Tim Dunlop laments Masterchef’s return of the eliminata

Tim Dunlop is one of the granddaddies of Australian blogging, and I’m not just saying that because it was his “Blogrolling” column in the Fairfax press that made me decide to go and investigate these “blog” things six or so years ago. He’s a serious home cook, and his current gig is writing Crikey’s excellent music blog Johnny’s in the Basement, where he has recommended music to sharpen knives to.

So the producers of the hit show have done again this year what they did last year: given a bunch of contestants who were eliminated a second chance to win the crown.

However, unlike last year, (where, as they showed in Monday night’s show) the returning contestants were welcomed back warmly, this year’s contestants were not happy to see four losers from earlier rounds reinstated. In fact, the decision went down like a cup of cold sick (or one of Joanne’s sauces).

As this is the most important thing in the world, let me offer a few thoughts.

It sucks. No way should eliminated contestants be allowed back in.

I think this is especially the case when the entire show is predicated on, not just going through the normal rounds of competition where, at various points you risk elimination, but because one of the key rewards in the show, once you win a particular challenge, is the chance to wear the immunity pin. Short of the title itself, that is, being crowned Masterchef of Australia, the immunity pin is held up as the ultimate accolade and symbol of achievement.

Under such circumstances it makes no sense to allow those who were eliminated back in. It completely devalues the reward and advantage that comes with winning an immunity pin.

In effect, the producers are giving a one-off immunity pin to people who have lost challenges.

Allowing the eliminata back, to my way of thinking, is not only a breach of faith with contestants who have got to this point in the challenge, it’s a breach of faith with the audience. Are we playing by the rules and spirit of the game or aren’t we? Apparently not.

I also think it was borderline cruel to make the contestants themselves the vehicle for the return of the three smallest losers. This just seemed a sneaky way to co-opt the contestants in their own tragedy, as if the judges/producers were implying, hey, even you thought they were good enough to be here.

Beyond all this, I think the producers are playing a dangerous game. It was clear from last night’s previews that they intend to play up the fact that those already in the house are unhappy about the failed four returning. In other words, the whole thing is being played for its controversy value in order to increase ratings.

Now, I’m not so dumb as to not realise that this is a commercial venture hellbent of maxing out the number of bums on seats watching, but there comes a point where such manipulation can become counterproductive. They are already pushing their luck with the ponderous pauses before every winner/loser/momentous development is announced, not to mention stuff like Matt’s ridiculous plate-throwing moment. It won’t take much more for them to be crossing the bridge too far.

Having said all that, I would probably be less concerned if Skye was one of those who got back in. I reckon she is better than all the eliminata and most likely better than at least Callum amongst the other remaining contestants, and probably Aaron too. In other words, part of the problem with letting people back is that those they let back really aren’t as good as the ones already there.

No matter who they have let back in, I’d guess it will end up as a showdown between Jonathan and Marion, though it depends which Jonathan shows up for the remainder of the season.

There seem to be two of him, Michelin Jonathan and McDonalds Jonathan. He either comes top or he comes bottom.

The other contender is Adam. I guess Claire is too, though she looks a bit fragile (as a cook). She is consistent, but it is consistent at a fairly middling standard. She rarely looks like she will hit one out of the park and no doubt that is what will be needed.

Anyway, bottom line is, I’m enjoying the show, but the return of eliminata is a bad move. Channel Ten need to be careful not to undermine their credibility with ill-judged gimmicks in the name of short-term ratings.