WASHINGTON, May 22, 2013 —Tonight, Gordon Ramsay’s “American Idol” style cooking show “MasterChef” embarks on its fourth season. Although the goal of the show is to find America’s best home cook, more often than not the contrived and overblown back drama of the contestants overshadows their culinary exploits.
Just like all competitive reality shows, the contest itself is lost in the producers’ efforts to have the audience make an emotional connection with the contestants. What the producers fail to realize is almost everyone has a tale of woe. While the shows go about laying out the tear inducing past of the various contestants, they lose sight of the fact that things are tough all over.
Although there’s no way to measure it, as people all over America learn the stories of the contestants, more than a few are thinking to themselves, “if they think they have it bad, they should walk a mile in my shoes.”
Of course we all applaud when someone overcomes obstacles on their way to success in the current batch of reality contests. But who doesn’t have obstacles to overcome these days? Just get on with the cooking or singing or dancing and skip the part where the audience is supposed to feel sorry for the contestants.
This whole demoralizing situation likely traces its roots back to that pioneering 1950s TV reality/contest show “Queen for a Day.” Each female contestant would sob her way through her woe-laden life-story, answering the leading questions of the falsely empathetic game show host while the studio audience blubbered and sniffled at every soul-crushing detail. The audience would vote at the end, and the hapless woman deemed the most miserable of all would win a crown, scepter, and robe as “Queen for a Day,” hauling home a batch of prizes that supposedly would make everything all right again in the twinkling of the camera eye.
“Queen for a Day” was something of an anti-reality game show, really. In a genuine contest or game, the best or most skillful player wins. In “Queen,” though, each show’s grand prizewinner was rewarded for being the biggest failure of all. Perhaps not surprisingly, this phony, cathartic trail of tears proved quite popular. It aired on TV for years, with its producers shedding crocodile tears all the way to the bank.
Americans don’t need to turn on the TV to find a sad story because most of us can trump any contrived drama on TV with our own set of battle scars. After a day at the salt mines the last thing most people want to see is yet another sad story.
But in an odd way, maybe that’s why people haven’t gotten tired of Gordon Ramsay’s incredibly cruel and derisive comments while acting as a judge or consultant on one of his many shows. Instead of a TV personality acting out his anger for the benefit of the audience and ratings, maybe the average viewer just sees him as one of the many jerks we all have to deal with in our daily lives.
In conclusion, it’s an established fact that the evening news is full of people down on their luck worthy of our thoughts and prayers. The last thing we need is some contrived nonsense to toy with our already exhausted emotions.
All times are EDT:
ABC: The Middle: (New) Tension builds as Frankie tries to plan a graduation party for uncooperative Axl; Sue tries to get her driver’s license for a sixth time; Brick must assemble a slide show highlighting the past four years of school.
CBS: Two and a Half Men: (Repeat) Alan has a surprising inspiration when he mulls making a commitment to Lyndsey; Walden enjoys the attention of a wealthy older woman.
FOX: MasterChef: (New) The search begins for America’s best home cook.
NBC: Dateline NBC: (New) After being sexually assaulted by her own husband, Crystal Harris takes matters into her own hands. Andrea Canning reports.
CW: Love Happens: A character-driven story about navigating the emotionally charged waters of loss, overcoming the fear-inducing obstacles that bob to the surface, and preparing for the inevitable calm after the storm.
ABC: Modern Family: (Repeat) When Claire, Manny and Luke go to Alex’s academic decathlon for the weekend, Phil throws a guys’ night at home; Manny and Luke crash bar mitzvahs looking for a girl; Cam and Mitchell get Jay and Gloria a surprise baby gift.
CBS: Mike & Molly: (Repeat) Molly feels that the house is becoming too crowded with stuff, so she decides to hold a yard sale, while Mike and the guys take Carl fishing to help him get over his breakup with Christina.
ABC: Modern Family: (New) After Phil’s mother dies, everyone flies down to Florida; Gloria is faced with an outstanding arrest warrant; Jay runs into someone from his past.
CBS: Criminal Minds: (New) The Replicator zeroes in on the BAU when the killer targets one of the team as the next victim. Also, the BAU is called in to investigate a string of deaths in Manhattan tied to apparent ecstasy overdoses, and Hotch discovers that his estranged brother, Sean (Eric Johnson), is caught in the middle.
NBC: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: (New) Benson faces off against her most demented adversary yet.
ABC: How to Live With Your Parents: (New) Stress causes Max to eat everything in sight; Polly helps Julian navigate his feelings for his new girlfriend.
ABC: Nashville: (New) Juliette finds a letter from her mother; Deacon confronts Rayna about a secret; Brad Paisley performs with Rayna and Deacon; Gunnar tries to win Scarlett’s heart back.
NBC: Chicago Fire: (New) In their toughest call yet, the Firehouse 51 crews battle a dangerous prison inferno.
New episodes of:
Outrageous Acts of Science at 8 p.m. on DSC
Breaking Amish: Brave New World – Secrets Revealed at 8 p.m. on TLC
Swamp Wars at 8 p.m. on Animal Planet
Devoured: Man-Eating Super Snake Returns at 9 p.m. on Animal Planet
MythBusters at 9 p.m. on DSC
900 Pound Man: The Race Against Time at 9 p.m. on TLC
Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy at 9 p.m. on History Channel
Toy Hunter at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Motives & Murders at 9 p.m. on ID
South Beach Tow at 9:30 p.m. on truTV
The Town That Caught Tourettes? At 10 p.m. on TLC
River Monsters: Unhooked at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet
Million Dollar Listing New York at 10 p.m. on BRAVO
The Real World: Portland at 10 p.m. on MTV
Psych at 10 p.m. on USA
Locked Up Abroad at 10 p.m. on NGC
I Was Murdered at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on ID
Operation Repo at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on truTV
House Hunters International at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV
For movie lovers:
As Good as it Gets on AMC
This is Elvis on ENC
Unstoppable on FX
Inside Out: The People’s Art Project on HBO
Collateral Damage on IFC
Why Stop Now on SHO
Orlando on SUND
The Natural on TCM
Heavyweights on TMC
Looper at 9 p.m. on STARZ
3 A.M. at 9:35 p.m. on FLIX
The Vow at 9:45 p.m. on ENC
Tower Heist at 10 p.m. on FLIX
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