The return of MasterChef looks like being a bit of a triumph for people power. Most of the X Factor-style changes that horrified viewers during the last series have been binned. So while the BBC are getting a lot of stick for not listening to licence fee payers when it comes to their current cost-cutting activities, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” brigade should give credit where it’s due in this case.
The audition rounds – which last year featured tearful family scenes, premature contestant back stories and equally X Factor-style judging – are gone, now referenced only in flashback during the first round proper, the good old invention test.
That means we get to see some pretty accomplished cooking straight away – which is good on one hand but may leave you feeling starved of those occasional culinary car crashes that traditionally kick off a new series.
There’s even the strangely welcome return of narrator India Fisher (replaced by Sean Pertwee in the latest series of MasterChef: The Professionals). You know the one – sounds like an automated supermarket till who’s just discovered an unexpected item in the bagging area.
Just to make sure it doesn’t look like a full retraction, the BBC have kept the kitchen’s cheap laminated wooden finish, reminiscent of an empty MFI store, which some viewers will recognise from the Australian version of the show.
And for now there’s no sign of the pacey breakbeat soundtrack, punctuated by chopping and whisking noises. Hopefully, it will make a comeback in later episodes, because I don’t get the chance to go clubbing much these days. For now, the music jumps between the Armageddon orchestra and mawkish piano solos.
And it turns out that no matter what you do to the format, you can never completely get rid of the tears. “I don’t normally cry at funerals,” says one contestant, as he blubs after his dish is called “a bit basic”. God knows how he would have reacted if he’d made it through to tonight’s brutal professional kitchen round…
MasterChef returns tonight at 9pm on BBC1/BBC1 HD.