OH MY GOD! There was a shot on Masterchef this week, one of the female contestants sitting on those sofas after serving her food. It looked so much like someone in the living room of the Big Brother house! This series is SO copying other shows on TV…
Except it isn’t. The cries continued about the BBC broadcasting nothing more than ‘X-Factorchef’ on Wednesday, but when a bandwagon exists then people jump on it, if only to feel better about themselves. The truth is, this new series has a real spark: the judges seem to have toned down the hyperbole but increased their own enthusiasm, and it only took until 10pm on Thursday to show how dispensing with the auditions/heats so quickly has massively worked in its favour.
A contributing factor is that Masterchef continues to be one of the most highly stylised – almost over-produced – programmes on television. Whether that production delights or irks you is a matter of personal taste, but it is frequently audacious and occasionally genius. Whoever cuts all those random kitchen sounds – the shred of a vegetable, the thump of a large blade rending a chunk of meat asunder – into the music deserves a handshake (or a punch in the face, depending on your opinion. I’d like to shake his hand). Even if you don’t like why they do it, you have to admire how they do it.
For some years, the idea of a Masterchef soundtrack album has not seemed ridiculous. But whereas in the past the music just sounded like Heart FM played over the finished programme. Now, the entire hour sounds scored. Somebody on an internet forum compared it to the cinematic music of Hans Zimmer; being a Doctor Who fan there are more than a few moments that sound like Murray Gold has been lending his expertise to the soundtrack, and there is no praise higher than that.
Talking of ‘over the years’, Thursday night offered further reasons to get nostalgic. While the current contestants slaved over their pristine, symmetrical work stations in the vast expanse of the studio (making the whole thing look like a cookery equivalent of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony), the past winners of Masterchef – together with a number of other finalists – assembled for a three-course meal that could easily have been incorporated as one of the tasks on Michel Roux’s Service.
Suddenly, years of your televisual life are presented together, acting as a reminder of just how long Masterchef has been integral to your existence. Personally, I wasn’t there for the first two series, so Thomasina and Peter were not familiar faces. Steven, however – his was the victory that infected me with the show’s unique brand of suspense that has yet to loosen its hold. The 2007 final seemed a genuine competition right up to the point he was announced as winner; then felt like it was never in doubt.
2008, where James somehow beat the enchanting Emily (take a guess who I thought should have won… It’s a good job Thursday’s show was so good or I’d have been complaining that she didn’t feature enough!), and Matt in 2009. Perhaps it was the experience of watching those three series that marked Dhruv out so early in 2010, or maybe it was just that his attitude seemed so right. Either way, it is still a bit too early to establish a front-runner in 2011.
What the ‘past winners’ dinner did achieve was to demonstrate exactly what a successful run on Masterchef can do for ‘changing your life’, thus validating the decision to spend the majority of the current series focussing on the final group. If you don’t care about that, then consider this – if we were still in the heats, we wouldn’t have had John Torode yelling, “Where’s my food?” and Gregg Wallace eating all four examples of each course before saying later, “I’m a growing lad!” Television doesn’t get more entertaining than this.