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Posts from — September 2009

Celebrity Masterchef Episode 1: A Winning Recipe and Windfall for Channel 10!

A Big Thanks To CG For Blogging On The First Episode Of MasterChef:

WELCOME BACK: It seems the nation was just starting to recover from the marathon of nightly Masterchef episodes we watched throughout the winter and now we are all back together again! The sensationalistic No Idea, Woman’s Day and Sunday Tele stories of dramas, relationship gossip, makeovers and other titbits about the contestants kept us entertained during the hiatus for awhile but it started to get pretty tawdry.  Now we have the much-anticipated “Celebrity Masterchef) (lets call it “CMC”) to take use through until the silly season. Thankfully CMC will only be weekly which is much more manageable in terms of work, kids and the occasional physical exercise.

THE MC FRANCHISE: Tonight is the first episode of CMC. CMC is the first spin-off of the uber-successful Masterchef Australia franchise (lets call the original just “MC”) with others apparently in the works, including a show for kids. As 7:30pm draws near I wonder how much of the MC format CMC will use: will they use the same Katy Perry theme song “Hot “˜N Cold” or introduce a new one? We know Sarah Wilson was considered redundant and won’t be there but we assume the three main judges will be back (Matt, Gary and George) but will other guest judges be utilised? Will some of the contestants from the first season of MC make an appearance (surely Julie will show up, but if Poh has signed on for her own show with ABC, can she appear on Ch10 and will sponsors tolerate an appearance by bad boy Chris?). Will the focus be on the B/C/D-list celebrities promoting their next gig or will the “star” be the food? Will there be interesting challenges that take them out of the studio-kitchen or will they keep it simple and just have cook-offs each week?

Questions, questions, questions!!

OK here we go!! But please keep in mind I’m a blogging virgin so lower your expectations and be patient with me!

QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Right off the mark a number of our burning questions are answered: the theme song is the same as MC1 and our three MC judges are there. All of them look at little trimmer than when MC ended a few months ago. Matt is wearing one of his famous cravats but why is wearing heels? He must be trying to take the piss out of vertically-challenged G&G.

The format of CMC is explained and it seems pretty simple, I just hope it doesn’t get boring without the extracurricular challenges. But given the show is weekly, it should be ok. Briefly, each weekly show will feature three “celebrities” and two rounds. In the first round, they will cook their “signature” dish of their choice and using any ingredients they wish. The winner of the first round will then get to choose between two dishes for round two, which is a dreaded “pressure test”. The pressure test will be largely the same format we saw in MC1. The ultimate prize is to be crowned the “first” CMC but more importantly, a cash prize of $50,000 towards the celeb’s chosen charity.

THE CONTESTANTS: Now to the contestants. They do a bit of a rundown of all the “celebrities” who will be competing in this series describing the mix as “elite athletes, rock stars, comedians, authors and a state premier”. There seem to be a lot of defections from other networks. I guess the popularity of MC is so big they can’t pass up the opportunity for exposure.

Now in the interest of full disclosure I have to admit that I have only lived in Australia for a few years (I was born in Canada and lived in a number of countries around the world before marrying an Aussie bloke and landing in Sydney). So I’ll use this as my excuse for recognising only a handful of the “celebrities”. A quick check with Mr. CG confirms that he too only recognises a few of the names. This might be a good thing. There is a broad demographic of genders, ages and provenance and as all are B/C/D-listers, the focus will hopefully be on the food and not ego, image and promoting their next projects. Lets see.

TONIGHT’S COOKS: The three “celebrities” competing in tonight’s cook-off are introduced: Kirk Pengilly, Indira Naidoo and Josh Thomas. Of the three, I admit I only recognise one by name: Indira. Of course I’ve heard of INXS but I didn’t know any band members by name other than Michael Hutchence. Josh Taylor? Sorry, never heard of him. A quick Google reveals that he has his own website wherein he describes himself as “comedian, write and very generous lover”. He reminds me of Sam on MC1 who was also an accomplished “lover” as evidenced by the big love bit he showed up with one day…but I digress.

In the intro they also announce Matt Moran will be appearing as a guest. Hmm, I guess Matt has well and truly severed relations with the sinking ship that is Channel 9. Rumour was he was going to head up a foodie show for them.

As they take their places in the kitchen, Kirk describes his cooking style as “mongrel with an Asian feel”. Hmmm. Josh looks like he is about 13 years old and needs a good feed. His accent is strange to me but another quick Google check confirms he was born in Queensland. What do I know!?

Josh gets off a good line when he says he is nervous and excited to be here and “wants to see Matt Preston eat live”. He must be nervous because he is talking really, really fast and is a little hard to understand.

