It’s no secret that new shows usually find their feet in their second season.
Both Producers and audience have a better understanding of what their show is about, what worked and what didn’t. So no surprises that My Kitchen Rules has a ring of confidence that it never quite attained last year.
Accused of being a MasterChef clone, this format (which is an offshoot of Seven’s own My Restaurant Rules) is still close to Come Dine with Me. Very close.
The basic premise of home-cooked dinners where competitors become guests and peer judges has been part of Britain’s Come Dine with Me since 2005. Seven’s format is more serious in tone, avoiding the sense of humour of the UK show and adding an elimination cook-off in the final episodes.
It also has Manu Feildel and Pete Evans, two good-looking chefs who helped this reality series become a surprise hit for Seven last year. Some media even enjoyed making Feildel a bit of a hearthrob. Ooh la la. This year both are back with a focus that is matched by production values, storytelling and casting.
Unlike 2010, two groups of six pairs are presented up front (introducing new teams was a fab twist last year) with 2 chefs from Tasmania thrown in the mix. The pairs comprise partners, friends, housemates, married couples, siblings, cousins, mother and daughter, newlyweds, school mates, butchers, urban hippies, used car dealers, high achievers -am I watching The Amazing Race?
Although it doesn’t quite match the diverse casting of MasterChef, there is nevertheless diversity here with cultural backgrounds that should deliver some interesting cuisines. Middle Australia still rools….
First pair to cook are two “jolly butchers” from Queensland, Artie & Johnny (pictured). You could hardly get more blokey than these two. They punctuate every sentence with the word “maate,” (maybe this show is destined for a digital channel?). Artie drives a 1950s “hot rod” on the Sunshine Coast. His snags even made the state finals of the Queensland Sausage King Competition. Together with his NRL fanatic pal Johnny, these boys love their meat. And they seem pretty likeable.
Each team is required to decorate their “instant restaurant” and buy the produce six hours before the guests arrive. They can’t begin cooking until 3 hours before. This year teams are seen buying some select produce at gourmet outlets before picking up the majority of their food from Coles supermarkets. Looks like that sponsor just added another cooking show to its list.
When the guests arrive at Artie and Johnny’s “Beach Shack” both are still racing to get their dishes ready, but everyone is beaming -and hungry- for the first dinner of the new season.
Without giving too much away the first three episodes are united in cooking disasters (forgot to turn oven on, overcooked, undercooked, bad mixing), critical judges (Feildel and Evans are cruel to be kind), friendly rivalry (so far, most guests are pretty reasonable given this is a competition), eccentric dishes and a dash of individuality (cultural backgrounds, personal stories, storytelling delivery). One contestant is even flirting with Feildel, putting on screen what some viewers may be wishfully thinking.
It isn’t yet clear who may emerge as the series villain -it could do with one. There is also routine re-capping, that the genre so loves.
I fully expect another series twist or mega-challenge in keeping with the show upping the ante. There are reportedly 33 episodes this season, twice that of 2010, to air 3 nights a week.
Seven’s show is no MasterChef killer, still considered by many viewers as the prototype for a cooking contest, but if last year’s series was an entree, then the main course looks like it will easily feed a hungry viewer.
My Kitchen Rules premieres Monday January 31 on Seven.