May 21, 2013

Those Kitchen Nightmares freaks in Arizona need to shut up forthwith

Photo: Facebook/Amy's Baking Co.
Today is a mighty day for Arizona natives who love soggy pizza and verbal abuse: Today is the day that Amy’s Baking Co. indulges us in its grand reopening.

Fans of Kitchen Nightmares already know this restaurant well, featured like it was in the show's season finale. Within minutes of co-owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo first appearing on screen, it became obvious that they're a pair of bullies and thieves who deserve any negative publicity they may get. (They pocket waiters’ tips. They verbally abuse customers and employees. They can’t cook pizza, and they won’t admit it. The Amy’s Baking Co. episode also will go down in history as the only time that Kitchen Nightmares host Gordon Ramsay essentially fled his own show.)

Of course, being thieves and bullies, the Bouzaglos have been on the attack ever since the Fox show aired, promising to tell “our side of the story” with the help of PR firm and a press conference.

If the Bouzaglos weren’t such hideous people, I might begin to pity them right about now.

Because no matter whom they hire, no matter what they say, no one can win in a PR fight against a network reality show.

No one.


In fact, their Waterloo against Fox has already begun. This morning, lawyers for Kitchen Nightmares reportedly sent the Bouzaglos a nastygram, reminding them of an inconvenient little fact: Most reality show contracts, theirs included, bar guests from talking about Fight Club the show on which they appear.

“These agreements,” the letter warns, “prohibit you from speaking about Kitchen Nightmares, other than to acknowledge the mere fact of your participation in the series in personal publicity relating to yourself.”

Translation: Shut up forthwith, Bouzaglos, or Fox will sue your dysfunctional asses for a six-figure sum and Fox will win. (The warning appears to have worked, for as I type this, I am hearing that Amy's Baking Co. press conference has been canceled.)

But! you may ask: What if the Bouzaglos try to beat the Kitchen Nightmares folks in a race to the courtroom? You know, sue the Kitchen Nightmares people, argue that the show somehow misrepresented them?

Again: won’t work. In fact, there’s a reason why reality guests don’t sue these shows more often—why Gerri didn’t sue Survivor, why Angelina Pivarnick didn’t sue Jersey Shore, why every single Real Housewife isn’t lined up over at the Superior Court building in downtown Los Angeles this very second.

Because, as nasty as these folks are, Hollywood is nastier.

Several years ago, I was invited to appear on a reality competition show. The producers sent over a contract for me to peruse. One clause allowed producers to portray me in a “false or misleading light," or in any light they wanted, and I would have no legal recourse.

I balked, of course, and I walked away. But I’ve always remembered what the producers of that show told me as I walked out the door: Pretty much every reality show on earth has the same kind of language in its contracts.

Like, say, Kitchen Nightmares. And just to make sure that times hadn't changed since I was first invited onto that competition show, I triple-confirmed my facts. Literally. Triple-confirmed.

"Yes, that is the case," Bryan Sullivan of the law firm Early Sullivan told me. "The network or studio does not want to be sued by a reality or game show participant if they are portrayed negatively," so the producers shield themselves with ironclad contracts.

“It's standard in the industry,” echoes Leon Gladstone, principal at the Los Angeles law firm Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane, “that that the ‘talent’ waives all claims arising from the portrayal, including claims for libel, claims that they have been portrayed in a false or unflattering light and similar claims.”

Todd Bonder at Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman also confirms this.

“On a reality program,” he tells me, “the producer generally has the right to portray contestants and/or participants in any manner they wish in their discretion, positive or negative.”

In other words: Bouzaglos, you have already lost against Fox. Just recalibrate your pizza oven already, and stand down.

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  1. Lovingly well prepared and deliciously dished. Unlike Amy's pizza. Allegedly.