TV love affair

March 4, 2011

Last September I told you all about my great love of MasterChef Australia.  People, my love didn’t waver during the three-month series (with six episodes each week – trust me when I say that MasterChef Australia demands a decent degree of commitment from its viewer).  Tristan was OVER it by the end, but it was such a good series, filled with the usual collection of likeable judges, nice contestants, interesting challenges and really yummy food.

I’m sure you can imagine my delight when I discovered that the first series of MasterChef New Zealand was on TV as soon as the Australian version finished.  Those TV programmers know what I like, that’s fo shiz.  Sadly, the NZ version was terrible.  TERRIBLE!  It was modelled on the Aussie version, but it was so low-budget and had none of the charm and depth of the original.  And the judges were dickheads.  One of my reasons for loving the Aussie version is the way in which the judges and the guest chefs work so hard to nurture and develop the contestants, ensuring that their skills improve throughout the series.  In the Kiwi version, the judges just criticised the contestants endlessly and did nothing to help them. 

The latest British series of MasterChef has started recently and has been revamped – it used to be ultra-traditional, but now it’s gone all glitzy and is much more like the Aussie version.  I’m not sure that it’s worked very well, though.  The Aussie version is great because everybody is so relaxed and casual – the contestants wear their hearts on their sleeves and the judges were equally expressive.  The British contestants are just so… British.  They will become emotional, but you can tell that they feel so self-conscious about it.  And it’s been slammed by the great British viewing public – people are saying that it’s reduced this classic programme to nothing more than a trashy reality TV show.

Now – joy of joys! – Junior MasterChef Australia is on TV.  Blimey, it’s impressive.  It’s got all of the production values of the adult version (and the same cool judges), but the kids are just spectacular.  Seriously, you’ve got 10 year olds cooking food that I couldn’t begin to imagine tackling.  It’s both amazing and terrifying.

Best of all, the Junior version has given the Aussies another excuse to feature Donna Hay, who I love.  She comes across as such a nice woman, and her food looks delicious.

One of these days I’m going to be inspired to cook more myself, I promise.  I know that my New Year’s resolutions included the plan to cook more, but for various reasons my New Year’s resolutions have gone off the rails somewhat…

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Do-Gooders

December 6, 2010

The BBC has made a three-part series called ‘Age of the Do-Gooders’, presented by Ian Hislop (who I love).  I watched part one over the weekend, having recorded it during the week.  It was splendid – all about Victorian philanthropists and social pioneers: people who totally changed the world by refusing to acknowledge that, as individuals, they may not be able to address huge problems and help other people.

What struck me was the way in which a few modern people, when interviewed about the various Victorians Hislop was discussing, commented along the lines of ‘of course, that would never work now – people are so different/selfish’.  It wasn’t pointed out that this is exactly what would have been said to the original Do-Gooders when they announced that they were going to tackle the problem of slum housing or whatever. 

And it’s obviously not true of the modern world, either – there are any number of modern examples of people who, through their individual endeavours, manage to improve considerably the lives of those less fortunate than them.  I think that people like to believe that problems are unsolveable and situations are hopeless because it makes them feel better about not taking action themselves.  I also think that people don’t believe that their individual effort will make enough of a difference.  But it’s like my homegirl Mother Theresa said:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

And also:

“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”

(that last one quote is apropos of nothing, but I think that those are good words to live by)

And let’s not forget the wise words of the main man, Mahatma Gandhi:

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Anyway, I don’t usually favour the literary spin-offs of TV programmes, but I hope that there’s an Age of the Do-Gooders book coming out.  It’s all very inspiring stuff.


X Factor

November 23, 2010

I haven’t written anything about The X Factor before, largely because I tend to watch a couple of episodes of it (or any other music reality TV show) each season and then give it a wide berth.  However, one of the episodes I saw from this year’s series was an audition episode and, during it, a young girl called Cher Lloyd was shown.  She seemed like a fairly decent performer and from what I have gleaned, she’s still on the programme.

Last week I saw this story on the Daily Mail website and it’s played on my mind ever since.  It’s about Louis Walsh, one of the X Factor judges, doing his ‘I’m going to be all edgy and outspoken’ thing, with Cher as his topic.  Here are some of the quotes from the story:

He told Closer magazine: ‘I’ve heard rumblings of what is going on in the house – there’s a lot of parties… But Cher is definitely the out of control one!

‘She causes a lot of trouble. She’s as miserable and moody as she looks.’

