amy. We’re treated to YouTube sketches and even a rather bizarre extended flash animation that resolves with Amy’s cats melting her for being a witch. It’s actually a rather sickening moment, wherein boasts about the episode’s viewership and cultural popularity is capitalized by a series of mean-spirited memes for no other reason than to fill time. It’s a choice which saps the hilarity of the original episode’s situation by kicking a mentally unbalanced woman while she’s down.
When I wrote about my fascination with this episode’s possibilities, I stated that it would provide an honest look at a situation where the show’s producer had turned hostile towards the subjects while the subjects claimed they were manipulated into appearing psychotic. What appears to have happened is that the Bouzaglos declined a formal follow-up experience which led producers to fill the airtime with coverage that comes off like bullying. Part of the dynamic which made the original broadcast so fascinating was the refusal of these confused restaurant owners to properly use the help being offered them; it was Samy & Amy shooting themselves in the foot while people with a lot of power tried to help. There’s nothing entertaining or interesting about a rescue show that has no interest in rescuing anyone.
The new footage we are promised comes in three forms. First, there are some excerpted clips from the original episode, most of which involve Chef Ramsay trying to get a rise out of Amy, so it is understandable why they were cut the first time around. Second, Ramsay shows us the couple’s original submission video which most notably highlights Amy pitching the shop’s greatest weakness as Samy’s involvement; an arc that producers never found a way to address from her perspective.
Finally, at the very end, we are treated to a new interview at Amy’s Baking Company. The grand “return” of promise involves Ana Garcia (a Kitchen Nightmares reporter?) who surprises the couple with a request for an interview. This is the only new footage of the couple, given a chance to respond to nearly an hour of footage loops and outside commentary with an unannounced sit-down in their completely empty restaurant. Samy declines the interview at first, while Amy fiddles with her cell phone and laptop, seemingly documenting the invasion by the crew and attempting to contact someone (hopefully a lawyer or PR professional). Their need to express themselves gets the better of them, and soon they are attempting to explain their actions to the reporter (???) who keeps interrupting by asking them to explain what they meant by various stupid things they said during the first episode. A confused Samy tries to defend calling himself a gangster and Amy shares various horror stories about the “Disneyland for crazies” that the show has turned their livelihood into, including one bit featuring a man who leaves fake bugs on the plates and leaves. We’ve gone so far beyond the whimsical lunacy of a woman who thinks she can talk to cats and now see a couple (looking much worse for the wear) struggling against a tide they cannot hope to turn. It would almost be heartbreaking if not for a few last minute comments, including a claim by Amy that her attackers are “eunuchs,” and other such drivel.
When the first episode aired, people were shocked by the kind of erratic behavior and huge personalities not normally associated with a “we’re coming to help you show,” mostly because such people can never be portrayed as purely antagonistic, and even that episode tried to strike a few redeeming chords before the final blow-up. The Return episode is a joyless, meaningless affair which keeps the main parties completely distanced from each other, and offers no hope of redemption to its subjects, perhaps punishing them for being unwilling to play ball. If they had nothing new to add, Kitchen Nightmares shouldn’t have run the episode at all. It’s hard to continue supporting a show that takes an hour long victory lap for itself and gives the people involved a few aggressively manipulated moments to make their case for not deserving our hate. I’m not saying Samy and Amy could have made a difference with that time, but at least pretend you’re playing nice.
What’s been lost sight of is that these people are not contestants on a game show, they are real people with real problems that the show promised to help. Gordon Ramsay walking away is not a mic drop of masculinity; it’s a failure of the show, and one certainly not deserving of celebration. Despite how the Bouzaglos acted, if Kitchen Nightmares couldn’t find a way to come back and help Amy’s Baking Company, they should’ve simply left well enough alone.