Weaver's Week 2022-10-09

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"The most chaotic cooking show around!"

Bad Chefs


Bad Chefs

ITV Studios for ITV2, 26 September - 7 October

Ten "takeaway addicts" are plucked from their homes, parted from their delivery apps, and given instruction in how to cook from raw ingredients. The best at the end of the series will win the prize pot.

Bad Chefs Chunkz: one fabulous hunk.

Host for the show is Chunkz, who is (apparently) a You Tube sensation. The press release quotes Chunkz as saying, "If you can't boil an egg or cut a loaf of a bread this is a show you can get on board with. I can't wait to see what the Bad Chefs can or can't cook up... this is going to be so bad it's good."

Such a ringing endorsement of their abilities! We're insulted on their behalves, and we're not even taking part!

Bad Chefs All of the contestants on the first night.

The ten contestants are taken away to a mansion in the country, where they'll live and cook. They quickly learn that they're cooking all of their own meals, with the inevitable problems and tension that will cause. They also learn that the series has a prize, starting at a very precise £45,000 (€ 39 000); deductions during the series mean the winner will take just over £25,000.

Within the first five minutes, our contestants are challenged to make an omelette. They're given all the ingredients one could possibly need, but no instruction. Nothing written, nothing to emulate, just "go off and make an omelette". It's almost as if they want the contestants to fail and look stupid on network television.

Bad Chefs This is an omelette, it says here.

The contestants fail, and look stupid on network television. Later in the episode, the contestants are given instructions to make various party foods. And, er, chuck the recipes over their shoulder. The things to heat in the oven turned out fine; the tiramasu was a squodgy mess.

We hope it's chips. It's chips.

We'll scoot forward to halfway through the series, where the original ten have become nine through an elimination. Two of the contestants are nominated to cook breakfast burritos. "It's breakfast, in a burrito. The clue's in the name," says Chunkz's voiceover. There's a fine line between flippant and sarcastic, and he's getting a little too close to it.

Bad Chefs The ingredients for a breakfast burrito.

The main challenge is to make a meal by following someone else's recipe. A professional cook comes out to Bad Chefs manor, and explains how to make a particular dish. Today, for instance, it's fish and chips. "It's very hard to get wrong", promises Katie Pix. Here's how she does it.

Chop the potatoes quite thickly, then put into a bowl of water and dry them. Drizzle a little oil, then the chips go into an air-fryer for 20 minutes. Then get the pre-seasoned haddock, roll it in flour, and make the batter. Flour, baking powder, tumeric, sparkling water, stir to a custard consistency. Dip the fish in the batter, cook for two minutes on each side - should turn gold, may need to lift it out of the fryer. Mushy peas: into boiling water, cook till they're soft, add some mint when they're done. Add lemon juice and mayo to taste.

Bad Chefs What the fish and chips is meant to look like.

So, the chefs have seen how it's done. Now they're to reproduce the dish. It's just like The Generation Game, except Jim Davidson never let you take home the wonky plate or the very dodgy cartoon.

To avoid too much bias, Chunkz and Katie withdraw to another room. "This is bad cheffing!" claims Chunkz in a few minutes. Too much sparkling water, too much tumeric, not enough sparkling water. The faults are identified, there's a clear educational aspect to the show.

Bad Chefs The contestants parse the important points from lots of filler.

Strikes us that the contestants aren't following the precise instructions - did they not write it down? Did they not catch the important points when Katie explained them? Remember, we viewers get to see the recipe in bullet points with the important stuff identified for us. The contestants had to watch it in real time, pick out the important points from lots of filler - and doubtless some "hilarious" "bants" with Chunkz.

By the end of the first week, they're beginning to make progress. Fish that is well cooked, lovely batter, but got stuck to the pan. Chips that were edible, if a bit over-cooked. Peas, yep, they're cooked. Lemon in the mayo? Easy peasy lemon....

Bad Chefs Wouldn't turn our noses up at that. But Chunkz would.

This food may not be perfect, but it's certainly edible. There's certainly some improvement, especially for people who hadn't cooked before in their lives. But Chunkz calls things "embarrassing" and seems to disrespect the contestants' achievements. His voiceover misses three core tenets: he fails to give praise where it is due, he criticises more than he must, and he disrespects a genuine effort.