And:

He added to Heat magazine: ‘Cher is believing her own publicity, which is a big mistake. I don’t get any warmth from her.

‘She needs to learn to be nice to everybody – because you’ll meet them on the way down.’

And:

He continued: ‘I couldn’t work with Cher. She thinks she’s going to be an overnight success, and because she listens to American R&B she’s picked up all these weird musical things and makes funny faces.

‘There’s no likeability there.

Remember, this is a 58 year old man, criticising the professionalism and temperament of a 17 year old girl in interviews with two celebrity magazines.   Nice, eh?  It’s probably no wonder that he doesn’t get any warmth from the poor little sod.  And I guess that whole ‘be nice to everybody’ rule doesn’t apply to him.


Blunders

September 29, 2010

Freddo just left a comment in my last post, asking why I hadn’t addressed this hilarious live TV blunder from Australia’s Next Top Model.  Poor Sarah Murdoch!  You can see the precise moment that she realises what she’s done: 39 seconds in she gets the most brilliant ‘oh SH*T’ expression on her face.

Given how horrendous that situation was, I think that the three people on stage handled it incredibly gracefully.  (We’re not actually up to this series yet in the UK, but watching it when it is eventually televised here will take on a whole new dimension, knowing how it ended).

Another excellent blunder yesterday involved Harriet Harman and David Miliband at the Labour conference.  For those of you lucky enough to avoid being subjected to UK political news, David Miliband lost the Labour leadership race over the weekend: the victor was his younger brother, Ed.  David was the front-runner for much of the race, but Ed won the support of the unions and that tipped the balance.

It would appear that David is not in a Good Mood as a result and isn’t afraid to spread some cheer, as this clip shows: he call out Harman for clapping Ed’s ‘the Iraq war was wrong’ comment by asking her what she’s doing, given that she voted in favour of the war at the time.  If you don’t want to sit through the entire 4+ minute clip you can whiz through to the 3m30s mark to see it. 

The clip is a good account of Ed’s first speech as leader, though.  Although I know absolutely nothing about the guy (it’s fair to say that I’ve paid no attention to the leadership race, beyond hoping that the loathsome Ed Balls would fail), he seems fairly sound if this coverage is anything to go by.  Towards the end of the Blair/Brown era it seemed that the Labour government were Tories in all but name, so centralist in the policies that there was nowhere for left wingers to turn (hence people voting Lib Dem, I think).  Ed seems keen to reclaim the left-of-centre ground and I think it will make him popular with more traditional Labour voters.  He’s also keen to ensure that the unions don’t mistake his support of them for tacit approval of whatever hare-brained wildcat strike action they might plan in response to Government cuts in the public sector, and thank goodness for that.  At some point soon I’ll tell you exactly what I think of the strike supporters, with particular focus on the total and utter dickhead who is Bob Crow, the head of the transport workers’ union.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  Check out this excellent collection of photos of David Miliband looking like a loon, courtesy of the website Enemies of Reason (and discovered by me because of a link posted on Facebook by the lovely Anthea).


Australian Masterchef

September 6, 2010

High excitement in our household (not really: Tristan couldn’t give a toss) – the second series of Australian Masterchef starts on satellite channel Watch tonight!  If you didn’t catch the first series I urge you to set your Sky Plus to ‘stun’ and get ready for this: it’s awesome.  It’s as though they’ve taken all the best bits of every reality TV show and combined them – the first series included:

  • all of the contestants living in the same house for months on end and the inevitable stresses and factions that develop
  • team challenges, often involving doing something ridiculous like catering a wedding with a day’s notice
  • team eliminations, with people saying things like, ‘Bruce, you know I love you, but you burned the pavlova, mate!’
  • individual challenges – totally bonkers ones that involve having to make a certain type of food with none of the crucial ingredients, for example
  • nice and helpful judges who can still make a wickedly snide comment if the mood gets to them
  • challenges against celebrity chefs
  • opportunities to win immunity from elimination, or to opt out of the competition for a few weeks and go and get work experience and just cruise back when it’s time for the finals
  • endless episodes: last time, it was on for six days every week, totally filling our Sky Plus box and ensuring that I had something to watch at any moment
  • genuinely nice and appealing contestants

That last point is the most important one: the contestants in the first series were such decent people that you really wanted them to do well.  And they made some fantastic food.  And some really disastrous food, which was very funny.

Seriously, kids: it’s BRILLIANT.  Don’t miss it.  The only negative thing is that it totally ruins British Masterchef, which seems horribly dull by comparison.