When I was a kid there were crackers called Fish Shapes (I think they were among the early Arnott's Shapes). They were foul. But if you were at a party you just had to have some, finding it hard to stop at the first handful. Despite their revoltingness, they were compulsive eating.
In a similar vein, My Kitchen Rules 2011 is compulsive viewing. I sat on the train home last night wishing I wasn't going to be home in time for another dose of this distasteful, mediocre circus of the nice, naïve, 'noying and nasty. Alas, Metro trains were running on time.
A columnist for Crikey.com asked on Monday "Why does this program remind me of Big Brother and all its negativity?" Nicely put.
Of course, it's not just the producers' deliberate choice of some distinctly unsympathetic personalities that keeps viewers simultaneously horrified and fascinated, but also the stunningly awful abilities of many of the contestants to (a) organise themselves, (b) work as a team, (c) cook.
I gather that the contestants submitted a number of menus for their dinner parties and were only told on the day which menu they would cook. Wouldn't you, in their position, have practised most of the menu items? Perhaps have worked out how to tea-smoke duck? Checked whether deep-fried chocolate-risotto-encased ice-cream balls was a tasty idea? Googled "blue fin tuna" to work out whether ecological shame should be on the menu?
I know a few very competent cooking bloggers who wouldn't have wanted to attempt many of those menus in a mere three hours, but hey, maybe that's why we didn't audition for the show!
I can't see why My Kitchen Rules is such a ratings winner for Channel Seven. Last year's run was novelty and horror. This year's is the same, but with extra tiresome bitchiness and incompetence. And hosts Manu Feildel and Pete Evans, as charming as they are, are now so scripted, re-shot and dramatically paused that their presence is just wooden.
So I'm thinking… if one of the contestants could just go beserk with the kitchen implements, the show could end happily (for viewers) and prematurely. What an elimination!
Does anyone even remember who was in it – or won – last year? Didn't think so.
Postscript: I wrote the above just after the episode finished. Alas that meant the telly was still on when Conviction Kitchen started. I didn't see the first episode, but my first impressions were of a distasteful, exploitative piece of reality TV. Other shows manage shameless prejudiced overtones (the xenophobic Border Security) or manipulative tempting and shaming (Biggest Loser), but do we need to combine prejudice, tempt-n-shame and a lottery-for-freedom for Conviction Kitchen's participants? That makes a mockery of the transformative intentions of the learn-to-cook exercise.
Isn't it morally reprehensible to pour a drink for people subject to a no-alcohol restriction and then see if they'll drink? Is it mere coincidence that a camera happens to be focused on a participant who suddenly admits to a legal problem to the chef, while another camera just happens to be trained on the chef's face? Why do the promos and pre-advertisement previews emphasise drama and failures? It wins the voyeurs' votes. At least chef Ian Curley seems to have had the best intentions with the participants and series.
NOTE: This is not the place for discussion of rehabilitation/crime/etc, so comments along those lines won't be published.