Net orders up reality format

Mike Darnell likes the look of “Hell.”

The Fox reality guru has pacted with Granada Television to create a U.S. version of “Hell’s Kitchen,” the smash Brit format that smashes together elements of “Survivor,” “Big Brother” and “The Restaurant.” Net has ordered up to 10 episodes of the skein, which could begin production as soon as September.

Gordon Ramsay, the acerbic chef at the center of the U.K. skein, is on board to star in Fox’s take on “Hell’s Kitchen,” which will be altered in several key ways for Stateside auds.

Deal comes as Darnell and Fox prepare to answer charges that the network has been too aggressive in creating shows similar to those already in the works from competitors. Both Darnell and Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman will meet with reporters today during the net’s portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour.

Instead of the U.K.’s celeb-centered skein, Fox’s take on “Hell’s Kitchen” will recruit a group of ordinary folks with foodie aspirations — be it the crew chief at the local McDonald’s, the housewife who’s dreamt of being Martha Stewart or a backyard BBQ genius.

Contestants will live together in a house and, more importantly, work at a restaurant created specifically for the show. Each night, they’ll struggle to serve 70 or 80 people.

Running the kitchen: Ramsay, a tart-tongued tyrant one reality insider dubbed “a mean version of Simon Cowell.” A former soccer star, Ramsay is known for his profanity-laced tirades against contestants, which should keep the Fox standards and practices department busy.

“Kitchen” will be an elimination-style skein, with poorly performing players booted off each week. In addition to running the kitchen, contestants will face other challenges designed by the show’s producers.

Winner of WMA-packaged “Hell’s Kitchen” will get sole ownership of the restaurant used in the show.

ITV aired “Hell’s Kitchen” as a multinight event a la “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,” drawing roughly a 30-share during its 15-night run.

NBC aired two cycles of “The Restaurant,” which focused on one chef’s attempts to launch a new eatery. Skein was a docusoap, while “Hell’s Kitchen” will be a more traditional competition-based reality skein.

Fox declined comment.

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