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.