Much has been said about the current season of MasterChef Australia, quite a bit which is focussed on ratings rather than the content itself.
They are certainly down on 2020, which frequently averaged above 900,000 -but the context overlooks that during a pandemic lockdown it was also comfort TV. There were new judges and returning Back to Win favourites.
If we look at 2019, the last with Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan & George Calombaris, numbers were frequently around 650,000 metro viewers.
This year’s cast is serving up some eye-watering dishes that promise much is to come for those who indulge.
No question too, 10 has serious competition from Lego Masters and Big Brother, all three produced by Endemol Shine Australia.
Yet in its 13th season there are also signs of complacency mostly which reside with 10. All TV has to keep adapting to stay one step ahead of the audience.
Here are some suggestions for 2022…
Season length: Last year’s show was a whopping 15 Weeks, and the year before 14 Weeks. It’s too much commitment for time-poor viewers. Cut to a 6 week season (and yes I realise that means 10 will have to commission a replacement show).
Episode length: 70 minutes maximum, including ads. Goodbye 90+ minutes. How many times do we need to see contestants in a meltdown because they forgot to turn on the oven?
4 episodes a week: Sunday – Wednesday only please.
No audition episodes: Open with the cast. Why do I need to see people eliminated when they don’t even make the cut?
Top 24: Reduce to 20 then have more double eliminations.
No MasterClass, Junior or Celebrity editions: Keep the format pure, once a year. Don’t dilute the brand with spin-offs.
Bring back public challenges: I realise these are absent due to COVID, but they are missed. Pop-ups, food vans, restaurant takeovers all offer great variety. Food delivery has boomed in the pandemic, and no reason it can’t feature.
Travel: See above.
Keep the food aspirational: Resist how-to home cooking. We have SBS Food for that. MasterChef is about immaculate dishes and the “wow” factor. I don’t expect to be able to replicate it. That’s why the show is called MasterChef.
Mystery Boxes every Sunday: Still a great way to start a new week. And I miss a Mystery Box winner having an advantage by choosing an ingredient everybody must cook with (admittedly tricky if we are trimming episode length).
Later premiere: I would hold the season until winter, not autumn, when viewing is traditionally higher and the idea of yummy, warming dishes has greater impact.
Kitchen Makeover: The set is grand and iconic, but when was the last time it had a makeover? What else could it offer?
What’s worth keeping: New judges, Melissa Leong in particular. Diverse cooks with jaw-dropping skills. Emotion, authenticity, imagination, spontaneity, camaraderie. Dessert Week (yum). Team Challenges. Immunity. Guests and alumni (I don’t suppose Katy Perry wants seconds?).
I still have faith we are in for some drama, emotion and delish dishes this year (and a lift in ratings) but what are your ideas for the future?