The New York Times published a great article over the weekend on the background of reality television shows, the oftentimes vapid and opportunistic genre currently dominating the airwaves. With reality shows on everything from finding love to talking to your pets, the Times article includes a look at Gordon Ramsay’s hit food reality series, Hell’s Kitchen – and it’s not pretty.
“On “Hell’s Kitchen,” contestants said they were usually awakened at about 6 a.m. and then taken to the kitchen for a challenge. The losing team had to work on preparation for the night’s dinner from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner service often lasted until 11 p.m., when contestants had to clean the kitchen, then deliberate about who should be nominated for elimination. The lineup with Mr. Ramsay, at which one contestant would be sent home, and exit interviews and confessionals often lasted until after 2 a.m.”
According to the article, most reality show contestants are subject to sleep deprivation, long work hours, and complete lack of contact with the outside world, which includes weeks without phones, newspapers, or television. And if they’re lucky, there’ll be food ‘at least every six hours’.
Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the principals of the company Magical Elves, which produced the first five seasons of “Project Runway,” said in a written statement that the show kept contestants isolated “to ensure fairness and prevent cheating,” as well as to prevent results from leaking. “We always give contestants the best conditions we can,” the executives said. “Our budgets are less than half what a similar network show would have, and that means very long days for cast and crew, but our contestants are fed at least every six hours, and there are always snacks and water available.”
All reality show contestants must sign contracts prior to appearing on screen, so all know the rules and regulations they must follow in order to participate. With recording deals, new restaurants, and unlimited Hollywood potential, most consider the tough conditions worth the rewards.
Andrew Bonito, another contestant from the 2005 “Hell’s Kitchen,” said being on the series “helped me grow professionally.”
“It definitely contributed to my success,” said Mr. Bonito, who is now a manager at a Manhattan restaurant, The Palm. “And I got an opportunity to be a part of popular culture.”