Chunkz and the celebrity chef have a "taste test", sampling and discussing each of the dishes from the contestants. Well, those they can bear to eat. Overcooked batter, too salty mayo, but also some very edible food. The cooks themselves are eating the dishes they made a few minutes earlier. Some cooks could argue that they've made food to their taste, but the judges' personal taste doesn't matter when there's a clear gap between worst and best.

Bad Chefs Katie Pix does turn her nose up at some cooking.

The worst chefs of the day are into the head-to-head elimination. It's a quiz, to name herbs they've used already, or to identify a combination of tastes while blindfolded. Loser of the quiz leaves the contest at once, on the back of a delivery motorcycle.

The next two worst are given extra practice, to cook a meal for the rest of the group. Or the team can, individually, opt for a takeaway meal. But takeaway meals cost money, £500 from the prize pool. Money can also come out of the prize pool for mistakes in the kitchen round, such as omitting part of the dish. All this can lead to some hard feelings in the communal house, but the format doesn't dwell on these thoughts.

Bad Chefs Byeeeee!

Not as chaotic as I expected it to be

We'll skip forward to day nine, where the final five survive. They're able to cook a tomato and egg breakfast dish, though not one that everyone likes.

The main meal is a lamb puree, a corn bread, and a fish-based dish. For giggles, the finalists also have to work with one of the eliminated contestants as their sous chef. And we ask ourselves: is this realistic? In the outside world, how often does a home cook work with someone they don't know? Whose abilities are known to be poor? It might make entertaining television, but it's undermining a lot of the educational benefit. And, in our view, it doesn't make entertaining television.

Bad Chefs Contestants do pieces to camera, sometimes while pursued by the lesser-spotted nametag.

At times, Bad Chefs had a very chilled vibe. A group of friends, cooking together, eating each other's food, helping each other out. But then they had to do stunts, like bring back the eliminated chefs. Turn up the volume, add massive amounts of stress.

It's typical of the show, which never quite knew where it wanted to be. Did it want to be a feelgood show, taking us on a journey with the contestants, showing how far the winners have come? The final episode said that was the intention, featuring families of the cooks enjoying their work and seeing how far they'd come in ten days.

Or was it a snarky show? Come Dine with Me treads a very fine line, we're laughing at people being foolish but never at people actually trying their best. Bad Chefs lampooned people trying their best. Even in small amounts, that leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

Bad Chefs Caution: chef at work.

Or was it a reality show? The actual competition cooking took up barely half each episode, the second half was all the discussion in the house, and some moments manufactured by the production team. But the reality moments were kept in the background, the pace was so fast that tension was forgotten by the next day.

Or was it an entertainment? Something to have on in the background, with vaguely famous telly chefs and some actual stars like Aitch and Yung Filly. But it was barely background watching, it either demanded full attention or to be off.

Bad Chefs Let's review our notes.

Ultimately, we found Bad Chefs to fall between all of these stools, and to satisfy none of them. If the show is to get a second series, we suggest they lean into the feelgood and perhaps cut back on the badmouthing.

What did the other viewers say? Online reaction was refreshingly positive. The expected "I’m raging at how incompetent these people are at the most basic of cooking skills" on the first night, became "Fair play to them especially how far they've come and improved their cookery" for the final. There weren't many viewers, but those who did watch Bad Chefs found it enjoyable.

Next week, we stay with television for young adults, and Are You the One? on MTV.

In other news

And they'll be dancing on the streets of Liverpool tonight!

It's Liverpool Next year's Senior Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Liverpool. The shipbuilding city, on the west coast of the island, is well-known for its musical heritage with bands including Atomic Kitten, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Real Thing, and The Reynolds Girls.

They beat out Glasgow for the contest. The shipbuilding city, on the west coast of the island, is well-known for its musical heritage with bands including Lulu, Deacon Blue, Chvrches, Jesus, and The Mary Chain.

The BBC is organising the contest on behalf of UA:PBC, whose entry "Stefania" won this year's contest. It'll all take place in the second week of May - semi-finals on 9 and 11 May, final on 13 May. This leaves plenty of time for other broadcasters to, for instance, cover a grand parade in London in early June.

Eurovision Song Contest The reason for all this palaver.

