Why do people like Master Chef?

I’m a person who enjoys watching Master Chef Australia on Channel 10 most nights, despite my inability to cook (but my ability to eat makes up for it). Master Chef is the new reality-TV craze, apparently, raking in about 1.5 million viewers a night. I know a lot of people like it, but why exactly do people like it?

If you think about it, all it really is is a bunch of nobodies cooking. What’s the twist? Um … they have to cook with coloured aprons? Hmm no, that can’t be it. I don’t know, there is no twist. I guess the twist is that they’re cooking for prize money. Wait, this happens all the time in restaurants, but  I don’t see anyone getting excited about watching that.

And thus is the premise of reality TV – taking something completely ordinary and dramatising it one hundredfold to make money. Sometimes I laugh at the ads or the teasers just before commercial breaks because it’s just so ridiculous – a dramatic voice over similar to those over suspenseful crime shows will say something like “After the break, the judges will taste the cheescake….<insert epic music>” Ohhh the suspense! The undue riveting drama that’s about to unfold! Our minds will be blown!

All jokes aside, there really something is very addictive about it. I think it’s because it’s a ‘nice’ reality TV show that everyone can enjoy (besides bulimics?), where nobody’s humiliated or demeaned *coughBiggestLoser*, everyone keeps their clothes on and no stupid romances arise *coughBigBrother*, it’s not cliché *coughAustralianIdol*, and the premise isn’t completely stupid *FarmerWantsAWife*.

However, because I’m Doro and I always find something to complain about, I do have a few gripes with Master Chef.

Product Placement

I know Channel 10 has to make money and I don’t blame them for being greedy bastards, but it’s gotten to a point where they’ve stopped trying to be subtle and the advertising is just screaming at you in the actual show rather than in the commercial breaks.

For example, the paper towels that Matt Preston endorses. That used to strictly be in the ad breaks, but I facepalmed myself when Sharnee dropped her ingredients and had to clean them up. With what? WITH HANDEE ULTRA WIPES OF COURSE! And then you see Matt Preston chuckling because he’s thinking “Excellent, a chance to show off how great these wipes are!” and he goes to help her clean up. Too bad they edited out the part where he tripped her over so that he could do that. Oh and let’s not forget that they then used this scene in the actual ad for the towels. Smooth.

Even last night’s product placement was a bit ridiculous, where the team challenge was to cook on a plane. I had in my head that they’d be up in the air and the passengers would be eating and judging the food, because the judges were saying “Yes, buckle your seatbelts! 9000 feet off the ground! More plane puns!”. Otherwise, they could just do the challenge in a normal kitchen, right? But oh, I was wrong. Not only were they just placing already-made food on a plate in a stationary plane on the ground, but the judges were in fact outside of the plane on the ground and tasting the food. So why couldn’t they just do an ordinary challenge in the kitchen where they’re not allowed to use raw fish, fresh herbs, whatever? I’ll tell you why: because how else are they going to advertise Qantas?!

Sob stories

Of course, it’s reality television and the rule is that someone always has to cry. But honestly, sob stories and tears have no place in the kitchen (unless you’re that guy in the pasta ad who weeps when he cooks, or you’re chopping onions). The thing I hate most about reality TV is that people’s weaknesses are exploited for the sake of entertainment. For example, in Australian Idol particularly, someone would say how their mother is dead or badly mutilated or something and the judges will just continually press the topic until the waterworks are switched on.

This isn’t so much the case in Master Chef, but especially in the earlier episodes, there would be someone crying about something every time. It’s particularly annoying when the reason that they’re sobbing has absolutely nothing to do with cooking. But oh well, it can’t all be fun and games, right? Seriously though, when someone says that their dish was inspired from their dead mother, what can you say after hearing that? “This is a horrible dish that made me projectile vomit”? No, it’d be insensitive to criticise a dish after being told it has some emotional or sentimental meaning! They’ll immediately lose viewers who are incredibly sensitive about everything and will be offended by anything unorthodox!

Oh and then there’s the dramatisation of when someone can’t handle the pressure anymore, which consequently leads them to cry. How thoughtful of the camera crew to rush after them and zoom in on their distraught faces, so that us viewers can be entertained by another human being’s misery. (On a side note, I did feel sorry for Callum when he broke down – someone cut him some slack, please! I can just imagine him just going crazy one day and butchering everyone with chef knives because the judges keep yelling at him. Now that would make great TV!)

