Masterchef Junior season three has come to an end with Nathan taking the prize over Andrew. It was a well matched finale as both exhibited tremendous skills that excited the judges. It was likely Andrew not trusting his pressure cooker that made the difference. He opened it up too soon resulting in his meat being slightly underdone. As Gordon said aptly watching it happen, he did not trust the pressure cooker. So with this season now at an end, how did this season stack up with seasons one and two?
Well we had the same batch of adorable kids in the kitchen. None of them were nasty, mean, or rude refreshing since on the normal Masterchef you get some interesting personalities. The challenges were more or less like the full show with some kid twists thrown in. The problem this season is that it came too soon on the heels of the last one. We had just gotten over season two when the new season started up. Jarring and it made this season a little hard to get into. And it was on Tuesday night meaning it went up against NCIS, the dominant show in the 8pm time slot. So while the show got decent numbers it did not hurt the king in any way.
The show though is becoming predictable. You see the same fresh batch of wide-eyed kids wanting to cook for the judges. And some of the same types of challenges as well. We know that when they have the kids line up to do a challenge that will result in the judges being pied, dunked, or having liquid dumped on them that all the judges will get splattered. Relying on gimmicks like having a banana lowered by an extraterrestrial hurts as well. Masterchef Junior needs to think about what they are trying to do: are they having kids compete with kids or having kids cooking as adults to impress the judges. My concern is that wobbly line between them being kids and being treated as adults has been crossed once too often. We have to remember they are kids many of whom have not yet finished eighth grade!
Some suggestions for the shows producers:
1. Do Not Show Seasons So Close To Each Other
There is a reason a series will have a break, to allow the new season some distance. This is especially important for reality shows because if you show seasons back-to-back people may be less inclined to watch so quickly. Also you run the risk of running the clock out-literally. People like reality shows but if you compact the seasons they may get tired, bored, or exasperated. Not a good thing. Having season three start so soon after season two was a mistake. I am sure the programmers had a strategy but the middle part of the season saw a drop off of viewers. It came back at the end but the viewers seem to be between 4.8-5.5 million.
2. Move To Another Night
Tuesday night is not a good fit for Masterchef (either version) unless summer and reruns are all that is on. CBS dominates the 8pm hour with NCIS. ABC usually comes in second. In third place is Fox with Masterchef. Not bad but you are not going to be taking away significant viewers from CBS. Fox only dominates that hour when the other networks are running re-runs. NBC has not been doing well in that hour (usually fourth)but do not expect that to last. They are seething that a bunch of precocious kids are beating them.
3. Stop The Slapstick
Okay we get it, you want to make fun of yourselves. Do it once in a while but not every season. It gets old and predictable. How many times will we see the judges get dunked, pied, or have syrup dumped on them? You know this is heading to a very funny skit on Saturday Night Live.
4. Make the Challenges More Kid Friendly
I think the problem in a nutshell is that they see the kids are young adults in chef’s aprons. Wrong. They are still kids so do not blur that line as Gordon seems to do. Treat them as kids always and craft challenges more kid friendly. It may please the judges to see the kids prepare sushi boats but really how many times are kids doing that at home? Focus on learning essentials, testing them on it, and seeing who really understands what cooking can be.
This season ends with the departure of Joe Bastianich. He is moving on to other things and another show (a restaurant show if I heard correctly). He may be tough and at times scolding (when you serve up a dogs dinner he is not happy about that!)but shows a lot of soul at the same time. I remember what he said to Christine Ha when she perfectly recreated Graham Elliot’s masterful dish. He said that like him, she visualizes what she eats (in his case drinks when it is wine). It was a wonderful moment and astonishing what she pulled off considering her limitation. Farewell Joe, you will be missed. Hopefully your mother will still stop by the kitchen as a guest judge.
TV By The Numbers
The numbers for Tuesday are quite telling. Only in the world of television can a show with less total viewers win a slot if it gets the highest share of the target audience. NBC’s The Voice had 14 million viewers (less than NCIS at 17 million)but had a 11 point share of the 18-49 target audience. So they get first place. CBS came in second since NCIS got 8 points in the target audience. Coming in third is ABC’s Fresh Off The Boat with a 6 point share and 5.75 million viewers. Masterchef Junior dropped to fourth place with a 5 point share and 4.83 million viewers. It lost viewers (last week 5.5 million) but at least came ahead of CW’s TV’s Hottest Commercials with 1 point share and 1.25 million viewers. When Masterchef (regular and junior)is up against tough competition like this, it almost always comes behind the big three. It does show that by the time the finale aired, the target audience was looking elsewhere.
Till the next season of Masterchef Junior: arrivederci!