Saturday, 30 January 2016

My Kitchen Rules 2016

One thing I don't enjoy about summer television - apart from missing out on the series I manage to get addicted to through the year that aren't on - is the overload of advertising for upcoming shows for the new year. And, we've reached the cliffhanger point now - based on a surfeit of ads - My Kitchen Rules 2016 starts tomorrow night. TOMORROW NIGHT, PEOPLE!!!!!

We won't be watching it this year. 

We did end up watching last year and got hooked, despite the increasingly irritating bad behaviour of many of the contestants. The two women from Mount Isa, who won the hearts of most viewers, created a significant balance. Likewise, the two guys who won the series were just nice guys.
MKR 2015 semi final. Photo, The Sydney Morning Herald
However, based on two ads in particular for the upcoming series, it appears that the producers have gone all out to find the most feral individuals possible, and they're past what either Dragon Dad or I want to watch. Click on the links and have a look - they won't take long:

The young woman in the first ad, one of a pair of young lawyers is unnecessarily arrogant, and dangerously so - most of what she's seen to say in the ad is said before she and her cooking partner have hosted their initial dinner party. I'd have thought that was just plain foolish, to be honest, and she's just so rude! The second ad is intended to introduce the pair of guys - the miners - but the focus ends up being on another young woman from a different team who is beyond rude. There's another ad that shows her taking a shot at judge Manu Feidel's weight - I couldn't find that online. Also, the list of things she either doesn't like or refuses to eat - because she eats super healthy (no carbs, no oils, not much of anything really...) - is enormous. What the hell is she doing on a cooking show? 

Oh yes, silly me. While, apparently, MKR IS a cooking show, and it's all about the food, the reality (it being reality TV) is that it's become, with each season, more and more about the behaviour of the contestants - and from this year's ads, it would appear that they've been chosen specifically because they're rude and arrogant and can be guaranteed to make a spectical of themselves on TV.

Dragon Dad keeps asking - out loud - when we see the ads why anyone would do that to themselves. Ultimately, the damage isn't being done to the show or the victims of their bad behaviour - it's what whowever many million viewers end up thinking of them by the end that's the issue. While it might not matter in the scheme of things what most people think of us individually, there will be times that the negative impact would have to be important - say at work, or a job interview even... I do remember the girl who was chosen by Australia's first Bachelor, Anna Heinrich - a lawyer - saying in an interview that I read some time after the end of the series, that people no longer took her seriously as a lawyer...funny that...

The thing is, the bad behaviour isn't even necessary - it really isn't. I also watched Masterchef last year - the whole series, for the first time in years. I got a bit over cooking shows, actually, competition shows in general and took a break from all of them. The contrast between Masterchef and MKR last year couldn't have been more marked. In MKR there was the Melbourne socialite pair, Ash and Camilla, and a couple from Perth, Kat and Andre. Kat, in particular, produced some notable tantrums that had Dragon Dad firmly of the opinion that she was a complete psycho, and rattling on with various lines about the horrors of living with her if that's what she was really like. Ash and Camilla certainly had their moments too, and were unapologetic at what they viewed as their apparent rightful place in society compared to some of the others. 

Changing over to Masterchef, and allowing for the stresses of some of the heats there, and inevitable tears - which drive Dragon Dad absolutely bonkers, but then, he's never been in a professional kitchen (I spent years in them) and the pressure cooker environment can bring trained chefs to tears on a really bad day, so meh, a few tears... What there ISN'T on Masterchef, is the bitching, the tantrums, contestants flinging themselves on the floor when something doesn't work, or the attacks on other contestants. How much of that is governed by the fact that the contestants themselves have a vote on MKR while Masterchef is all based on the judge's (professionals) opinions, I have no idea, but the 'strategic' - read sabotage - vote was definitely in evidence on last year's MKR. And on Masterchef, it was ALL about the food - because, hello, it's a COOKING show. Sure, we got to know the contestants, but the guts of each episode is FOOD.

So, here's the thing - we're not watching MKR this year because, apart from the irritation factor, by watching we become complicit in this bad behaviour being OK. More than that, it's creating a twisted form of celebrity. HOW is that OK? Kids watch these shows - I'd say that kids are, these days, an enormous percentage of the audience for all of these shows - and the results of the singing competitions usually bears that thought out... So, our children are watching these exhibitions of quite appalling behaviour, that because it's out there on TV, is somehow OK? Really? 

The Block is another example - and I've only ever watched two complete series of that, the first one and the year before last, I think. That show has been characterised by awful behaviour from the get go. In one episode last year that I did see a bit of, the woman from the Adelaide couple staged a massive tantrum and walked off the program.

Obviously, what we see is engineered by the editors of the programs. The cameras are running full time through any given period and what we see is a much edited finished product. However, all the contestants know that, and while it's inevitable to see magazine and newspaper articles after episodes blaming the editing for the bad impressions created, the bad behaviour HAPPENED. It's on film. We might not be seeing the entire context, but we're certainly seeing the tantrums, the name calling, etc - so it happened. 

WHY would anyone in their right mind put themselves in that situation? Clearly the producers of these shows aren't giving it a thought within any sort of moral context, for them it's ALL about the ratings - a nice big fat meltdown means RATINGS...and in the weeks where there's a really big one, we know it's going to happen because that's the entire focus of the ads. 

The Stepson was addicted to all these shows - they may still be his chosen viewing. He thought the tantrums were hilarious. I've known him since he was 13, and he was a quite young 13, and he thought that stuff was funny. He still thinks they are, although that's tempered by comments about 'psycho woman' (Kat) as well. But, he tosses it off - although we have had a few conversations about it and when pressed, he's quite clear that he thinks it's all pretty stupid.  

While I know that by not watching MKR this year, and only depriving Channel Seven of two potential viewers for their rating stats, is highly unlikely to make any impression at all on the people who create the show, I would urge people to stop and think about what we're fostering by continuing to watch most of these shows. If I watch any reality TV this year, it'll be Masterchef, because that show is creating amazing opportunities for people who really care about food and going onto careers in the industry - last year's winner, Billie McKay, is at The Fat Duck - Heston Blumenthal's restaurant in the UK as a result. That, I admire, although it's never a pathway I'd choose to take. The people who land on MKR, a lot of them, well, I really don't know. If they're aiming at creating notoriety for themselves, many of them certainly are, but thankfully, in most cases we never see them again - Kat does apear to have vanished off the face of the TV planet, and long may she stay vanished. I sincerely hope that the nasty individuals in the ads for this year's show go off early in the piece so that the ad time on Channel Seven isn't dominated by more displays like the ones that have already been screened.

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