Network: BBC America
Genre: Reality TV
TV Rating: TV-14
Other Choices: Hell's Kitchen, Ramsay's Best Restaurant, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (UK)
Available On: Online
Common Sense Says: Prisoner cooking docuseries is salty but uplifting.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gordon Behind Bars is a gritty reality series set inside an English prison with an inspirational focus on giving prisoners marketable skills. Convicts talk honestly about life behind bars, and there is an ever-present threat of violence, played up in the show's narration and tense music, though the viewer only sees a few quickly broken up scuffles. Cursing is non-stop, though "f--k" and "s--t" is bleeped in the U.S. version (but not online). Parents may want to watch with kids for a combined "scared straight" lesson with an uplifting moral.
- Is Brixton a real prison, or is it a set? Is the viewer supposed to like Brixton or to be scared of it? What in the music, visuals, or narration gives you this idea?
- Think of a few fictional shows or movies you have watched that are set in, or have scenes that take place in, a prison. How does Brixton compare to these fictionalized representations?
- Is the viewer supposed to like the prisoners we meet? What about the way they are presented makes you come to this conclusion? What emotions do the producers of Gordon Behind Bars want you to feel as you watch the show?
What's the story?
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, best known in the U.S. for screaming at chefs or failing restaurateurs, takes on a more personal project in RAMSAY BEHIND BARS. In hopes of providing a group of prisoners with a new life skill, Ramsay pulls together a team of convicts at England's harsh Brixton prison to cook and sell a food item to outside businesses. Ramsay and his team meet each other, learn to work together and improve rudimentary cooking skills, and make and market a lemon treacle treat to a chain of London coffee shops.
Is it any good?
At first, it's amusing to see the acerbic and blustering Ramsay turned almost as gentle as a kitten by the proximity to actual dangerous guys, who look as likely to shank him as to docilely cut onions and roll pastry under his tutelage. But gradually the viewer's respect for Ramsay grows, as we see him delicately put together a team and inspire them to give their all by alternately and fairly doling out both praise and criticism."You're going to learn, yeah?" Ramsay says, sounding like the Scotsman he is. "You're going to earn. And you're going to put back into this prison. How does that make you feel?" Good, nods his group of convicts. And the viewer might find herself nodding along. It's uplifting to see the downtrodden improve their lot a bit, and the knowledge that a couple of Ramsay's prisoners ended up working for restaurants after they got out of Brixton is even more so.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Watching real people take on a challenge and possibly better themselves at the same time is inspirational. Ideas of hard work, second chances, and contributing to society in a positive way run throughout the show.
Role Models: Though the prisoners featured on Gordon Behind Bars are criminals, sometimes career criminals, the viewer gets to know them as sympathetic individuals. Ramsay is not blustering and mean; he is by turns encouraging and strict (but fair) with his workers.
What to watch out for
Violence There is an ever-present threat of violence, played up on the show with narration and music. The viewer sees a few mild scuffles.
Sex: Not an issue
Language: Non-stop bleeped "f--k" and "s--t", from Ramsay and the prisoners.
Consumerism: Ramsay is a cookbook author and host of other cooking/food-related shows.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Drugs are mentioned, usually in discussions about past crimes. Ramsay mentions his little brother was a heroin addict who ended up in prison.