Pass the Quick-Eze. Food TV bloat has set in, thanks to the fourth season of Masterchef New Zealand (Sundays, 7.30pm, TV One) and the return of the fourth series of the Aussie reality show, My Kitchen Rules (Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7.30pm, TV2.) If you're a fan of the latter, you may find your MySky getting a little constipated. As Dan, one of the new contestants, put it as he walked on to the set, "It's like a massive reality hit." Sure is. Three hours of MKR a week, if you're so inclined to watch, as a gazillion Aussie pairs compete for the title to be best dinner-party-putter-onner. And despite the narrator telling us, in his best Armageddon voice, that this year the contestants will be "serving up" (wait for it) "their own food", the show is made from the same recipe as last time.
As if putting on a dinner party wasn't stressful enough, the judges and contestants rate their competitors' cooking and hospitality skills. This means setting up their own "instant restaurant" - generally a tackily themed eatery in their living rooms. Childhood sweethearts Kerrie and Craig from Victoria opened the competition with Circa 75, named in honour of the year they started dating. I groaned when they pulled out the mirror balls but actually it turned out kind of cool in a kitsch way, the menu featuring wallaby presented on LPs, and not an apricot flan or fondue in sight.
The worst thing about MKR is you don't get to do what everyone else is doing and taste the food. Isn't it odd, and a bit icky, that much of the show involves watching people masticating? Mostly we get to see the judges doing just that. Nicky Watson's man Pete Evans is back, looking like he's lost the weight he may have put on tasting all those fancy meals last year. So is Frenchman Manu Feildel, only this time he's not the only one with the European accent. Italian contestant Stefano has a little trouble translating everything on the menu. He couldn't wait to try the goat, which is a shame, as it was goat's cheese.
Naturally, being a cooking show in which the hosts are just as harshly judged as the food, it brings out the worst in me, too. Feeling ripped off that I didn't get to try Mick and Matt's abalone patties or Josh and Andi's chocolate jaffa cake, I resort to nit-picking. Kerrie and Craig served up "caramalized beetroot" [sic] and tarte tartin with "capsicun", followed by a dessert with, according to Kerrie, "really crumbilly" pastry. This season's villains are best friends Jessie and Biswa, who don't much like vegetables, chocolate or anything that could be considered edible.
"All's fair in war, love and game or whatever," said one of the self-proclaimed Spice Girls. Jake, the camp know-it-all who told the cameras he and sister Elle are "quite cultured", later undid all that: "We'll see who sinks or floats." Depends who eats the most, I guess.
In the second episode, salt-of-the-earth Tasmanian dad-and-son team Mick and Matt showed there's more to them than meets the eye by heading straight to the top of the leader board with their seafood menu. And in last night's episode, "dating hipsters" (their official description), saw supposedly practical Josh - who we were told repeatedly works at Perth's "biggest law firm" and yet still managed to lose half the ingredients - and dippy yet "intuitive" Andi do well on all the hard bits but stuff up the couscous.
The producers have cleverly saved the most anticipated dinner party until next week, when viewers will see if Jessie and Biswa really can cook. Or float.