With the concluding of Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell is the only chance US TV audiences have to see Gordon Ramsay helping people. Sure, Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef and MasterChef Junior are good entertainment, but those are competitions. Winners are crowned and prizes handed out. Watching Hotel Hell, you get a sense of the real Chef Ramsay: a brilliant, articulate, and yes, very truthful businessman who gets a different kind of satisfaction out of helping businesses in need.
In tonight's second season premiere, Ramsay travels to Las Cruces, New Mexico to help out Meson de Mesilla, a hotel with an owner who thinks she's the star attraction. Literally - she admits that she "bought the hotel to sing" and performs in the hotel's dining room, belting out Cher tunes and not understanding that she's driving away customers. (It's like the real-life version of that Family Guy episode where Peter and Lois think they're great singers, only to realize they're just wailing indiscriminately.)
Meanwhile, the place is far too beige, the menu bloated, and guests have to sign a waiver when they check in. It doesn't take a genius to see why producers approached this particular establishment. Just watch the below clip about the aforementioned waiver.
The instinct is to compare Hotel Hell to Travel Channel's long-running Hotel Impossible with Anthony Melchiorri, and it's not out of line. Both shows tackle the same problem, and that problem is usually caused by the same things, like owners who have little to no experience in the field or, as in this case, those who are more focused on themselves than the guests they're supposed to be catering to. And both shows have expert hosts who aren't afraid of dishing out tough love.
But that's where the similarities end. Where Hotel Impossible tends to be a straight down the middle, no-nonsense program, Hotel Hell leans more toward entertainment value, featuring owners and staff members who are real characters.
Most people, though, are likely tuning into Hotel Hell for Ramsay, and he's as watchable as he's ever been. He still tells it exactly like it is, and as on Kitchen Nightmares, his voice-overs help to explain to the lay audience why certain things are important or why he's making certain recommendations. Yes, there are the outbursts - from him and from the staff - but they're not the point.
The point is what happens outside of those moments, when you can see the real Ramsay and not the public perception of him. He's teaching the audience as much as he's teaching the staff, and it's because of him that Hotel Hell is worth your time. At least he's staying in these hotels so we don't have to.
The "Meson de Mesilla" episode of Hotel Hell airs tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX. You can also follow Chef Ramsay on Twitter (@GordonRamsay).