FOX is going from Jack Bauer to Gordon Ramsay. Now that 24: Live Another Day is concluded, taking over the 9 PM Monday time slot is the second season of Hotel Hell, in which Ramsay endeavors to set failing hotels - and their often bewildering owners - back on the right path. To get a glimpse at what's ahead, we checked in on Friday with executive producer Ben Adler, and quizzed him about what it takes to make Hotel Hell.
"The first season of Hotel Hell was the most successful new network summer show for two years, which we were delighted about," Ben told us. "For season two, we wanted to make the shows even better, so we chose bigger hotels, with bigger problems, and bigger characters. People who loved the first season will love the new shows, and people who didn't catch it first time around are in for a real treat."
How does the show zero in on which hotels to feature? "The hotels on the show ask for Gordon's help - we're often their last resort," he explained. "We're always looking for the potential to succeed - Gordon needs to be able to make a difference. So we want hotels that should be fantastic, but where there are issues that keep tripping them up. That could be the staff, the owner, the amenities, the standards of cleanliness - whatever it is, we want it to be something Gordon can fix so the hotel goes from hell for customers to heaven."
"My favorite episode of season two is where Gordon visits Starkville, Mississippi, to try to help the husband and wife owners of the Hotel Chester," Ben said. "This lovely couple were sinking fast, and nothing they had tried was working. Yet all their staff loved them and wanted them to succeed. Watching Gordon find ways to rescue their hotel and their marriage is wonderful, inspiring viewing. And [it] made us all very proud.
"In this episode, and across the sason as a whole, we make sure people see more of Gordon's personality than just the shouty side - we think that makes a big difference to the show."
There's the million-dollar topic. Casual TV viewers who only know Gordon from Hell's Kitchen think he's big and blustery, but in reality, he's tremendously down-to-earth and engaging - one of the nicest people you could meet! We asked Ben to give us his perspective on working with the award-winning chef.
"I've been working with Gordon for over a decade, and it's an unforgettable experience," he revealed. "He's a very important part of the Hotel Hell team and puts a lot of himself into the shows. He's got a wicked sense of humor, and loves to tease people on the crew.
"The funniest moment of every shoot is when Gordon has to try out the bath or shower in the hotel room. Gordon hates doing it, but he recognises that for a guest, the bathroom is an important part of their stay, so he takes the plunge every time. Of course, this is the one moment of the shoot when the tables are turned and Gordon gets teased!"
But what about working with the owners and staff at some of these hotels? If you've seen season one or even any episode of Kitchen Nightmares, you know that some of these people can be a handful, and that's putting it nicely. What's it like for the crew to contend with the people they're trying to help?
"On Hotel Hell, we're dealing with people whose livelihoods are on the line, so it can be a hugely stressful experience for them. We're often their last chance and if the fix doesn't work, they risk losing their homes as well as their businesses," Ben explained. "We have a brilliant team, who work with the owners and staff to help them see that things can improve.
"The most stressful times are when we deal with owners who refuse the help on offer, and seem determined to carry on digging themselves deeper into the hole they're in. You won't believe how some of the owners in season two react!"
Contrary to popular belief, the relationship between the production and the properties doesn't end when the credits roll. "We're in touch with every hotel featured on the show, and keep trying to help them succeed long after their episode airs," Ben said. "We hope to do a revisit episode in the future, as we have some amazing stories to tell from seasons one and two."
"We want viewers to learn that it's okay to expect and demand perfection," he continued. "Americans get very few vacation days each year, so they deserve to have a wonderful time when they check into a hotel. If they don't get the service they deserve, they should complain - it's the only way hotels are going to improve.
Okay, so honesty time: how much has working on Hotel Hell changed Ben's perspective when he's the one checking in? "I am a much more difficult customer now [that] I've made two seasons of Hotel Hell!" he laughed. "I don't carry a black light, but I have had some very tough conversations about standards with hotel managers. I also check out online reviews in more detail now: if customers have had a bad enough time to want to go online and complain, it's important to listen to them.
"That's not to say places can't improve," he added. "We've shown again and again how huge a transformation can be achieved if the will to change is there."
Hotel Hell returns tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on FOX.