Monday, February 18, 2013

The Taste: Tuesday at 8|7c on ABC - a new TV Addiction?

It's another season for new TV. And just like fashion, TV follow trends: crime solving shows, dramas, reality TV shows that showcases talent, knowledge, athleticism, or some other aspect of a person. Why? Because the American folks wi99ill watch anything that allows them to vote for an underdog, or allow them to fall in love with a character (likeable or not), or allow them to root for those to follow their dreams (because we like to live vicariously on our couches through others).

Remember House? Or Sherlock? They aren't exactly "like-able" characters by definition; yet, the characters are complex enough that we want to keep watching. They keep us intrigued. But they are fiction - something we have to keep watching to see if we can relate.

Then there is reality TV - the 5 minute clip where they take us into their house or life to show us who they really are: a home maker, a real-estate broker, a student, who gives it all up to follow their dream. That dream may be to become a singer, a chef, a designer. Who doesn't want to follow that American Dream?

This brings me to a new TV show that's currently 4 episodes in: The Taste (check your ABC network listing for times, but I believe it airs Tuesday - heck I watch most everything on Hulu now).

I believe it has just the right amount of recipe for people to fall in love with this show: it contains a little bit of drama (i.e. the competition) for excitement; it contains the personal insight (i.e. the clip of who they are and what they had given up to be here and what winning would mean to them) for tugging at your heart strings; and finally just the right amount of characters on the judges panel (i.e. Simon Cowell vs Paula Abdul, Bruno Tonioli vs Carrie Ann Inaba, Christina Aguilera vs Cee Lo vs Adam Levine).

So the premise of this show is similar to The Voice - just substitute the talent of singing with the talent of cooking. There are some deviation to this analogy, but let's just go with it for now.

Part 1: The Audition
A bunch of people try out by cooking that one dish that they believe they can wow the judges. So this sounds like Masterchef, or Top Chef, or any other cooking show, right? Nope - not this one. The Taste has a few interesting caveats that could work for or against the contestants. But the end result is similar to The Voice, and that's to get onto one of the judge's teams (or kitchens).

First, they are required to plate their entire dish on a spoon. Each judge is suppose to be able to eat a spoonful and then decide if they love it or hate it. No re-taste, no second spoon - just one. The problem is that they have no idea what they are eating. In one of the shows, one of the guys served up mole. But one judge was expecting satay. That backfired on the poor guy. It's also intriguing how these stellar top of line chefs keep guessing at the proteins: was that fish? a tuna? seabass? halibut? It just goes to show that a spoonful isn't very much - and it goes all so very quickly. And if these top chefs with impeccable palates are guessing at the ingredients...? well enough said, you get the point.

Second, the plating is on a spoon. One extra drop of too much acidity or too much oil, or a pinch of too much salt, and it could all go south. Or worst, you don't pick the best part or the right proportion (i.e. too thin, too thick) of the protein to highlight in that spoonful. Plating in this small tiny thing seems to be its own challenge. If you see the plates that they plate (for the camera) - it looks completely different.

Third, the taste test is blind. They don't see the chef or cook until after they tasted their dish and locked in their "Yay" or "Nay" vote. So sometimes after the chefs or cooks describe their dishes, the judges actually get it and regret making their "Nay" choices. I personally felt like they let a few good ones go that would have made this a more neck-to-neck competition. But ultimately they lock in their "Yay" or "Nay" according to that one bite, and not according to how fine-looking the contestant is, or what story (sometimes sob-story) they had. If more than one judge votes "Yay" for the contestant, then the contestant gets to pick which team they want to be on.

So I keep mentioning the judges. Who are they? let me just say that this line-up would leave me starstruck if I were ever to meet them. These are four, top dogs in the restaurant industries: Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey. And they each have their own personality, some completely opposites from one another. For example, Ludo is very passionate, Nigella is very poised and calm. Makes for great television drama if you ask me ;)

I mentioned earlier that The Taste reminded me a lot to The Voice, but it doesn't quite work the same. Here is why:

There is no reference point in The Taste. When the judges on The Voice listen to someone perform, they do often recognize the song, so they have a reference of what it should be. For example, if someone sings "I Will Always Love You," the judges will know it's that Whitney Houston song and will rate if they did the song justice with the contestant's own version. However, as already mentioned, The Taste judges often struggle in identifying what dish or ingredients are being presented to them. There is no reference for what this dish was suppose to be, so they can't be judged on creativity (a good plan) vs execution (how well it represents the plan). They only get judged on execution...

Judges "yay" or "nay" is nor transparent on The Taste until the reveal. On The Voice, the judges will know who said "yay" to the singer. So the judges can compete with one another for someone to be on their team. On The Taste, the votes are locked in secretly and are only revealed to one another during the same time it is revealed to the contestant. This takes away from some of the "well if you're going to bid, then i'm going to bid too" competition amongst the judges and, imho, takes away some of the drama between the judges ;)

That's all the review I have so far for now. The shows has a second part past the audition, but I will get to that later. Check out Episode 4 here. It's the most recent episode on ABC's website.

So I watch way too much TV. But my excuse is that it's the background stuff while I craft, or fold/iron laundry. So what do you think? Will you give this a watch? If so, leave me your comments on here...

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