About six weeks ago I watched my first 10 minutes of Masterchef. I had recently moved in with three girls and hence have rapidly had my horizons broadened in regards to the wretched depths that television can stoop to. Having said that, it seemed a bit silly to write off a show based entirely on the flimsy premise that I had no interest in the subject matter and hate every other example of the genre, so I guess it was only fair for me to give it a go.
The basic set up of the show is eerily similar to an episode of Spy vs Spy, with a few minor differences. Masterchef forgoes the awesome booby traps in favour of cooking food, and instead of the age old tale of black vs white the producers had gone for the more politically correct red vs blue. Also, now there were whole teams involved, rather than two lone saboteurs. The similarities are so obvious and numerous that I won’t insult your intelligence by listing them all.
In this instalment, the spy chefs were charged with cooking bread. An angry little man named George kicked off the show by breaking into the contestants’ apartment at exactly 11:33pm and waking them with the aid of an industrial strength flashlight. There is then a small montage of various contestants explaining that George just woke them up and that they are tired because they were sleeping and one of them claims that they are not even in a state to boil an egg, let alone do some mastercheffing which, frankly, is pretty fucking pitiful. I don’t really buy that they were all fast asleep at 11:33pm. Surely at least one of them stays up to watch South Park repeats or, considering the subject matter, masturbate over the soccer mums in late night Magic Bullet infomercials. Anyway, Furious George goes on to explain around the kitchen table that bakers keep late hours and that in order for fresh bread to be ready for customers in the morning then it needs to be cooked even earlier in said morning. One contestant has their mind explode and slumps dead into the fruit bowl, while the rest brush off the entrails and pile into a minivan.
Sane man and Masterchef host, Furious George
At the bakery, it becomes evident that Kumar, 61, is really looking forward to baking bread because he really enjoys it because he says so directly to the camera. Dani, 25, hypothesises on the importance of bread because cracking open a dinner roll is the first impression you get of a restaurant, not the service or the menu or the decor or the reputation or the Fevola pissing on the window or the overheard musings of the lone and sad looking couple sitting in the corner of an otherwise vacant premises bitching about the consistency of their creme brulee.
The owner of the bakery, Andrew, then turns up and the contestants applaud him like schoolchildren, while Furious George and some other guy get on their knees and fawn at his magnificence, drooling all over the floor in the desperate hope that they’ll be able to catch a glimpse of his reflection in the resulting lake of salivate despite their respectfully averted gaze. Andrew folds his arms like the culinary badass he is and introduces himself over the top of some equally badass rock music, going on to explain that his bakery is different to all the others because they like to make good bread. Also, their sourdough is naturally leavened, which as far as I know could be good or bad but judging by the pride in his voice it is probably good.
It becomes evident that the masterchefs are to bake bread for some restaurants in their teams. Some of the contestants tell the camera that they want to win, which seems reasonable if unnecessary. The arbitrarily chosen captain of the red team explains that if his team wins it will look good for him but if his team loses it will be bad for him and I begin to feel myself getting a bit lost, wondering if the rampant intellectualism on display means that much of this show’s content is whizzing right over the heads of some of the more casual viewers unschooled in the complexities of good being good and bad being bad.
Furious George asks Andrew about the things that could go wrong as the masterchefs begin their onerous task. First problem is the mixing of the dough. Dough is inherently sticky, claims Andrew boldly, and if it is not done correctly then whole species will be wiped out and the colonel’s 11 secret herbs and spices will be exposed as merely oregano and airplane glue. Andrew does not say this directly but it is heavily implied. The second possible hurdle was something else, I think baking, though I’ve just been told it might have been something called proofing. Having now watched it again on the Internet, I can confirm it was baking, and thank Christ for that as I don’t think Channel Ten can risk alienating too many more simpletons with all of these technical terms. “Wow!” exclaims Furious George. “There’s lots of processes, and it seems like every process has to be right, and time’s ticking.” Well, two processes George, but whatever. You’re just there to intimidate viewers to an extent that they’re too afraid to switch off, lest you break into their homes at night and force them to bake and deliver superfluous monologues at camerapoint.
Roars like Cthulhu
The guy that I previously described as some guy suddenly roars like Cthulhu, explaining that it is 1am as the camera pans to a clock to confirm his story, exclaiming that he is loving the fact that they are learning and that it “is all touch and feel” and that “you never know, we might get some great bread at the end of this. Time to move it!” He is just yelling this at no one, everyone’s baking and he’s screaming at the cameraman. Some lady seemingly unworthy of having her name displayed on screen declares that “baking bread is a total gamble. We’ve followed the recipe so it should turn out right, we’re not going to know until they come out of the oven.” Clearly cheffing is not for the faint of heart.
At this point my attention was drawn by something else. I don’t recall what. Perhaps thoughts of self mutilation, or the necessity of shoe horns. I do not know, nor particularly care, though I am grateful to whatever thought it was, as I’m sure the reader is. I could write an essay on how terrible this show is and why it is unworthy of being on television and drawing millions of viewers and how much Furious George reminds me of my friend whose voice doesn’t echo. And maybe I will. Maybe me writing the essay will be be turned into a reality show that people can relate to because, like cooking, everyone has used a word processor at some point.
People can watch me banging away on my laptop, and I won’t even need to enter the diary chamber of secrets for my monologues because I have a webcam. Then there’ll be a competing show on a rival network about some other guy writing a thesis, then another channel will go one up again in the pissing contest by green lighting a show about four couples who need to renovate someone else’s poorly written thesis and correct all of the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes with a budget of $5000 and only one gigantic bed between them all, and one couple gets voted off each week though there are random celebrity wildcard couples that enter the compound for a weekend at a time just to shake things up by getting wasted and criticising sentence structure. But everyone still needs to do a nightly cooking challenge, because cooking fucking rules and just makes for compelling television.