Every Cooking Competition Series
Hit proof: Some of the most popular reality shows — Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, Top Chef — are cooking competitions.
Why it shouldn’t work: All these shows violate a major competition TV rule of success that goes back to early TV game shows. On singing shows like American Idol you can judge the singing for yourself. On dance shows you can judge the dancing. On romance shows you can judge the bachelor’s dates. You may disagree with Simon Cowell, but you can form your own opinions using the same information. But on cooking competition shows, you cannot taste the food — and that’s mainly how judges determine who wins. There is no, as reality TV executives call it, “play along” for the home viewer. For all we know, Tom Colicchio and Gordon Ramsay have horrible taste and make dreadful decisions.
Why it does work: Credit humans for being imaginative. With enough perfectly composed loving shots of gorgeous dishes combined with sensuous descriptions, we can almost taste that lemon vanilla créme with mint purée and hazelnut sable. Also, sex and eating are two of the most primal bodily urges. Many enjoy watching sex, but you can’t really show that on TV. Eating is the only basic physical need that TV can depict in all its naked glory.*
That’s it! Thanks for reading. I bet you were expecting Two and a Half Men, right? There’s no comedies on the list — I figured humor is too subjective to go around saying that a certain style isn’t funny enough when, obviously, it apparently is. What show would you add to this list?
* Well, and breathing — but that’s boring.