The Horror of Australian Television Part 1: My Kitchen Rules (MKR)

Taken from: http://www.perthfoodreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/MKR_LOGO_V1_RGB.jpg

The horror, the horror

 

The Premise: A gaggle of would-be restaurant owners compete against each other in a series of point-scoring meal sets, followed by various challenges such as cooking to the public or in a real restaurant kitchen. The majority of contests are based on an amalgamated rating of chef critics as well as their fellow competitors.

Before we get into the meat of why this show is bad, let us firstly tick off the blatantly obvious; the contest design that makes fair competition impossible. Firstly, direct competitors’ scores are both anonymous (to the reviewees), and used as a part of the scoring process, meaning the capacity for “tactical” scoring is wide open. This would be more of a problem were it not for “gatecrashers”, who not only don’t need to be scored, but skip straight past preliminary trials to meet the original group at a later date. These systems do not produce a fair competition.  

The Horror: The entire show drips with insincerity regarding both the quality of the chefs, as well as the drama of the situations. Simply put, it is not a cooking show but a cooking melodrama that expects its audience (not that it expects much) to cringe at overcooked lemon curd, or gasp at the frenetic action as contestants try to finish cooking to an unrealistic timeframe. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, however MKR rests on faulty premises that give the whole show a greased veneer of superficiality. To begin with, the contestants, frankly, are not the crème of the crop. Forsaking respectable cooking for outrageous characters, the kitchen scenes are filled with borderline moronic behavior. This ranges from contestants attempting to cook dishes they have never tried before, to flat out not prepping meals, to blatantly and obviously breaking competition rules (all of which result in low marks). Rather than bother with amateur chefs who could bring something to the gastronomic table, audiences are instead left with a handful of mean spirited “baddies” versus traditional aussie battler “goodies”. All the stereotypes are organised and making an appearance; from the smirking gossip girls hitherto found only in high schools, to the down-on-their-luck, one-more-shot, heart-of-gold types, as well as the post-feminist proud housewives showing the men how it’s done. Don’t believe me when I say that the show encourages stereotypes? Check out the subtle changes in musical score when the couple from Asian descent start cooking; it’s as bad as you think it is.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

“Quick the foreigners are here! Get out the Erhu!”
“Erhu? What’s an Erhu?”
“Asian violin! Pronto!”

 

Worse still is the false tension that somehow has to play out in every.single.review. The stilted, hammy dialogue between contestants is excruciating but necessary to fill in the forty five-odd minutes of rummaging and excessive pauses in conversation that passes for an episode on prime time. Cameras, at least four at any one time, zip around the dinner table, ready to vilify or praise contestant opinions based on the pre-written script, clearly affecting the competitor’s ability to speak intelligibly. Every spoken sentence is either an attestation of the stereotype they have been assigned to, a scarily banal observation (“chicken can go dry if it’s cooked too long” etc.), or worse still, a ham-fisted attempt to heighten tension.

Finally, as the icing on the cake, we must talk of the judges. They are the embodiments of this tasteless show. To begin with, I don’t for a second want to discredit their abilities as chefs; but that in-and-of-itself makes my enmity the sadder. I think it is frankly impossible for anyone to be as French as Manu Feildel, and the ever-present musical score underlines this point replete with accordions. Despite the fact he has resided in English-speaking nations for twenty five years, he is still unable to pronounce “sauce” and a whole swag of other words one would think would need zero ambiguity in a professional kitchen environment. I could be wrong, but judging by the nature of the show, I feel he is overplaying the foreign part. Pete Evans on the other hand, with his steely blue eyes, is probably the more false of the two. He doesn’t eat what the contestants offer, and is considering resigning after this season. So, while the audience watches with bated breath at the put-on emotionless glare of the two judges, followed by the false Shatner-like pauses (“the lamb… … … …was cooked perfectly”) the real fallacy here is that all those ten out of tens he gives, what he really thinks is a flat zero to anyone who used “sugar, gluten, wheat, dairy, grains, or animals that haven’t been humanely raised and allowed to live a natural life”, so, everyone.

There is an exchange that any piece of media makes with its audience. It’s called the suspension of disbelief. It is an exchange that follows thusly: “if you accept the premise and design of a piece of media, it will do what it can to entertain you”. This exchange is what keeps professional wrestling strong- the exchange that you know it’s all made up doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. MKR tries, like many reality shows, to weasel its way out of this exchange. It presents itself as a cooking show but is truly about creating cardboard cut-outs of real people for the audience to watch with a sense of… I dunno, suspense? Well, based on the ratings, mostly everyone in Australia has been swindled in the exchange. Maybe one day we’ll all wake up from the anathema.

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~ by freeze43 on March 4, 2014.

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