ALISON BOSHOFF: Gordon Ramsay goes off the boil on triple-decker flop
19th January 2023

ALISON BOSHOFF: Gordon Ramsay goes off the boil with a triple-decker flop

Gordon Ramsay promised that his new show would be ‘the world’s toughest cooking competition, ever’. But his overhyped offering Next Level Chef has left ITV with some very expensive egg on its face.

Sources indicate that it cost ‘well over £500,000’ to build the extremely complex set at the LH2 Studios in London, which features three complete kitchens stacked atop each other — one basic, one better and the top one pro standard — as well as a lift.

ITV executive Katie Rawcliffe said that the network had built ‘perhaps the most ambitious TV studio the world has to offer’ for the show, in which chefs compete to impress judges and reach the better ingredients and equipment at the top.

The hope, when commissioning it, was that the heavy cost of the mega-set could at least be spread over several runs of the show.

Gordon Ramsay promised that his new show would be ‘the world’s toughest cooking competition, ever’. But his overhyped offering Next Level Chef has left ITV with some very expensive egg on its face

ITV also thought that if Next Level Chef took off globally, international versions might be filmed in the UK on that very set, further defraying the cost. However, after disastrous viewing figures on its debut last week, the show looks certain to be scrapped without ceremony — and the triple-layer kitchen (nightmare) along with it.

On its debut last Wednesday, it garnered only 1.6 million viewers, an audience share of 11 per cent and well below the 2.7 million slot average for that time of night. It was beaten by BBC1’s Ambulance. This week 1.5 million watched and it was beaten heavily in its slot by Silent Witness on BBC1, which got 2.4 million. Critics were also unconvinced, calling it ‘contrived’ and ‘bewildering’ with a ‘pointlessly expensive set’. One described it as ‘the laziest show I’ve ever seen’.

In the programme, home, social media and pro chefs compete in three teams in the three kitchens and try to impress Ramsay and his fellow judges: chef Paul Ainsworth and Nyesha Arrington, a former competitor on the American TV show Top Chef. The prize is £100,000, plus a year of mentoring from the judges.

ITV also thought that if Next Level Chef took off globally, international versions might be filmed in the UK on that very set, further defraying the cost

Rawcliffe, who is ITV’s head of entertainment commissioning, ordered eight episodes of the show from Studio Ramsay Global (which is co-owned by Fox) in June last year. A version has aired on Fox in America and been enough of a hit to be commissioned for a second series.

The show isn’t the famously foul-mouthed chef’s first flop. Last year he fronted Future Food Stars for BBC1, which followed 12 food and drink entrepreneurs as they competed to win a £150,000 investment from Ramsay.

The show performed disappointingly, gaining 1.8 million viewers in prime time, and only just managing to sneak ahead of a travelogue presented by Joanna Lumley.

In 2021 he fronted prime-time BBC game show Bank Balance, in which hopefuls tried to win money by stacking ‘gold bars’ in different zones on a tilting board. That was axed after viewing figures fell to a woeful 1.6 million.

Ramsay has had a very successful TV career with shows including Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, but is currently in the middle of an unenviable run.

Neither Studio Ramsay nor ITV would comment on the cost of building the set or its fate.

However, an ITV source described the format as ‘feeling genuinely fresh and innovative’ and added: ‘Currently, 2.5 million viewers have watched the first episode of Next Level Chef on ITV1 and ITVX, so it’s misleading to say the figures are disappointing and obviously too early to talk about future series.’

Lyricist Don Black, who has written the lyrics for five Bond film themes, revealed that he was nearly at a loss for words when it came to The World Is Not Enough. He said: ‘It sounded like an intriguing title and I thought: ‘What’s the next line?’ And I had no idea, really.

‘And then my wife, shouted out: ‘Don, you’ll never believe it. You’ve got an OBE! I’ve opened the post.’ I said: ‘Well, it’s a good start . . . ‘ as if to say: ‘Not a knighthood.’ And then I thought: the world is not enough, but it’s a perfect way to start.’ Hey presto, the eventual lyrics: ‘The world is not enough. But it is such a perfect place to start, my love.’