Mykola Chernotytskyi, Head of the Managing Board of UA:PBC, commented: “Символічно, що Пісенний конкурс Євробачення-2023 відбудеться в Ліверпулі – місті-побратимі нашої Одеси. До організації конкурсу такого рівня є надскладні вимоги. Я впевнений, що місто, визнане столицею поп-музики, найкраще з ними впорається та подарує музичне свято, від якого будуть у захваті як команди учасників, так шанувальники Євробачення".

"It is symbolic that the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Liverpool, a twin city of our Odesa. The organisation of a contest of this level sets super demanding requirements. I am confident that the city recognised as the capital of pop music will meet them in the best way and will deliver the celebration of music that will amaze both delegations and fans of Eurovision.”

Syco has "securitised" its Got Talent format worldwide. The company gets US$125 million (€€130 million, £115 million) from a group of bankers, in exchange for future income from the series. Got Talent makes money from selling the idea, producing the shows, some digital platforms, and a cut of sponsorship.

The BBC's making a one-hour documentary celebrating the work of Hans Zimmer. It'll explore his Hollywood career, and the soundtracks for nature shows like Blue Planet. We assume that, in passing, they'll mention the most-played work of his career, the theme to Going for Gold.

What did we learn this week?

  • Star Wars almost caused a war between Libya and Tunisia. They filmed Star Wars in Tunisia back in 1976. The Libyan army saw the Sandcrawler vehicle, and thought it were some new type of troop carrier, or tank, or something, but it was definitely hostile. Definitely hostile. Colonel Gaddafi, the paranoid Libyan leader, demanded that Tunisia withdraw the attack vehicle. George Lucas, the film director, was happy to move the massive prop well away from the border, as the Tunisian desert looks similar everywhere. (I Literally Just Told You)
  • In Venezuela, there's a tradition to rollerskate to Mass over Christmas. On their way, skaters tug on pieces of string - one end hangs out the window, the other is tied to a child's toe, and tells them to get their skates on. Why rollerskates? Good question. We don't know, some suggest it's an alternative to sledding in the tropical area. (House of Games)
  • Spandau Ballet's hit "True" was inspired by Gary Kemp's crush on Clare Grogan of Altered Images and Corner Shop Cook-Off (Mastermind)
  • The metro system in Osaka has a monster. Sukima Mori lives under the edge of station platforms, and will grab any child who reaches down into the space between platform and train. How to avoid falling into its clutches? Sukima mamori - mind the gap! (BBC Brain)

Mind the gap.

Countdown has been wowed by Tom Stevenson. The young student completed an octochamp run this week. He accumulated 1000 points exactly, the fourth player to enter the millennium club. He scored in each and every round on each and every show, which we believe has never been done before. And, in one game, he scored 154 points, a record score in a single game. Tom will likely be the top seed for Finals Week in December, and will probably be seeded to play the final against Edward Byrne (Countdown player).

Quizzy Mondays, and Mastermind was won by Joe Andrew, the emeritus professor took the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, and totted up a total of 28 points. With a strong general knowledge, Joe could be someone to watch for the final.

Only Connect was won by Harlequins, 23-15 over the Jugadores. The Jugs were unlucky not to get translations of Bundesliga team names, and places in original and "New" states - in another universe, that's a six-point swing their way. Question of the week is on various sorts of doughnuts, lovely.

A comeback win on University Challenge, where Queen's Belfast beat Glasgow by 165-105. Neither side could be expected to know about obscure provincial building Leeds Castle, nobody ever goes to far-flung Kent. Pictures of birds on flags was a great bonus round, and the year 1812 gave Glasgow a big lead at the half-way mark. Then QUB got going, as Michael Sharry got eight starters in no time at all. He even knew Jack - a long-eared hare and a large fruit. QUB had a poor bonus rate, just 10/34 - let's hope the questions fall their way next time.

This column's enjoyed the heats for Young Musician of the Year. It's great to see the competition getting back to its roots - they've showed plenty of the music being performed, and keeping the biographies 'n' sob stories to a minimum. They even let the hosts give some mildly critical opinions, pointing out room for improvement.

The grand final for BBC Young Musician of the Year (BBC4, Sun). Eggheads returns to Channel 5 (weekdays), and Breaking the News is back (Radio Scotland, Fri).

Pictures: ITV Studios, BBC, EBU/RAI/Andres Putting, WJ Railroad.

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