The Nine Network’s Tracy Grimshaw gave Gordon Ramsay a right whacking at the start of A Current Affair last night in a reply to his bagging of her at a Melbourne cooking show over the long weekend.

His paid flacks tried to spin as comments made as a joke, but they were nothing of the sort. The Daily Telegraph reports, “The putrid tirade, which included references to Grimshaw’s looks, sexuality and depictions of her as a pig, shocked audiences who went to see the celebrity chef at the Good Food and Wine Show in Melbourne.”

Ms Grimshaw said she didn’t know him, had interviewed him on Friday (as she did a year ago) and thought his comments about her were offensive, which they were.

“This is not a business for wimps and I’m not one, I think I’ve got a reasonable sense of humour too,” she said on Nine just after 6.30pm:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JPKsEuzKpU[/youtube]

“I’m not going to pretend that his comments didn’t hurt. I was absolutely miserable when I found out late Saturday afternoon,” Grimshaw said “He says it was a joke. Well not to me, or anyone who cares about me. Truly I wonder how many people would laugh if they were effectively described as a old, ugly pig. How is that funny exactly?”

Grimshaw said she had thought about not responding at all, but decided against this as “bullies thrive when no one takes them on”.

“I’m not going to sit meekly and let some arrogant narcissist bully me,” she said.

She said she “had gone along with him” in previous interviews because it was entertainment.

Entertainment? Her interview in June 2008 was a blatant PR plug for Ramsay, at the time riding high with his cooking programs, Kitchen Nightmares/ Nightmares USA.

Ramsay’s programs, including Hell’s Kitchen were on Nine and the Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel. He was rating strongly and his swearing had become a bit of an issue, but not much, and he was making money for Nine. He was a media darling, colourful, good for Nine’s business and ratings.

So successful was he that Nine moved Kitchen Nightmares to 8.30pm, into prime time viewing (from 9.30pm where the M classification starts). That saw more complaints, but Nine revelled in the swearing and the high ratings. The publicity ensured more viewers and more money for Nine from advertisers clamouring to get a spot on the programs.

According to the TV Tonight website the start of the June 2008 interview between Ms Grimshaw and the celebrity swearer went like this:

“How the f-ck are you?” Tracy asked Gordon.

If ever there was a reminder what Tracy Grimshaw brings to A Current Affair it was her interview last night with the boisterous cook. It was an inspired idea to bring Tracy back to Sydney for a one on one interview with Ramsay at the Good Food and Wine Show, they’d never have managed the same interview via a studio feed.

Tracy was so relaxed and joyous in this chat, showing another side to her persona, that it made for entertaining viewing. I could never imagine Anna Coren, Ray Martin, Eddie McGuire being this natural. Only Jana or Andrew Denton would have been so candid.

Top marks to Grimshaw for being so comfortable in her skin as to allow this to be filmed and aired.

Grimshaw’s interview last Friday was a bit more strained and less entertaining.

Not so long ago Ramsay was unknown in the wider Australian community, except the few thousand who watched him on Foxtel. When the programs appeared on Nine audiences in late 2007 they rated averagely, but last year built from around 900,000 to a peak of 1.6 million. His popularity contributed to the bounce in Nine’s ratings last year.

Besides the 2008 ACA interview, there an interview on 60 Minutes which helped build Ramsay’s profile — plus news stories, billboards, on air promotions and stories in ACP Magazines. Nine’s PR machine creaked into life to boost Ramsay, his shows and the swearing that was contained in them, plus the bullying and verbal assaults on contestants and others.

Nine boss David Gyngell and Nine exploited Ramsay and his swearing for all the ratings they could sweat out of him. But now that his programs have fallen flat, he is yesterday’s man. As such Gyngell can pose as the defender of Ms Grimshaw’s reputation, when he has a lot of the blame for creating the monster, at least in Australia.

If Nine and Mr Gyngell really want to earn some respect, why don’t they pull Ramsay’s programs from the Network’s schedule completely and return them to the distributor and exclusively on Foxtel? There would be minimal ratings damage, after all he’s a flop this year.

No one can excuse Ramsay for what he said about Tracy Grimshaw, but Channel Nine played along with the maniac in 2008 for the sake of ratings. Remember the old cliché: “If you lay down with dogs you get fleas”.

Peter Fray

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