Last up is Indira Naidoo who is introduced as a journalist, TV presenter and food blog writer (the “Saucy Onion”). She has posted something on her blog about her appearance on CMC but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet as I’m working furiously to get this recap up. See: http://saucyonion.blogspot.com/2009_09_01_archive.html

So does Indira still work as a journalist and presenter? If so, which channel. The last time I saw her was on ABC’s Q&A a few weeks ago where she didn’t mention being a journalist or TV presenter but did speak a lot about climate change and her relationship with and admiration for former-US VP Al Gore. Again, I digress.

Lets get cooking! Thankfully the whole promotion, introduction, explanation bit only takes about ten minutes and they are right into the food which is a good sign! George doesn’t say much in the first few segments but does pipe up to say he is not dropping his standards for celebrities. Ha!

ROUND ONE: Round one is “Signature Dishes”. The contestants have 90 minutes to prepare their signature dish. Kirk is preparing blackened tuna on wasabi-lime celeriac mash with lotus root chips and broad beans. Indira is cooking up Italian meatballs served with polenta batons and pesto oil. Josh will attempt lamb tagine and a saffron-crème brulle-type dessert.

As they get into it, Kirk frets about overcooking his tuna, Josh is manic and makes a huge mess at his work station while Indira seems relatively under control. Like in MC1, the judges walk around while the “celebrities” are cooking and offer selective advice while talking in whispers behind their backs about how they think each contestant is gonna screw up. I thought there was going to be a big disaster and lamb on the camera lens when Josh opened up his pressure cooker but all was good!

After the last minute flurry we’ve come to expect, the dishes are ready for tasting. Kirk’s tuna looked great and Gary agreed. Both G&G loved the lotus-root chips and they did look yummy. But Matt thought the dish overall was a little “clumsy” and while each individual item was good, they didn’t “speak to each other”. Indira is up next and gets mixed reviews, Gary loves the meatballs but George thought they were a little “spongy”. Josh gets off another good line as he brings his dish to the front he says: “the last thing you need in life is honest feedback”. Funny. Gary and Matt love Josh’s lamb tagine but his dessert lets him down, it is more like “saffron soup” than crème catalene.

And the winner of round one is: Kirk! Josh looked really disappointed. And now Kirk has the advantage of choosing between two dishes for pressure test. Matt says consider playing to your own strengths, or playing to weakness of the other two cooks. 

ROUND TWO: Round two is the “Pressure Test”. To kick off the pressure test, in strolls Matt Moran and presents two of his dishes for Kirk to choose from: a vanilla and fig “Bombe Alaska” or a savoury “Rabbit Galantine”. Both look delicious but really, really fiddly.

Kirk picks the dessert dish. This is a bit of a surprise as Kirk says he has no experience with desserts. Kirk reasons he wants a challenge and I think this is going to be really challenging for all them.

Josh is set up to deliver his third great line of the night. Matt says at one stage that it has taken him 20 years to perfect the “Bombe Alaska”. Josh says “I’ve been alive just over 20 years, so I should be fine”. Obviously set up and rehearsed, but still kinda funny.

Each “celebrity” comes forward to taste Matt Moran’s Bombe. All look pretty intimidated and then one of the G’s says they will be given a “lifeline”: each cook can have 90 seconds consultation with Matt (Moran), they can use the lifeline at any time during the challenge but only once.

They are given 1 hour and 40 minutes to make “˜da Bombe. The editing makes it looks like Kirk’s dish is turning in to a disaster (those same sneaky editors must be back!). Kirk is the first to call in Matt Moran. The two are apparently very good friends in “real” life and Matt seems to calm him down (a bit). The next to call for the lifeline is Indira but she seems to be having less serious problems than Kirk. Josh is the last to call on Matt to discuss how to get his meringue “peakier”.

As they plate up, Indira and Josh are struggling with runny meringues. None of the dishes really look like the sample presented by Matt Moran. How will they taste?

The format for tasting the pressure test dishes is the same as MC1. Each “celebrity” takes their dish into the dark and ominous “dining room” and stands there as the three judges (G&G&M) taste their dish. Matt Moran – the creator of the dish – is NOT on the judging panel. Hmm, I guess the producers didn’t get our feedback from MC1.

Indira is first up in front of the judges in this round: George loves her fig ice cream and presentation of her orange segment?! Shades of Poh? I’m waiting for Matt to pick up the segment and stroke it.  Nup. Josh is next. The judges are impressed with Josh’s food and cooking knowledge (for his age) but say “this is not a Bombe Alaska”. Kirk is last one to rock up in the dining room. Kirk says he is proud of his dish because he “never” does desserts. Gary proclaims that this is the “first real Bombe Alaska of the night”. Looks like Kirk is gonna win.

