The recipe for success

Hell's Kitchen may have been panned, but it's still leading ITV's drive to extend the range of its programming. Ciar Byrne reports

Gordon Ramsay and Nigel Pickard have a lot in common. ITV's director of programmes may be behind the camera rather than in front of it, but he is under immense pressure to get the mix of flavours just right. Throw in the wrong ingredients, and a television show will flop like an overcooked soufflé.

Gordon Ramsay and Nigel Pickard have a lot in common. ITV's director of programmes may be behind the camera rather than in front of it, but he is under immense pressure to get the mix of flavours just right. Throw in the wrong ingredients, and a television show will flop like an overcooked soufflé.

Hell's Kitchen was planned as the pièce de résistance of ITV's summer season, a two-week event show in the vein of the hugely popular I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. But the jury's still out on whether it is a success or not.

Viewers were enthusiastic at first, with ratings for Ramsay's show peaking at 8.3 million viewers before falling back to a little more than five million. The critics have been less than kind: "So far, the programme has been a TV producer's dream - that is, a complete, absurd disaster," said Terence Blacker of The Independent.

So what does the man who commissioned Hell's Kitchen make of the show everyone's talking about, albeit not always very kindly? "It's got drama, emotion, humour, action - all the elements you would expect to see in a reality-TV event show," says Pickard. "Like I'm a Celebrity..., it combines many elements that create real pace and constant interest for the viewer."

He isn't troubled by the swing in viewing figures, pointing out that I'm a Celebrity... followed a similar pattern in its first series before attracting 14 million viewers to the final of the third series. "These nightly event shows always see quite large fluctuations in ratings. Overall, we're really pleased with reaction to the show." Ramsay, too, gets the thumbs-up. "As a television presenter he's just tremendously watchable. He's a great mixture of warmth, passion and total commitment to his craft."

Hit or miss, whatever the final verdict on Hell's Kitchen, Pickard is keen not to put all of ITV's eggs into the reality-TV basket. "Although reality is still alive and well and doing extremely strongly, I think you've always got to be prepared that these bubbles will burst.

"Too many of the shows are a bit derivative. You're looking for programmes to be distinctive. That's the challenge for broadcasters: how do we extend the range of what we do and not just rely on one genre, like reality shows?"

So where does the future lie for ITV? Pickard has set his sights on a field where rivals BBC2 and Channel 4 are excelling with shows such as Wife Swap and Jamie's Kitchen - popular factual programming. Later this year, ITV is making a major foray into this genre with Press Ganged, a show that takes a group of people and puts them aboard an 18th-century ship to see how they cope.

"We're literally press-ganging a bunch of people, and they're going to sail on an old clipper," Pickard says. "It's a mixture of living history, entertainment and drama - in the sense that they're up against it, they are really going to sail this ship. It's an area that's quite new for us, and it expands the sort of programming we do."

Pickard returned to ITV as director of programmes last year after a two-year stint as head of children's television at the BBC. He was a surprise appointment, and doubters questioned whether career achievements that included reviving Basil Brush and (as head of children's programmes at ITV) overseeing the rise of Ant and Dec qualified him for the post.

He answered his critics last month by poaching Michael Parkinson from the BBC. The chat-show legend agreed to switch channels after the BBC relegated his Saturday night programme in favour of The Premiership, itself snatched from ITV.

Television chefs, Parky, more factual programming - is Pickard taking ITV upmarket? "I don't think there's a complete shift upmarket, I think there's a shift of balance," he says. "ITV is not just about mass. It is about the profile of our audience. Upmarket is a valuable audience. What we can't do is skew so much into a particular demographic that we affect our overall share of viewers. You're walking a tightrope the whole time."

As he sweats over tonight's meals in Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay would no doubt agree.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments