How The Taste screwed up

ABC’s blind-tasting cooking competition The Taste concluded last night, and just 3.45 million people watched, tying its lowest-ratings ever. It was easily crushed by the second hour of Hell’s Kitchen.

It was won by someone familiar with being on a reality TV show: Khristianne Uy, who besides being Charlie Sheen’s personal chef, has also appeared on Chef Wanted, The Real L Word, and Millionaire Matchmaker.

The show didn’t work, and never really recovered from its pretty bad opening episodes, on which the judges kept rejecting people they claimed to like. They failed on every level that a reality TV judge needs to succeed.

Likewise, the show failed on some basic levels. Those were:

  • It was confusing. What should have and could have been very simple was often very confusing, especially the coaches/mentors/judges/whatever revealing who was their bottom and top, learning whether or not they’d judged their own team member to be amazing or awful. The stars, the button, the pods just didn’t work.
  • Not enough Anthony Bourdain, interaction, or alcohol. There was a moment mid-season when Anthony Bourdain was walking around his kitchen, sipping wine, offering insightful and entertaining comments. There was even some casual and playful interaction between the four judges that was fun. That’s what the show should have been once they’d picked their teams instead of just a couple minutes during the immunity challenge. That would have removed the drama of blind tasting and potentially eliminating one of their own team members, but…
  • The judges didn’t eliminate people blindly. Blind tasting was the show’s real sell, yet it failed in the auditions because the judges kept rejecting food they liked, and it failed in the competition rounds because they only blindly selected those who were in danger, and then made the real decision after they’d learned who was who. The finale’s final minutes worked well in part because there was genuine suspense about who would win since the judges didn’t know.
  • Non-memorable contestants. Few of the contestants, besides those with abrasive personalities, stood out–or if they did, they’d disappear almost immediately.
  • Odd production choices. The arena set design was pretty spectacular, though it had way too many distracting frills and simultaneously too little attention to detail (you could literally see scuff marks and nails in the paint and wood of the pods the contestants stood in).
  • Confusing Ludo and Brian’s stupidity for drama. Pre-production should have included time for them to compare penises and be done with it.
  • Judges? Coaches? Neither? The show didn’t know what the judges/coaches were supposed to do. Neither did they. Ludo basically had people cook for him sometimes, instead of helping them improve. Other times they seemed too hands-off. There was virtually no mentorship or interaction, which is what the show really should have borrowed from The Voice.

I kept watching for the Bourdain moments, and to see if the format would evolve and redeem itself. Alas, it did not.

During the finale, Nigella said, “It feels so odd to be having our last spoons ever.” Had she had the chance to watch the show she was on, I don’t think it would have seemed odd that it wouldn’t last past one season.

The Taste: C

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.