Among the minor media ventures I’ve dabbled in over the past couple of years to keep me from being evicted from my apartment have been a few stints on reality TV shows. No, I don’t fluff the ladies of Ru Paul’s Drag Race or sell my soul by greasing the idiocy of The Real Housewives of Wherever-the-Hell so that it can more easily slip into your home and poison the minds of your family. But, yes, I do have some experience putting together the relatively cheap programming that claims to be unscripted and otherwise “real” and I can therefore confirm your suspicions that this description isn’t entirely true. While most reality shows aren’t start-to-finish bullshit — although there are definitely a few that come close — many are the product of a lot of behind-the-scenes cunning by mischievous producers and clever editors who determine based on the material they have what they want the narrative to be and then massage the action to make it so. I’m not exactly giving away state secrets by divulging this, by the way; any astute viewer can pretty much figure out what’s completely for real and what’s been slightly adjusted.
Knowing this, though, and being acutely aware of some of the go-to tools in the reality TV bag of tricks, I tend to pick apart every reality show I watch, wondering what if anything was fudged and how it might have been done. That’s why, as I sat there last night watching the episode of Kitchen Nightmares that everyone’s having a blast talking about right now, I looked hard for something, anything that might let me know that what I was witnessing was fake. I actually wanted it to be phony. I didn’t want to believe that people like Amy and Samy Bouzaglo actually existed, except in the fevered mind of a reality show producer, who dreamt them up as pure 14-karat TV gold. Alas, apparently Amy and Samy are for real. Which means that the world is a shittier and stupider place than even I had imagined.
If you haven’t yet seen the show I’m referring to, do yourself a favor, drop everything you’re doing, and watch it immediately; it’s once-in-a-lifetime viewing. You all know how I feel about meme culture and what I think it’s doing to our sanity and intelligence as a nation, but social media hyper-connectivity was made for something like this. I’m terrified at the prospect of the Bouzaglos becoming celebrities — the objects of morning show fawning and maybe even the stars of a couple-you-love-to-hate show of their own — but for now the nationwide shaming these two idiots are being subjected to is the internet at its best.
If the 42 minutes of remorseless hostility, abuse of customers and employees, unethical business practices, and flat-out bug-eyed crazy on Kitchen Nightmares didn’t convince you that Amy Bouzaglo needs to be forcibly removed from society before she kills somebody and Samy Bouzaglo needs a serious lesson on the difference between a trophy wife and one that barely qualifies as an “honorable mention,” then their two-person crusade against the entire internet absolutely will. What began a couple of days ago with a damn-near-psychopathic, all-caps-locked lashing out against the “haters, bullies, and liars” who’d been bombarding them with bad Yelp reviews — and ridicule since the show aired — has degenerated into a full-on meltdown of biblical proportions. There’s been the invoking of God, threats to call the FBI, bullshit claims their restaurant’s Facebook page was hacked, and, now, even an online battle with Patton Oswalt. (Patton’s Twitter bio jokingly reads: “Mr. Oswalt is a former wedding deejay from Northern Virginia,” which Amy apparently fell for completely and attempted to mock accordingly when Patton got in on the feeding frenzy.)
Basically, while Gordon Ramsay may have walked off his own show for the first time in almost a hundred episodes, the saga of Amy’s Baking Company and its beaver-shit crazy proprietors was a dream come true for the producers of Kitchen Nightmares, the kind of reality TV fodder they go to sleep at night praying for. But what happened on TV was obviously just the beginning. What’s happened since provides a flawless example of how not to handle internet criticism and how fucked you are these days if, as a business owner, you happen to be a breathtakingly arrogant control freak who’s become far too used to keeping a tight leash on everyone around you. If you believe that you can run, say, a restaurant like a mental hospital, as Samy Bouzaglo and his Bride of Frankenuts mistakenly believe, regular customers — and potential joiners-in — now have the ability to bring you down a few dozen notches. And that’s putting it mildly.
What the Redditors, Yelpers, Farkers, 4Chaners, and general merry misanthropes of the internet are now doing is making life a living hell for Crazy Amy and Psycho Sam. If you haven’t been keeping up, because as usual it’s moving at a lightning-fast pace, in addition to the predictable vicious and comical “reviews” that have been piling up there, there have been pictures of various kinds of animal shit and cat remains posted to Amy’s Baking Company’s Yelp page (the latter because of one of the most, um, “revealing” comments made by Amy during the show, about her supposedly having “three little boys trapped inside cat bodies”). Meanwhile, for a time somebody had redirected the business’s web address to a White House petition to have Amy Bouzaglo committed, and the Reddit community went digging and uncovered what appears to be a felony credit card fraud conviction in Amy’s past. The couple says that because of the attention, which, let’s face it, they kind of brought on themselves, they’re now getting death threats. That obviously hasn’t stopped them from responding with even more of the vitriol and insanity that was on grand display during their Kitchen Nightmares appearance.
What any idiot knows in the era of social media is that you don’t feed the trolls and you absolutely don’t go out of your way to antagonize the Redditors. They will fucking eat you alive. And that’s exactly what they’re doing to Amy and Samy Bouzaglo. The internet denizens are an uncontrollable bunch; they’ll tear you to pieces even if you leave them alone, but they’ll absolutely eviscerate you if you go out of your way to bleed in the water.
It takes a special kind of delusional psychopath to think he or she can take on the internet and win. Of course, in case it’s not already glaringly obvious by now, Amy Bouzaglo and her husband are very special delusional psychopaths indeed. And yeah, it looks like they’re as real as reality TV gets.