Everyone reassembles. It must have been sometime later as everyone looks like they have had their makeup and hair done. Indira is knocked out first. She says a few departing words about how wonderful the experience was, etc., reminds us again that she is a journalist and doesn’t even mention Al Gore! It’s now down to Kirk and Josh and they string it out for a few minutes suggesting Kirk’s dish was the winner but Josh had potential (hmm, where have we heard that before?). I thought for a moment based on Matt’s comments that Josh was gonna be the new Sam but Kirk takes the prize. Kirk will be back as one of six finalists in the semi-finals.

NEXT WEEK: The show is already running about 8 minutes late (I hate that!) but they take the time to preview the contestants for next week: a Hi-5 girl, Michelle Bridges (trainer from Biggest Loser?) and Peter Fitzsimons. I’ll be looking forward to watching former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons, especially if he has to cook up a dainty little dish in the pressure test.

THE COMMERCIALS: Before I sign off, a word about the commercials. I watched this episode from our holiday place in Queensland and I’m not sure if the commercials are the same in all states. But what I got was lots of McDonalds’ commercials which include some special MC-related promotion. Really disappointing that MC would sell-out to Maccas… money talks! We also had Handee Wipes as the very first commercial and they did a cross-over to Josh’s messy bench from the first round. A bit cheesy and contrived. Myer had a commercial advertising their upcoming share re-listing which is something I’ve never seen before, let alone in primetime! And did y’all catch the mega close-up of the Sunnyland Farm “smiley” eggs when Josh was breaking eggs for his custard. Ha!

THE VERDICT: MC must really be raking in the dosh for Ch10, especially given the new major sponsors (Maccas and Harvey Norman amongst others). I bet G&G&M got big fat raises and poor Sarah missed out on the windfall although tonight’s show proved that the hosting role really was redundant. With the focus on the food and once-a-week format I think CMC will be a winner. The mix of “celebrities” will appeal to a broad demographic and entertain us through the semi-finals, especially with the appearance of some celebrity chefs and (inevitably) some of the contestants from MC1 in all their made-over glory and pushing their cookbooks (just in time for Xmas).  Maybe in the semi-finals they can mix it up a little bit in terms of challenges and get them out of the studio. But all up, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Apologies for the length of my recap, I wanted to make sure it was thorough for anyone who might have missed the show.

A big thanks to RR for the chance to be guest blogger on the first epi of CMC. It was fun!

September 30, 2009   21 Comments

What Is Wrong With Australian Idol – As Seen On The Punch

from www.zimbio.com

from www.zimbio.com

Here is my latest article I wrote for The Punch.:

With the latest episode of Australian Idol still not hitting the 1 million viewer mark in the new 7.30pm time slot, it is time for Channel Ten to hit the panic button.

 Kyle Sandilands may have presided over the death of Big Brother by being the host in its last year, but has he also contributed to Australian Idol’s demise by not being on the show? Without a doubt this year Idol has had to overcome the challenge of standing down a judge the week the show premiered, the loss of co-host James Mathison, as well as other changes to try and keep a tiring concept fresh.

 Here is what I see the problems are:

 1. The Two Hour Blockbuster Show

With the elimination and the performance show all rolled into one blockbuster episode, this has meant it is twenty minutes into the program before the contestants get to sing. First the viewer has to sit through a group number by the Idols, and also the elimination of a contestant. Those with an itchy remote finger are channel searching and chances are watching bison mating on the ABC nature documentary. If you were a first time viewer this season of Australian Idol and saw the group song on Sunday night, a cover of Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, you would have thought you had stumbled upon an old episode of Young Talent Time when it was in its death throes. 

Also if your favourite singer has been eliminated the chances are you will not be in the mood watch the rest of the show. Yes the Monday night show was a lot of filler, but a jam-packed thirty minute show would be entertaining. This would also give the punted contestant the opportunity to have their last few minutes in the spotlight by allowing them to sing again. 

2. The New Judge

Record company executive Jay Dee Springbett was thrown into the deep end as a quick replacement after Kyle Sandilands was stood down. His role is to provide the record industry perspective to the contestant and the viewer at home. He seems nice, which may have been why he was selected in the wake of all that MasterChef Australia love. However he is just not a strong presence on TV nor that entertaining. Kyle provide some much needed snark to the panel, not that I am advocating his return. Dicko and Jay have been told to rile each other up, but it is not working as there is no chemistry. Guest judges are now on each week to try and put some pizazz into the panel. Suzi Quatro, and Brian McFadden definitely earned their money, and were great, however the downside is the viewer has to sit through four peoples opinions.

