The declining quality of our home grown television content was never so prominently on display as during the finale of The Great Food Race last night. Everything that is wrong about “reality TV” combined into a tragi-comedy of epic proportions that unfolded like a slow motion train wreck. The worst part was that the outcome was entirely predictable.
The Great Food Race got off to an entertaining enough start with oddball competitions played out in various exotic locations as bemused locals looked on. The format even looked workable with our national airline nicely leveraging the interest generated with each episode. The pre-recorded sessions were well edited and interesting enough to extinguish my initial scepticism. So what went horribly wrong?
Clearly the producers had exhausted their budget and their wit, judging by the minimalist venue and the lack of direction. Perhaps the writing was already on the wall regarding the future of the show, leading to a lax approach in delivering the end product. It may also explain why the presenters failed to mention the sponsors or prizes once during the final episode.
Where to begin? Clutching her cue cards and clearly still in shell shock from her husband’s (deserved) media drubbing earlier in the week, presenter Zoe seemed hell bent on interfering with the contestants as they improvised their dishes under intense pressure. Perhaps that was part of the challenge? The Bresolins are great entrepreneurs and a credit to their industry, but last night looked awkward and embarrassed. In their defence, they did their best under difficult circumstances, to nibble and slurp their way through the unscripted mess that was before them.
What lessons can be learned from this disaster? Firstly, cooking shows do not make good live television. I’ve seen telethons with better continuity than was on display last night. But at least telethon has audience participation and supports a good cause. Why was it even necessary to go live for this finale? Secondly, spontaneity is great but a little planning goes a long way towards successful execution. Thirdly, beware the disengaged and cynical audience, their social media hate stream can wreck your brand.
The saddest aspect of the entire debacle was that it was clear that the young, blond, more photogenic couple were shoe-ins to win, no matter what they concocted and despite their nastiness towards the opposition. Sara and Danny were the more entertaining of the finalists and genuinely enjoyed themselves throughout however. They even pulled off recovering their disastrous “pasta covered meatballs” with aplomb, which is more than can be said of the production values of the show itself.
It would be a shame if last night’s cook-off spelled the end of the series however. The overall format was worthwhile and could be improved upon in future, with a little more forethought. In the absence of any quality local content on the box these days, The Great Food Race could have been a winner.