My Kitchen Rules: I can see burnt bits

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, na├»ve, ‘noying and nasty. Alas, Metro trains were running on time.

A columnist for 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.

7 thoughts on “My Kitchen Rules: I can see burnt bits”

  1. I was gobsmacked by the level of incompetance on MKR. I saw the first Conviction Kitchen. What was remarkable was how many women who were in clink for drink driving were auditioning for the kitchen but didn’t get in.

    Overall these people would be better not to be rehabilitating themselves on TV.Several obviously have issues which are best dealt with in a supportive non-tv environment. I think this may have been why Fifteen locally decided not to repeat the TV experiment for its trainees.

    It seems tough enough for normal people to deal with reality TV. What hope do the disenfranchised have.

  2. Hi Duncan-I hate both those shows for the reasons you have explained and then some.
    Phillip Adams latest column in the Weekend Aust magazine wrote that we must endeavour not to waste our precious time and I feel watching shows like that fall into the ‘wasting my time’ category. However I always enjoy watching River Cottage, Rick Stein and Luke Nguyen.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, about both shows, except that I feel no compulsion to watch MKR. The ads are enough. I caught an episode when I visited a friend who can’t help but watch it. I saw about half of the first episode of Conviction Kitchen (I’m glad they resisted the temptation to call it Konviction Kitchen, or Conviction Citchen). I’d much rather turn over to another channel – there’s usually something else on that I’d rather watch!

  4. I find the ads for both shows repulsive enough, so I don’t watch either. The focus seems to be on the personalities (or lack thereof), not to mention the tantrums, bitching, disasters due to incompetence or lack of preparation, extra bitching, a few more disasters, then some full-blown overtired-Godzilla-with-PMS tantrums. My schadenfreude gland must be malfunctioning.

  5. I can’t stand reality TV, I watched the first episode of Masterchef and it made me stabby. Everything is setup to manipulate and bring on drama. I consistently have people telling me I should compete for a place on one of these shows, I keep my responses polite but inside I am screaming in horror.

    I prefer “real” reality, Gourmet Farmer, River Cottage et al. I even enjoy The F Word, which managed to create an element of drama without exploiting the people involved, though it was borderline at times.

  6. Yes, well, I accidentally saw parts of both and thought, “huh?”. Couldn’t work out what I was missing out on…terribly negative and weirdly staged to boot.

    Thing about those shows is that they are not about cooking at all as you well point out, Duncan. Oy.

  7. I like to watch cooking shows. MKR et aren’t cooking shows at all, even with cooking in them. There is too much melodrama and opportunities for people to be downright nasty. I can enjoy Masterchef mostly as it’s about cooking, though even that show sometimes manages to cross the line. I hope it’s strongly food focused this year. Otherwise yes, as others have mentioned proper cooking shows like The Cook and the Chef, Food Safari, Nigella or even Jamie are better bets.

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