When did MasterChef become The Apprentice?

Interesting shifts in MasterChef Australia last night…

The episode was so close to the format for The Apprentice that I sure hope Mark Burnett wasn’t watching.

Both MasterChef and The Apprentice Australia are produced by FremantleMedia Australia, and it showed. It also took the tone of the show to a new place.

CONTESTANT RESIDENCE: The episode opened with contestants awakening to a new day and filled with anticipation for what lay ahead. The increasing inclusion of the house is straight out of the Apprentice and Inside Idol before it. As it seeks to tell us more about the group dynamic of this year’s contestants, it also risks shifting the show to a pseudo-Big Brother. How long before we are watching them fight over the bathroom? Like The Apprentice they all packed their luggage and were whisked off to their daily destination.

CHALLENGE: The contestants were divided into two teams beginning with Alvin as one team captain, having won the previous cooking challenge. Given the task of choosing his opponent captain he selected Jonathan. When asked why, he said, “I don’t want him in my team.” What? Am I watching MasterChef? Is this the same show that supported its contestants, cheered for everyone and united us over our love for food? It was a surprising inclusion to the narrative. While I remember the competitiveness of Chris and the determination of Poh, I don’t know that it was ever as mean-spirited. Team-selection continued like a schoolyard pick-off until one poor contestant was the last chef standing, and none too happy. Maybe she was wishing she had sent off an application to My Kitchen Rules after all.

The challenge saw teams each run two Italian restaurants with varying degrees of success. The location shoots are a great change of scenery from the MasterChef kitchen. But even though these kinds of challenges were included in 2009, you could have been mistaken for thinking you were watching The Apprentice. There was even an aerial shot of the city similar to the one FremantleMedia used in the latter.

FACING THE JUDGES:  This was straight out of the Donald Trump / Mark Bouris boardroom. Two teams faced the judges, who commented on their strengths and weaknesses before asking those in the losing team to comment on the performances of their teammates. Sound familiar? A lot of pressure lay on the team captain. Despite not being “fired,” two will face an elimination cook-off tonight. A third contestant also opted to drop out of the show (apologies to the others from the Top 50 who missed out!) and exited in an Apprentice-like car departure. Hopefully she returns to collect her luggage which she didn’t take with her.

Was it entertaining television? Absolutely. Was it derivative television? Absolutely. But is it also indicative of a shift in tone for 2010?

In its new 7:30 timeslot it even included the words “sh*t” and “pi**ed off” -likely to be a surprise to many of the young families that have grown to love the show. Check those classifications, mum.

MasterChef has asked us to adjust to other subtle format changes, including the excision of host Sarah Wilson. I’m already feeling too much of  Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris this year -Wilson’s role should have been beefed up, not cut. Thankfully, Matt Preston remains dazzling stuff, because his role is used more sparingly.

Certainly the ratings have been outstanding for TEN. But ultimately time will tell if there are too many ingredients being thrown into the wok and not enough heart left on the plate.


  1. Judith Butcher

    I was very disappointed when Devon left the show. I felt that it was unfair as he was not trying to be the best waiter. Many of the other contestants were less capable chefs yet he has been ejected right from the start. I wonder if he was set up! Fancy the first face off being between Jonathan (originally a pain) and lovely Devon.(Ridiculous)

  2. my two cent: But they did “face the judges”, pack bag and leave in a black car thing last series. It’s just that one comment that’s all. I do think that Devon was embarrassed when David hugged him crying i bet he was thinking “why are you crying? i was kicked off”
    Apart from the show contestant doing x then have contestant say what you just saw and the obvious build up before an ad i like master chef. Also i record masterchef to avoid the build before ad and recap.

  3. They are becoming like fountains of water. Claire just bursted out yesterday, trying to take the blame. Sarah is a cop and I assumed all cops had to act tough, no matter what. I also think the tissues coming out during the elimination challenge is really suggesting that they are bunch of babies. I might say that junior MasterChef has to be one that will produce tears and this a good start for those kids to get their waterworks in order before they go and cry.

  4. Didn’t even notice that girl was gone until I read it in the article… she was pointless. what’s wrong with this season? All the damn crying. It’s horrible. Last season rigged as Julie would sell more cookbooks, and this season they evidently think her fans like all the crying. Ugh.

    And as for eliminating someone on Egg Identification and Egg Fluffing. well words (almost) fail me.

  5. @GuanoLad
    I agree. They’re really pushing the envelope on that angle. I mean I could understand it if the MC kitchen was knee deep in peeled onions but it’s just turning into one big bawl-fest. Still, I remain transfixed by the show.

  6. My couch’s experts think that this year Masterchef is putting in a lot more of the Biggest Loser-type “journey” nonsense. Too much dead-grandma-like-my-cooking stuff imo.

  7. It is exactly the same as last year people… Remember the “safe” contestants sitting on the lounge waiting to see who came through the lift after the eliminations?

    Don’t comment on what you don’t know or remember!!

  8. What I hate the most os contestants that leave on their own free will. It is so unfair to those who have not made it through via the process of eliminations to have someone that did make it decide just to go. Surely these shows should have measures in place to prevent this happening too often – this is the third time this series so far that someone has just got up and left.

  9. Great show but god what is with all the fluff. I wanted to get right into it and it just seemed to go on and on and on and on and on….You get the point. I mean one night we have 90 minutes then tonight it shifts back to 30 minutes. Why? I mean last night could have easily been put into 1 hour but no the 90 minutes continues.

    Must say it looks more like they are going with a top 24 this year and making it a lot longer. At this rate it will be going nearly twice as long as the previous series.

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