MasterChef deja vu
This is not really a rant, but more of a shaking of the head. I used to be a big fan of the MasterChef cooking competition program. I even followed the UK version of the show and did the ‘ingredient challenge’ for one year. (This was back when they had a different format, and each preliminary round had a sort of ‘mystery box’ challenge that the contestants had to pass to move forward.) I like the austerity of the original UK format, which keeps the focus strictly on the cooking. You only get to know the contestants via their cooking, as it should be.
The format was made more dramatic and reality-show-y if you will, when the franchise was transferred to Australian TV screens. I managed to watch quite a lot of the first and second seasons of MasterChef Australia though the usual slightly nefarious means. MasterChef Australia is sort of like Australian Idol For Cooks. I really disliked the inter-personal, Big Brother like drama that was shown in season 1, which I was happy to see they got rid of in season 2. Keeping up with MasterChef Australia is tough, since they broadcast every weekday, but it’s still quite entertaining. The best part of the show is the once-weekly “Master class”, given by the two of the three host/judges, who are chefs, plus assorted guests. The two chefs, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, are terrific teachers on-screen and I actually learned quite a lot from their demonstrations.
If you think that reality shows in general, and this one in particular, is not scripted, you are as naïve as I used to be. How do I know? Well, the MasterChef franchise has actually moved to France now, and is shown on TF1 (official site). The format is the Australian-US version, not the straightforward UK version. If you have watched the first episode of MasterChef US, you may recall when one of the contestants, a young man whose wife was waiting anxiously outside (he may have had a kid too), was told to bring his wife into the judging room. The judges then practically made him get down on his knees and beg to be selected, with his wife standing tearfully beside him. He was allowed through after a considerable amount of Reality TV Over-Emoting.
Nevertheless, that was a spontaneous moment, yes? No. Because, in first episode of the French version of MasterChef (which was a mind-boggling 3 hours long), the exact same scenario was enacted. A young man with an anxious wife (and in this case, he did have a kid out there too) waiting outside, was told to bring his family into the judging room, then made to cry and beg for his spot in the semi-finals or whatever they call it. Except for the language and the cast, it was an identically played out scene. Heh.
I suppose that I may be the only person, or one of the very few anyway, to have even watched so many versions of this show. Yes I know, all reality shows are fake. It was just strange to see just how fake it really is confirmed though.
I also find it a bit amusing that reality-cooking shows have gained a foothold in this country, which is supposed to pride itself on being the best natural cooks in the world or something. There’s a French version of Top Chef too - I haven’t seen it, but I did see the companion book on sale at our local bookstore, alongside the cute kits for making sushi, or cupcakes, or cocktails and the like.
I suppose that it’s another sign that the whole world is becoming homogenized.