Australian Idol should have just kept Dicko and Marcia as the permanent judges, and rotated a third person through. This occurs in the popular US version of So You Think You Can Dance. 

3. The Contestants

What looked like a really strong top twenty four resulted in an underwhelming top 12. I partly blame the judges. They were able to wildcard two singers in and they picked two bland male pop performers, Casey Barnes, and Tim Johnston. Toby Moulton an “older” pop singer was already in the top 12 so it is all too much of the same. Rocker Adam Eckersley would have added some much needed diversity to the show. At this stage out of the boys Stan Walker is a standout, his rendition of Prince’s Purple Rain was a highlight in the mediocrity which was Sunday night’s eighties theme show.

The girls don’t fare much better. Tiny Sabrina Batshon had a interesting story of overcoming mental health problems to be on the show to re-start her singing career, but her camera hogging behaviour and chatting back to the judges did not endear her to the voters. She has now been eliminated. The only one that I see with star quality is young rock chick Hayley Warner. Yes Kate Cook is lovely, but will you buy her records?

 But is it all the contestants fault they are struggling this year? Which brings me to my next point.

 4. The Loss Of The Shows Musical Director John Foreman

This is the first year without the show’s uber talented Musical Director, John Foreman. His role was to guide the singer’s song arrangement ideas into a workable performance. The new musical director is probably working out what does and does not work when trying to cut three minute songs into to a minute and a half. Thankfully he did provide a huge backing vocal section on the last episode to drown out the more woeful singers.

Australian Idol has struggled in some previous seasons, but this is most serious slide yet. Fremantle Media and Channel Ten need to examine what is or isn’t working and implement changes to ensure Australian Idol has a few more years left. When it all gels, with talented singers, charismatic judges and great performances, it is one of the most entertaining reality shows on TV.

September 30, 2009   3 Comments

Australian Idol – Sabrina Batshon Said New Judges Are Needed

Sabrina_Batshon

The latest Australian Idol contestant to be eliminated, Sabrina Batshon, has said in interviews that she thinks the show needs new judges.

The Extra Source blogger Nathan Young asked Sabrina on the Daily Telegraph blog what she thought of the standard of this year’s series. He also asked her if she thought the ratings slump was because of the low standard of contestants or that woeful new judge Jay Dee.

Her response:
Thank you for the support but I dont wish to make the same mistake viewers did in judging people. The Idols are my best friends and I don’t have any ill feeling towards them. They are all extremely talented and I think Idol has created a bad name for itself. It’s the people that vote and the way the cookie crumbles. I think they need new judges. People are getting really bored and the judges are under alotof pressure to give a good show and when you are just saying things to entertain people, people get bored. Dicko’s gotten away with murder, and Marcia’s very kind. JDee needs alot of time to warm up. But with JDee you need 2 stronger judges, and Marcia and Dicko are not as strong. I think Dicko has said a lot of things, he makes derogatory comments and i don’t know if the fans agree with that, his jokes are not funny. We;ve watched that year after year and it gets boring. I didn’t watch Idol beforehand, and I joined as I had no expectation. Kyle is fascinating to watch, he is funny and real and witty and not there to play games and they need that, its crucial for the show, and in my opinion i don’t know if they’ll bother airing it next year. Right now, they are just drowning. I’m glad it did it though.

Also here in an interview  with Who Magazine where she again comments on the judges.

Were there any judges’ critiques you didn’t agree with?
What I didn’t agree with, I did speak up about. But then I just thought look, there isn’t much more to say once you’ve made your point, there is no point going on and on about it. It’s a TV show and Dicko’s under a lot of pressure with Kyle having left the show and he feels he needs to be funny and that’s fine.

So you disagreed with Dicko most?
Um, yeah, I’d say so. Marcia doesn’t say much. Jay Dee was really nervous. I feel really sorry for him because he’s so nervous.

Some of what she says is probably true, however I am never a fan of biting the hand that feeds you.

September 29, 2009   11 Comments

The Apprentice – Episode 1 – The Gardening Challenge

Now before I start the recap I just have to say this was the one reality TV show I considered applying for. So of course like every other deluded individual on the show, I think I would have won…… well until that first challenge. Also for the record I would come across as a bigger scrag than Carmen. I kid you not.

The opening scene was Mark Bouris and his two assistants,Diane Stone, his personal assistant and Brad Seymour who is his business partner. He announced the prize is a job as National Head of Business Development Unit with a $200,000 salary. The person who can actually write their job description should win the show.

