So Season 3 has just finished and what a long, drawn out season it was. I love cooking, but apparently not as much as the contestants over the past few years. This is probably why I’m so drawn into the show – I want to believe that I myself, a regular cook at home, could achieve the same dishes as what I see. So this season I was a little miffed at a number of things that happened during the season which, though daring, rubbed off quite a lot of the shine Masterchef has built up over the past two seasons. Let me put this into a pros and cons historical perspective:
Season 1 (part 1) – the regular season.
It all kicks off.
- Cooking! That’s what it was all about.
- Masterclasses were also great – apparently not a regular feature of the English version of Masterchef?
- The challenges seemed full on but manageable
- Auditions – some good, some quirky – and like Australian Idol it was the worst auditions which were the most interesting (and funny) to watch
- The voting off system sucked – I really didn’t like it (but this was fixed well in season 2 – below)
- The winners of the Chef cookoffs disappeared from the show and into professional kitchens – but when they came back you didn’t know who they were (episodes didn’t follow them and so there was no personality development) and their skills didn’t seem as good as contestants who had stayed behind
Season 1 (part 2) – Celebrity Masterchef
More cooking action but with people we know a bit better
- This was interesting a number of levels – primarily because it also showed that celebrities were also normal
- Challenges were great
- Show wasn’t on every night
Season 2 (part 1) – regular season
Probably my favourite regular season so far.
- They got rid of that female host – so we get to know the Chefs better
- new challenges that were bigger, harder, and better – big and hard enough to wow the audience, but still achievable for the contestants
- Guest judges were good and varied things up a bit
- Immunity challenges – I liked the idea of the immunity pin a lot more than just heading into a professional kitchen – plus it also meant that contestants could stay around and we could grow with them (a big positive)
- Eliminations became about cooking skills rather than votes (probably the best improvement over season one)
- Immunity challenges still felt really hard. Simply going up against a professional chef with a 10 minute head start still wasn’t an overly even playing field
- Shows ran over time often – and the reason why would be clearer in season 3
Season 2B – Junior Masterchef
- There was probably no con in this series at all – I was totally suckered in
- Not on every night like Masterchef regular season – also good
- Those kids had personality and even showed lots of adults what skill in the kitchen looked like
The latest and probably the most disappointing season.
- Locations galore – fantastic, especially when it focused on the cooking (ie Margaret River challenge)
- The challenges were even bigger, harder and better – and more down to earth (like heading out to Matt Moran’s dad’s farm – which was nice)
- The immunity challenges became a more level playing field – and more interesting: ie. Eamon Sullivan (which I liked!) and the grandmother-baking-queen challenge
- The show as less predictable, mixed things up a bit – so it wasn’t the same challenges every week
- Great challenges as well – especially brining in guest judges and cooks – like Heston Blumenthal
- I liked the ‘fix your own failed dish’ elimination challenge – more of these would be good.
- Adriano Zumbo deserves his own mention as this guy is just pure genius, even if he does look like he just walked out of prison
- Michael’s reaction on getting into the Finale – it was honest and genuine, nice
- There were no second chances. I would have loved to seen some of the eliminated contestants back after being out and working on their skills (like my early favourite: Jay)
- Platitudes and puns galore… yuck – it treats the audience like children.
- Locations – make it more about the cooking and less about the location
- Cross promotions. Let me illustrate it this way: heading to Malaysia = good; Kate, while shopping, asking, ‘Do you accept Westpac?’ = dumb.
- Mean spiritedness/negativity. ‘Lock down’ in NY was just mean and stained a positive show with a fairly negative stroke, as was ‘mining losers stay back to cook’. This show makes itself different from ‘My Kitchen Rules’ because the latter just feels more catty (eg – the Tasmanian couple from last season). Plus much was made of continuing to lock up contestants away from home and family contact – surely you could add a few more home visits or phone calls to make contestants more comfortable.
- Matt Moran – great chef, but not a great host. He always looks a little scary (even when he was having fun with Billy and Michael in the final masterclass…).
- Some shows ran waaaaay over time and often – I get why you do it, but please stop it. I don’t stay on your channel because you run things overtime, I stay on your channel because you have good programming.
- I’m going to go out there and say it: the Dalai Lama. What was the point of having him on the show… especially since his beliefs do not allow him to pass judgment on the food put before him (not that this stopped the judges from quoting him on what he liked…)?
- Seriously, what’s up with splitting the finale in two – it achieved so much hate posts on Twitter and FB that it wasn’t funny (though some comments were funny). The only good to come out of it was that some people got to make dinner (and clean up) during the break…so they weren’t watching Renovators as Channel 10 would have liked.
See what I mean? So where to for Season 4?
- Less platitudes and puns – please! Make intelligent comments rather than wanting to appear witty.
- Less repetition of phrases and thoughts. Each week it seemed we were being told by the winners of the team challenges that while they were enjoying their winners’ meal and there was a touch of sadness because somebody was leaving. That’s fine to let us know – but vary up how you say it rather than carbon copy your words each week. Same goes for the judges and ‘It all comes down to the dish you cooked.’
- Work out what to do with those first few weeks of pairing down the top 50 to top 24 – it’s hard to feel emotionally invested early on
- Stop the 30 second recap because our memories aren’t totally erased during the commercial break
- Stop the cliff hangers and cutting to commercial breaks. It’s plain rude and doesn’t treat your audience like adults.
- Don’t milk the show so much – Season 3 was constantly in danger of this as everything got dragged out – the silly commercial break cliffhangers, the gratuitously over run episodes, the silly long pauses where we know the judges are just dragging it out for the sake of dragging it out, the constant inane-present-tense commentary (ie, ‘Lobster can’t be overcooked…and they can’t be undercooked…’ – well…duh!)
- The show needs to be stripped down a little – there’s too much of everything going on
So there are my thoughts. What would you add?