Cheap theatrics

I only have one thing to say about this: the time when Matt Preston threw Aaron’s plate on the floor and said it was disgusting <commercial break> …ly good. I wonder what Matt Preston would do to a disgustingly cute baby?

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About lildoro

I'm a uni student who procrastinates way too much. I like saying stuff about things.

Posted on June 17, 2010, in Mindless Dribble, TV and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I think the reason people like it is because it IS a bunch of nobodies who are not much different to us. It lets us think that “if they can do it then we can do it to!” (even though we most likely wont).

    Masterchef isn’t really about the best cooks in the country competing for the top prize because the best cooks would have some culinary education and many years of experience in their profession. It is about telling the story of a select number of ordinary people as they journey to cooking glory. Each contestant is chosen because of their different backgrounds and personalities. If we were to get the best chefs to compete with each other, it’d basically be Iron Chef.

    Thats why Julie won last season. Not because she was the best cook but because a lot of the population can relate to her in some way and it makes them feel good when a person like Julie achieves great things. If it was based on pure cooking skill then Poh would have undoubtedly won (she should have).

    Product placement is an unfortunate fact of life today but the plane challenge was not all about featuring the Qantas brand. This theme was needed for variety because you cant always have it set in the Masterchef kitchen or some restaurant or stall and most people dont know what goes into the thinking of serving plane food. Also it cant be helped that Qantas happens to be in it because there really arent any other Australian plane brands. You can’t have Air New Zealand in the background can you?

    Crying is all part of the drama and the contestants can use their background stories to manipulate and help them win the competition and gives ratings for the producers. Both parties win. I think you are focussing on the crying too much because there are other emotions shown. I’m sure if the contestants don’t want to be seen then they could just walk away.

    And its a common TV strategy to cut to a commercial to keep the audience interested so its nothing new even if it is a nuisance. You could watch masterchef online without any ads. And finally, you got to admit that you would have never thought that Matt Preston would do what he did =p.

    • Interesting insight, I don’t disagree with what you say about why people like it.

      HOWEVER, the point of what I said about the plane challenge wasn’t to say that the theme was stupid. I thought they could have executed it much better. The fact that they were cooking in the kitchen and the judges didn’t even eat on the plane defeated the whole purpose of the challenge – to be able to work on the plane and serve passengers (because not everyone on a plane is going to be a food critic or expert chef). They might as well have set tthe whole thing in the Master Chef kitchen and just limited the kinds of ingredients they could use. It just bugged me that they felt like they had to somehow incorporate Qantas specifically into the challenge, but didn’t bother going the extra mile and doing it for real. If Qantas was incidental to the challenge, then fine I don’t have a problem with that, but in this case it really wasn’t. It was just an excuse to have Qantas there.

      And with the crying – you explained why I hate it for me, but still kinda missed my point. Why is it that they need to exploit people’s weaknesses to get ratings? Why is it that the contestents have to emotionally blackmail the judges to win instead of actually being good? Also, did you not watch the episode where Callum broke down and cried? He didn’t want to be seen, in fact he actually walked away and yet the camera crew followed him to catch it all all for the sake of better television. It’s this kind of selfish TV world that I’m hating on.

      And I know it’s a common TV strategy to cut to commercials, but I thought that the way the producers built it up in the promos beforehand was cheap. If you saw the ads, they emphasised what Matt did and cut to the shocked face of Allvin. They deliberately misled us to rake in more viewers and hyped it up, but in the end it was just a stunt. It’s sort of like a doctor saying “You have cancer” and then 5 minutes later saying “Just kidding”. Not impressive.

  2. You missed a cough in FarmerWantsAWife =P

  3. i shouldve known there was a baby joke coming… lol =P

  4. ehhh I’ve never understood the appeal of this show or any cooking competition shows.

    At least with dancing with the stars, Australian idol, xfactor, Americas next top model, the dating ones, the beauty ones, the haircut ones or the interior design ones, the audience can judge the final result too. I find the cooking comps pointless because I can’t taste the food…the only bit I enjoy about these comp shows is getting to decide for myself who can sing or dance the best or whatever it may be.

    Not that I watch reality tv at all. It’s lame.

    =P

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