Will Mother McKellen get married? Oh no he won’t! 

The heart-warming relationship between Sir Ian McKellen and his co-star Oscar Conlon-Morrey seems to be progressing apace — there is even talk of an engagement.

Sir Ian, 83, is playing Mother Goose in panto at the moment. Conlon-Morrey, 29, appears as his son Jack in the touring show (pictured below). They spent New Year’s Eve together and Conlon-Morrey told his followers on Twitter: ‘I saw in 2023 at the house of the new love of my life.’

However, one well-known actor who has shared the stage with Sir Ian has his doubts. ‘Oscar has been telling friends and family of his big plans with McKellen. He’s even said he thinks they’ll get engaged.’

But he cautioned: ‘McKellen hasn’t had a boyfriend in 20 years. He is really not a marriage man. He doesn’t want a man living in his home. He enjoys having someone when he is on tour.’

He continued: ‘McKellen gets infatuated; then as quickly as he is into them, he’s fallen out with them. There is no way when he is out of the bubble of doing this panto that he is going to have this guy with him in East London, rattling around.’

Sir Ian, 83, is playing Mother Goose in panto at the moment. Conlon-Morrey, 29, appears as his son Jack in the touring show (pictured)

Daisy Ridley — Rey in Star Wars — spent so long in freezing water last year for a film about Channel swimmer Trudy Ederle, her lips were almost permanently blue. Ederle, an American, completed the swim in 1926, beating the men’s record by two hours. 

But when Ridley was reunited with director Joachim Ronning and producer Jerry Bruckheimer in London this week, evidently there were no hard feelings. The Young Woman And The Sea gang gathered in Air Studios in North London, where Amelia Warner was scoring the film, which will come out on Disney+ later this year.

Warner, a former actress herself, is married to Fifty Shades actor Jamie Dornan.

Idris is putting his foot down

Idris Elba — who this week picked up an environmental award at the Davos World Economic Forum — is pivoting from the acting roles which made him famous into personality-based factual shows.

Last year he presented Idris Elba’s Fight Club, and this year will bring Idris Elba’s Speed Academy to the BBC. Filmed in July 2022, the show aims to find potential motorsport champions among youngsters from ordinary backgrounds.

Idris, pictured, says: ‘If Formula One had done something like this 15-20 years ago, we might see a much wider spectrum not only of people who put Formula One together, but the audience as well. At the moment, the audience is quite tailored to a certain wealth bracket.’

Elba has also been developing a cookery show with his personal chef, although that has not yet found a broadcaster.

Meanwhile, the feature-length Luther film — Luther: The Fallen Sun — comes out in cinemas on February 24, and will stream on Netflix from March 10.

The feature-length Luther film — Luther: The Fallen Sun — comes out in cinemas on February 24

Great Scot Gerard Butler, 53, is back as an action hero in the film Plane, which comes out in the UK next Friday

Great Scot Gerard Butler, 53, is back as an action hero in the film Plane, which comes out in the UK next Friday. Written by British author Charles Cumming, it tells the story of a commercial pilot who makes an emergency landing on a war-torn island and then has to work with a prisoner to try to save his passengers from kidnappers.

Cumming first wrote an outline in 2015, and at one stage Will Smith was going to star. During filming in Puerto Rico, Butler managed to rub ‘green fluid’ from the plane wheels onto his face while mopping his brow. ‘Suddenly, it’s in my throat, it’s in my mouth, it’s up my nose, it’s in my eyes, it’s burning my face, and I mean burning. And it turns out this is essentially phosphoric acid!’ The actor was treated on set by medics, but his face was on fire ‘for hours’ afterwards.

The film took $11.6 million in its opening weekend in the U.S, and comes out here next Friday.

Star looks more than a Lil’ bit like her Mum 

It is often remarked how much Lily Mo Sheen, daughter of actress Kate Beckinsale, looks like her mother — and Beckinsale can only agree. The 49-year-old said: ‘I do see it. Yeah, I do. Sometimes I’ll send her a text saying, ‘Get your own face!’

