It’s enjoying a run as TEN’s best-rating show, with renewed critical praise. The food has been good and, one Australian Story episode notwithstanding, MasterChef Australia has largely avoided negative press.
Despite going up against House Rules and The Voice, MasterChef has managed to avoid the annihilation suffered by The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance Australia.
So what’s made all the difference this year when it struggled so much in 2013?
There were two key factors to this year’s recipe.
One was network research that reiterated the brand’s values. The other was the way TEN’s former management fiddled so terribly with the format. Thankfully, the latter has been rectified.
“Channel TEN spent a bit of money on research finding out what the audience wanted to see. Out of that Shine and TEN have been completely committed to building on the MasterChef that everybody fell in love with,” Gary Mehigan recently told TV Tonight.
Research indicated viewers still enjoyed the judges’ line up, the mystery box, inspirational not everyday food and the invention tests.
“Last year there were too many team challenges and people ended up in eliminations because of team challenges,” said Mehigan.
“They also apparently hold us in high regard in terms of our transparency and honesty and they see it as the premier cooking competition.”
This year the show cleverly send out a simple message: “Ordinary People. Extraordinary Food.”
By contrast, 2013 came under heavy fire for its ‘Boys v Girls’ launch, with media suggesting the show had abandoned its core values. While the gender battle was misunderstood as being merely the first of its weekly themes, it was a criticism the show struggled to overcome.
But what hasn’t been acknowledged is that Shine Australia was, at the time, producing under directives from TEN management to detour the show down a My Kitchen Rules road.
Under 2012 CEO James Warburton, TEN was responding to the rise of MKR and MasterChef fatigue. The 2013 show (production began in 2012) was cast for personalities above cooking skills and as a result ended up sitting in between both, with disappointing ratings. Behind the scenes it was a tug of war over the show’s true identity.
Ironically, by the time the 2013 series hit screens, TEN’s management had undergone yet another change.
Guided by producer David McDonald and drama exec Rick Maier, the storytelling has now been restored. Beverley McGarvey’s decision to stick to one series per year has also paid off. Together with Offspring, TEN has managed stay in front of the ABC for 5 weeks now.
TEN is a long way from being out of the woods and there are real concerns for the network without another stripped series once MasterChef concludes (a lesson harshly learned in Q4 2012).
But it’s clear audiences respond to authenticity, and not knee-jerk reactions.
Too many cooks can easily spoil said broth.