Yesterday's Sunday Post column in full.
Is Gordon Behind Bars a great way to teach co-operation & the value of the work ethic in jail or a great way to restore Gordon Ramsay's flagging TV career? Or both? "When did you last work a 60-hour week?" the foul-mouthed chef asked a convicted burglar during the opening episode of Ramsay's latest TV series. "Straight work?" he asked. "Never."
It's the kind of exchange that took place many times between members of the Scottish Prisons Commission and prison inmates during our investigation into Scotland's overflowing jails. Unlike Gordon, we were there without cameras or the need to make a drama out a crisis. Unlike us though, Gordon is there to change lives almost immediately and force a few young prisoners to work hard and co-operatively for the very first time in their lives. And much as I hae ma doots about the man and his motives, you've got to admire that. I know, I know. Some TV reviewers hated it. "Who wouldn't want to see Gordon Behind Bars?" asked one. "Stuffed with fake drama and served with lashings of stomach-churning laddishness (prisoners were the 'bad boy brigade'), Gordon Behind Bars should have been done for wasting TV time."
Well he hardly needs the cash -- the American TV versions of Ramsay's series reportedly net an estimated £9.4m per year. Perhaps though he needs the challenge. Like Jamie Oliver in America reduced to tears as he tried to explain to overweight kids and apathetic canteen staff that pizza for lunch every day was a very bad idea. Like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall hanging out of a boat behind a trawler to catch perfectly good discarded fish. After years on TV some celebrity chefs have found a sense of mission and allowed the viewing public to glimpse the real nature of our drifting, careless society. Is that where Gordon Behind Bars is headed? Or will viewers soon be pleading with prison chiefs to keep him in? Let's see which way it goes – and give the boy a (very short) break.