Also having met Mark in a professional capacity I can confirm he is as hot in real life as he comes across on TV. I think once he gets over the nerves of the first few episodes he will stand in the shoes of Donald Trump quite well.

Tonight the “star” of the show was Carmen who should have described herself as a failed entrepeneur considering she lost the family home last  year, but she is not the only unemployed people on the show. Actually Carmen is perfect reality TV fodder – egocentric, lacking in personal charm, and an overestimation of her own ability. She came out with some great lines like “Yes I am a team player, but you just need to be on Team Carmen.”.

Miss World 2006, Sabrina Houssami,  had a first win with getting the girls team to pick her suggestion of her team name – Eventus. The boy’s team name was Pinnacle.

This week’s challenge was to run a premier gardening business, and the team that makes the most money wins and is safe. The challenge runs over two days, and they must compete for commercial contracts, but can get some residential business as well.

Carmen was project manager for the girls team, and Morello for the boys.

Mary-Anne  the 30 year old manager of a reception centre offered to pitch for commercial work but was knocked back by Carmen.

The first pitch was at the Sydney Foreshore Authority who wanted garden work done at the front for the Museum of Contemporary Art- Morello took the lead for the male team. I actually thought he was quite impressive.

The girl’s way underquoted so got the job.  At this time Sabrina, Mary Ann, and Heather had got a $200 residential job and completed it within an hour. Sabrina used her Miss World 2006 name dropping to get the door opened but also put in a good (overinflated) quote.

The other job was Strickland house, where Carmen under quoted and asked for $600, and the boys quoted over double that.  The boys got the job as it was thought the girls did not realise the scope of the job. I also got the feeling this was all a bit rigged.

However because of the physicality of the challenge, the guys definitely had the advantage. Both teams had “heard” of other commercial jobs to be quoted and went off to claim them.

The highlights of the challenge:

  • Sabrina introduce herself to people all the time as Miss World 2006. Why not just introduce herself as Sabrina? And really it was three years ago.
  • Morello getting Blake the job of phoning the residential jobs they had booked in to tell them they could not do them. Because as a Centrelink Customer Service Manager he is probably an expert in dishing out bad news.
  • Carmen being a typical tradesperson by trying to renegotiate the what they were meant to do in the contract without dropping the price.
  •  Diane Stone’s Jocelyn Wildenstien eyes. Did she blink? Can she blink?
  • Not a highlight but the supposed catfight between Carmen and Jane was very much exaggerated see previous post on that here – naughty TV Week.
  • Carmen putting the boot into Jane, basically saying she is old, “her energy levels were low”;
  • The team putting the boot into Carmen, who crumpled into tears,  so not as tough as keeps on saying.
  • The boys easily won the challenge earning more than $600 then the girls. They won spa treatment at The Observatory Hotel. Very nice.

The elimination :

Carmen had to pick two people to bring back into the room with her and she picked Jane and Sabrina, she really had no choice as she did not see what the other team had done or interacted.

Seriously how did  Carmen survive, she underquoted, which in the real world would have meant some very poorly paid and disgruntled workers. Maybe Mark Bouris saw that as a positive thing. However Jane did not help herself with her lame reason she gave to stay. She basically said she can work with arseholes. Which to be fair is a skill, but not something you really mention as a positive. Therefore Jane ended up getting told “your fired” because she did not speak up when felt something was not right.

I also think the producers feel they will get better TV out of Carmen, and I am sure they will.

Next week at the suggestion of regular reader CG (who by the way will be guest posting Wednesday night on Celebrity MasterChef – no Injera has not died she is on holidays in China), there will be an open post whilst the show is on for people to make comments.

September 29, 2009   22 Comments

Chris Badenoch Won’t Be Teaching Ethics In Schools Anytime Soon

Chris Badenoch got a classic A Current Affair roasting tonight, with a three pronged attack, that he was a love cheat, a MasterChef cheat, and payment of debts cheat. Outline of story here.

But how much of it was new? Two weeks ago I raised the issue of how he got the bone marrow at Coles in this blog post here, and also queried whether he had internet access to obtain recipes or indeed was getting recipe ideas from anyone on the outside.  It would appear he was contacting quite a few people on the outside. Because A Current Affair only identified three women Julia, but is there a fourth? Check out this old blog post here

Also it was interesting A Current Affair did not mention his two bankruptcies (which must have been legalled out), but they did get a pissed off former landlord, saying he owed him somewhere between $11,000 and $15,000. Well Sydney rents are expensive. I suspect there are more peeved of people who are oweed money.

Anyway the story did make me laugh with him denying he made the text messages. So will he put his defamation lawyers onto Channel 9 tomorrow?

September 28, 2009   43 Comments