Televisuality in Hell’s Kitchen Intro

Hell’s Kitchen is an American reality show which pits two teams of chefs against each other in order to become head chef at a restaurant. The show is broadcasted on Fox and is in its 18th season since its start in 2005. The show is hosted by chef Gordon Ramsay, who is infamous for his unforgiving criticism of the chefs as they perform tasks to avoid elimination from the competition, giving the show it’s remarkable name.

Hell’s Kitchen sits at #13 on imdb’s list of top reality TV shows for 2019. While ratings have slowly begun to decline, the show has had a successful run in the 18 seasons it’s been on the air. It could be argued that the reason for this is partly due to the show’s distinct theme on a popular show format, and the televisuality that follows such theme. The intro to the show is the strongest example of the show’s distinct visuality which plays on the theme of the harshness and cruelty of Ramsay’s criticism. The 30 second clip is filled with striking graphics of a hellish kitchen and restaurant with shattering reflections, the set and contestants’ photos in flames, and even fire appearing in Ramsay’s eyes.

Taking a look at the visuals used in Hell’s Kitchen’s intro reveals that some television series today are continuing to use the tactic of flaunting and displaying a unique and flashy style in order to maintain viewership. In Caldwell’s article on televisuality, he wrote that programs will strive for “identifiable style-markers and distinct looks in order to gain audience share within the competitive broadcast flow”. The hellish twist on a common cooking show theme provided viewers with a program that brought unique aesthetic and conceptual components not seen together before on television. The intro provides an eye-catching and brief, yet exciting, look at the characteristics of the show to come, leaving the viewer intrigued and waiting for more.

Lauren Brown

Post-Network Era: Nothing Kompares to Reruns

“Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Jim Bob”

On September 14, 1972, in coherence with the Broadcast Era, these words echoed in living rooms across the United States for the first time. This was the sound of The Waltons’ bedtime routine, a fictional family that Americans tuned in to watch for a subsequent nine years after the airing of the first episode on CBS. The show was set in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II, spanning from 1933 to 1946. More specifically, the show follows the struggles of The Walton family to make a decent living during such hardship, but they never fail to end the day with their famous goodnights.

I remember the first time I heard about The Walton family. I was staying in a hotel room with my mom and siblings when we turned out the lights, said goodnight, and shut our eyes in hopes of a good night’s rest. However, my mom seemed to have a different plan, as she proceeded to recite the closing scene of The Waltons. She began, “Goodnight, Mary Ellen…” and my siblings and I questioned, “Mom, what are you doing?” Sure enough, she was nostalgically recalling the days when she would rush home from school to watch The Waltons with her family.

However, they were not watching the original nine seasons of the show, as was characteristic of the Post-Network Era. Instead, my mom and her family were the perfect example of a “family-orientated slate” audience that The Family Channel hoped to attract to their reruns of The Waltons in the 1980s. Originally, these reruns aired with the intent to seek familiar and popular programming that The Family Channel could afford, as pointed out in Derek Kompare’s article, “TV Land: Cable and Satellite as Boutique Television.” Not to mention, this increased the amount of income from advertising and their subscribing base, meaning the channel could meet distributors’ prices.

Additionally, the hopeful intentions of The Family Channel were met with even more successful results. One of which was that reruns served as a large component in the formation of cable networks’ strong identities. These identities were the result of The Family Channel being a boutique, meaning it had specialized audiences that were dedicated to their shows. This audience included those such as my mother and her family, proving that even forty years later, the boutique function of The Family Channel sold itself to its family-oriented audience quite well.


Full House : Safe, Nostalgic, & Impactful

Full House, a classic show that made its debut on ABC in 1987 in the center of the Post Network Era it was a courageous take on what we had all known the traditional family to be. It is evident that with the ever booming rapid growth of cable television, networks such as ABC were scrambling to find something that would stick, re-imagine how we viewed family, appeal to core audiences while still being universal thematically at the same time. Each character on the show was crafted with a particular audience in mind. When you look back you can see that the cult following for Full House consisted of a majority of females. Women swooned over heartthrob Jesse Katsopolis, girls could identify with the daughters as they grew up and dealt with teenage struggles, boy problems, and who could forget the cute and funny moments with adorable baby Michelle. With this revised idea of what we deemed the nuclear family, networks such as ABC drove family narratives in their sitcoms that didn’t rely on style to captivate audiences.

Life lessons were the core of Full House which made it timeless. The scene below demonstrates how social issues were tied with relatability. You had 3 male parental figures that presented themselves as non-threatening. Whenever an emotional scene took place the adults would address it. In the scene below DJ is dealing with body issues and her father speaks to her encouraging her. Scenes like the one below exemplify family struggles, which is why from a narrowcasting perspective one could see why this show was a hit with its core audience.  Teen girls specifically ,could identify with DJ and her struggles.

Narrowcasting induced a wave of nostalgia that we see today. Full House is the phenomenon that it is because of its hit success back then and its current rerun syndication viewership today with females in the 18-34-year-old range. Nickelodeon still airs it every night and is remembered because of the societal issues. Where other TV shows in the post-network era had style and outrageous graphics, ABC struck gold with a different kind of sitcom and different kind of family. Full House was safe wholesome television that touched on issues without pushing the envelope. It was a show that would teach life lessons in households for years to come.

Ends: 13:23

Hill St. Blues in a Hospital

On October 26, 1982 NBC premiered its hit TV hospital drama St. Elsewhere. Known by some as NBC’s attempt to take its gritty police drama Hill Street Blues and place it in the context of a bustling hospital, St. Elsewhere contained many of the same elements that helped make Hill Street Blues standout such as its complex and more than often flawed characters, large ensemble casts, and overlapping serialized plots that would leave audiences on the edge of their seats with weekly cliff hangers.

Many of the characteristics of St. Elsewhere made it a prime example of a Post-Network Era television show, especially as it followed the lead of NBC’s other hit serial drama so closely. However, in Season 3 Episode 8 of St. Elsewhere, entitled “Sweet Dreams” we can see an excellent example of the Post-Network Era concept of televisuality where what is displayed on the screen is made to look cool or appealing to the audience. In the episode many of the staff and patients at Saint Eligius Hospital are suffering from a myriad of sleeping ailments. In particular, the hospital orderly Luther Hawkins falls asleep inside of a supply closet and slips into a vivid dream where he parades around the hospital wearing a flashy white suit and hat accompanied by a trio of beautiful women while hit 70’s Texas based rock band ZZ Top magically transports around the building and plays their 1984 single Legs. While the band plays, Luther and his entourage move from room to room in the hospital, taunting surgeons and security guards with impunity, dancing with patients, drinking glasses of champagne, being showered in money, and otherwise enjoying an extravagant time.

The inclusion of a hit band’s music, showing them on screen (although technically portrayed by members of the St. Elsewhere cast wearing elaborate disguises), having Luther strut around confidently in a stylish outfit, and the appearance of the women (portrayed by the actresses originally appearing in ZZ Top’s MTV music video for Legs) all work to improve the televisuality of the scene and make it seem more visually appealing to audiences.

-Anderson Bradshaw

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