2020 was, by any measure, a bit of a weird year and one of the things we all needed to get through was a bit of escapism, something completely stable to hold onto while the news cycle span increasingly out of control. In previous years I would have turned to wrestling for this and indeed my adult wrestling fandom stems from a time when everything seemed to be shit. However 2020 also killed that off with the Speaking Out movement revealing that modern wrestling was every bit as trash as old-school wrestling had been (more-so once you factor in the expectation that things were better now).
Like everyone else we got stuck into Tiger King, and Schitt’s Creek but the former was only six episodes and I was also quite sick with a Covid-19 infection so couldn’t do the marathon watch required of the latter. What I really needed to fill this hole was something regular, ideally daily, but only an hour or two long. And that dear reader is when Masterchef Australia stepped up and filled the void.
At this point you may be thinking “Masterchef? We already have that in the UK/US and it’s not particularly wrestling” so let me fill you in:
40 people start the show and the first two episodes whittle them down to 25 who then compete five times a week to avoid being eliminated on the Sunday show. Which means that the entire season lasts 25 weeks over 125 episodes, and boy is it a roller-coaster as the contestants potentially have to take months out of their lives to go on the show (though the prize money of $250,000 surely makes this worthwhile for the winner).
Throughout the weeks we are hit with a cavalcade of wrestling tropes including:
•Genuine white-meat Babyface promos often stressing that the contestants
have left families behind – for instance this year’s first episode opens with a white hot promo which isn’t even the best in the episode
•Stipulations like the Immunity Pin challenge – essentially a version of Money in the Bank? (Those with a pin can play it to avoid an Elimination cook); a tag team cook on a train; there was even what was essentially a tornado trios tag cook last year.
•Authority figures in the form of the most important chefs setting increasingly more impossible elimination tasks – my favourite last year was a dessert chef who’s dish was a perfect chocolate cube with layers of different cakes inside – contestants were not given any instructions, they just had to try it and work it out for themselves
•Celebrity tie-ins – No good PPV would be complete without a celeb appearance and this is no different – last year Nigella, Ramsey, loads of other chefs, and even Katy Perry appeared – the latter was completely crackers
•Emotional engagement – I think we cried four times last year as our favourites got eliminated or got given ingredients that reminded them of family members. There was one particular chef who was completely stoic until he was given a picture of himself as a child and totally broke down telling a story of his hard-working immigrant parents
•Swerves – mostly in the form of those you thought were Top Five contenders going out due to little mistakes that spiralled out of control though there was also a Swerve Week where every cook had a surprise; the highlight of which was during the group task cooking a three-course dinner for 50 the teams were told halfway to swap kitchens knowing nothing about what the other team had been planning.
The only things missing to make it really, really wrestling are works (though the promos/music are 100% geared towards working you and are very successful) and heels – every single person on the show is likeable to a fault, the teamwork and camaraderie are genuinely inspiring in a world where conflict is the bedrock of reality shows; one of the real tear-jerking moments last year was when a contestant called Jessica took the time out of her own elimination cook to help another competitor get back on track.
On a slight side note one of the presenters is an Italian Scot called Jock from Dallmellington, near where I’m from. He’s been Down Under so long he’s picked up bits of the accent and the way he says “perfect” is so idiosyncratic that it might as well be a catchphrase (in fact we started making a bingo card to play along with every episode and the easiest one to mark off was “Jock says something is “pooh-fectly cooked.”)
I can’t stress enough how much this show filled our hearts with joy last year when everything was falling apart and encourage you to commit to it from now till July. It’s worth every moment. Also it will genuinely make you a better cook as you feel encouraged to try doing dishes and techniques from the show.