‘She’s like a better version. She’s got something that I don’t. She looks like this gorgeous Disney animal — she’s got these giant eyes . . . I think probably Dad [Michael Sheen] helped with that a bit — but she’s very much herself.’

Lily starred in the quirky film The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent alongside Nicolas Cage last year and will turn 24 at the end of the month. Beckinsale, who was out partying with Rita Ora after the Golden Globes last week, said: ‘It’s really tough to be just constantly asked if you’re going to do the same job your mum did, but also then people going, ‘Well, do you look like her? Or do you look like your dad?’

‘You know, to me, she just always looks like herself. And maybe we can tell we are in the same family. We are quite similar in terms of sense of humour and all that stuff. But she’s very much her own self.’

Asked if she offers career advice to Lily, Beckinsale says: ‘I feel like she could do the advising, and I’m in awe and proud to see whatever it is she does do. She’s an exciting person.’

It is often remarked how much Lily Mo Sheen, daughter of actress Kate Beckinsale, looks like her mother — and Beckinsale can only agree

School dropout who’s the new face of Lancome

Move over Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts and even Lily Collins . . . because beauty titans Lancome have hired a YouTube star to be their latest ambassador.

Californian Emma Chamberlain, 21, has been a ‘digital creator’ since she dropped out of school in 2017 and has already advertised brands including Levi’s and Calvin Klein.

Her channel has 11.9 million subscribers — but are they the people who buy expensive face cream and traditional perfumes? Only time will tell.

Californian Emma Chamberlain, 21, has been a ‘digital creator’ since she dropped out of school in 2017 and has already advertised brands including Levi’s and Calvin Klein

Austrian unknown makes a big noise with All Quiet On The Western Front 

The original version of All Quiet On The Western Front, released in 1930, won five Oscars including Best Film and Best Director.

And the powerful new adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I epic may just follow in its footsteps when the Academy Award nominations are announced next week.

It’s already shortlisted as Best International Feature Film and experts think it has a shot in a number of other categories, including cinematography, make-up, sound, visual effects and best adapted screenplay. Variety even thinks it may get a mention in the Best Picture category.

And yesterday it received 14 Bafta nominations, including best film and best film not in the English language.

Which makes it all the more astonishing that its star is a movie novice: an Austrian straight out of drama school who was picked by director Edward Berger to play German soldier Paul Baumer because of his ‘innocence’.

Berger told me: ‘When we were thinking about who should play Paul, the first picture which producer Malte Grunert sent me was of Felix Kammerer [pictured in the film]. Malte said, ‘My wife is working with this young man in theatre in Vienna. He has just left drama school, and he’s never been in front of a camera.’

‘I thought he looked great. He did not feel buff, but looked more like a student than a soldier; and there was something old-fashioned about his face, too.

It’s already shortlisted as Best International Feature Film and experts think it has a shot in a number of other categories, including cinematography, make-up, sound, visual effects and best adapted screenplay. Variety even thinks it may get a mention in the Best Picture category

‘I wanted someone who had an innocence about them in terms of their relationship to the camera. Also Paul is such an iconic character that I didn’t want audiences to think that they had seen him in something before . . .

‘We saw him a few times. At the second audition we gave him the boots and that helped him with the heavy gait.’

The film, which is out on Netflix, was shot in Prague at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, in just 52 days. The young actors lived in apartments in the same building and became very close.

Berger, who also shot the TV series Your Honor and Patrick Melrose, was determined to make his war film stand out from the crowd. The 1930 adaptation was directed by American Lewis Milestone. But the German’s take was different — ‘because we have grown up with a different history.

‘You can’t look back on that period of German history with any sense of pride or honour. Instead, I have grown up with a sense of shame and guilt. How can you deal with this terrible thing that happened?’

He added: ‘When we made it we had no idea it would be so relevant. This was long before the war in Ukraine.

‘I was looking at the photographs of the trenches in Ukraine and they are exactly the same. If you put them side by side, it’s really shocking. Nothing has really changed, not even the weapons.’

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