Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Honking Box Preview: Masterchef

It’s almost alien to think of the origins of Masterchef, that sleepy Sunday afternoon studio format where Loyd Grossman and a couple of anonymous critics droned over a few colourless plates of slow-paced 90s fare. But its evolution into a prime-time rumble has continued to thunder forwards with the current series, which has exploded into a fierce, dramatic, big-budget battle, the culmination of which hits our screens tonight.

In the overhaul, someone's also had a quiet word with Gregg Wallace and John Torode, and made the polite suggestion of a few quiet words of their own. Yes, the eardrum-bursting hyperbole has been reduced by a good 85%, making the whole thing infinitely more watchable.

And perhaps the disdain for Gregg and John has lessened partially due to most viewers directing their bile elsewhere, namely at Jackie, an animated Disney villain's corvine sidekick made flesh. Her snippy manner and pretentious menu made her the comedy baddie of the series, cemented only by the spells she cast on many a judge, causing them to sweat, hiccup, and vomit live frogs. Hey, it ain't Jackie's fault. She did warn you that her authentic Asian street fare was too sophisticated for your clunky, uncultured Western palate.

But with Jackie dispatched back to her organic hemp tent to slice off a few more digits, the final three is comprised of Tom, the everyman option resembling a knackered Matt Cardle; the endearing Italian weepathon Sara; and comedy US teen movie geek and Heston-wannabe Tim. It’s a line-up of deserving candidates, each hugely likeable, incredibly talented, and most importantly for Masterchef, equipped with their own ‘journey’ narrative.

Tonight’s final episode, however, feels as though it might be a tad flat and small-time. After Monday night saw the trio whisked off to Australia to conjure up a menu from fantastical ingredients that sounded like they should have been accompanied by a Quentin Blake illustration, and last night’s episode dropped them slap-bang in the middle of a Manhattan lunch service, heading back to dozy England to prepare three courses for Gregg and John is not what you’d describe as climactic.

Still, with the result impossible to call, the final outcome itself is enough of a mystery that geographical location or batshit-mental ingredients aren’t required to stir up excitement. Kudos to whoever was in charge of the rejigging of the format; to whoever told the hosts to come down a few decibels; and to the finalists, who genuinely haven’t had it easy. Let the deliberation, the cogitation and digestion commence.

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