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TV show promoters have brought a giant addition to the Hell’s Kitchen landscape. Alongside the usual challenges of combating throngs of tourists, 9th Avenue construction, and of course, many a rodent, this week locals were met with one more roadblock as a promotional display for the upcoming reality TV show Rat in the Kitchen took over W50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. 

Buddy the Rat was greeted by locals asking: “Who’s on Strike?!” All Photos: Phil O’Brien

The installation, running March 29 through April 2 is billed as an “art walk takeover in the heart of Restaurant Row” filled with “a winding yellow trail of exclusive installations, brand elements and hidden QR codes” — but it isn’t actually on Restaurant Row (W46th between 8th and 9th Ave, for the uninitiated). 

Rat in the Kitchen, premiering Thursday at 9pm on TBS, is part-reality cooking competition, part-whodunnit as contestants work to win episodic culinary challenges and also to determine who among them is the “rat” sabotaging dishes along the way. 

Rat in the Kitchen is a cooking show and whodunnit all wrapped into one. What better way to immerse our viewers into the mystery than an art walk that allows fans to seek out our series’ rat icon throughout Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen? To celebrate the culinary heart of the show, we combined the installation with a partnership with Beecher’s Homemade Cheeses to create an exclusive ‘Rat Pack’ filled with an assortment of gourmet cheeses. We hope you join us on the hunt and nibble into something new with Rat in the Kitchen on TBS,” said Melissa Chambless, TBS EVP Marketing in a press release

There was confusion as to whether the newspaper boxes contained anything useful.

On W50th Street, curious passerby wandered up to the two giant inflatable rats (looking suspiciously like the familiar union-busting protest rat balloons oft spotted about town), poked through empty, rat-branded newspaper vending machines in search of an errant copy of the Times, and scanned QR codes that directed users to a generic sweepstakes entry page. 

W42ST spoke to marketing folks about why and how this Hell’s Kitchen trap was set: “It’s Rat in the Kitchen, so we brought it to Hell’s Kitchen. We knew about the union rats — that’s why we made ours a bit more friendly.” The organizers had not seen any actual rats in their time on the street, though should they stay long enough, it’s likely that the rat king will indeed acquire some comrades. 

The “winding” yellow carpet outside New World Stages on W50th Street.

Asked about the discrepancy between the exhibit’s location and the actual heart of Restaurant Row, they said their team was Atlanta-based and unaware of the famed culinary block (they thought it was the whole of 9th Avenue), and NYC-based agency Something Silly had actually pioneered the design. Hell’s Kitcheners who seek out or accidentally stumble upon the stunt late at night should be aware that the inflatable rats and props go home each evening to rest, unlike New York’s real-life furry friends. 

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