The MasterChef phenomenon

So I don’t do reality television. Really, I don’t. Over the last decade, I have observed Gretel Killeen’s slow evolution from entertaining Good News Week semi-regular to nauseating Big Brother house mistress – but only second-hand. I have marvelled at “Evil Russell”‘s big stupid face on recent ads for Survivor , but have never actually watched an episode of any of that franchise’s ridiculous incarnations. I honestly look forward to the day when Australian Idol, Australia’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance Australia and all the rest of them are consigned to the dustbin of Australian television history.

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All of the rest of them, that is, except probably MasterChef. This show happened to come along last year just when my interest in food and the craft of cooking was mid-blossom, and I was rather desperately and pathetically hooked. Yesterday the second season kicked off, and I have a feeling I am going to be tuning in for the long haul. What is it about the show that has finally dragged me into the strange, disturbing world of reality television after all this time? How has MasterChef managed to slay my dignity?

Apart from the subject matter, which holds a certain fascination for me at this juncture of my life, I think the key ingredient that makes MasterChef work is the people. The hosts have been carefully screened to maximise everyday charisma and minimise obnoxiousness. Viewers are slowly introduced to the contestants, and quickly notice that some of them are rather similar to themselves. The contestants create things. These people are bringing little parts of their life out into the outside world. The things that MasterChef contestants create can be reproduced in day-to-day life, jammed on, manipulated to suit your own circumstances or mood. A “process” that is normally a somewhat humdrum part of day-to-day life is turned into a showcase, an art form.

Am I alone? Has anybody else been turned into a television dag by this show?