Along with the silly spoons, most of the annoying parts of The Taste have all but disappeared, improving the ABC competition in its second season.
The first season just didn’t work, but there was a lot of potential that has been realized now, and that’s both surprising and great: rarely does a show get time to find its way, especially on broadcast TV.
While the initial rounds were only marginally better than last year’s insanely frustrating audition episodes, once the competition began, The Taste emerged as a simpler and better competition. There aren’t major changes, but it has mostly just lost the confusing and pointless elements.
Best of all, there’s more time with the mentors in the first challenge, and that’s where the show really shines. Watching them teach, coach, taste, banter, and trash talk is the best part of the show, and something that feels genuinely new for cooking competitions (Anne Burrell screaming–does she ever not yell?–at bad cooks does not count).
The strength of those moments has been extended by having the guest judge linger in the kitchen for the entire cooking time of the second challenge, while the mentors are backstage so they can taste blind.
I still wish they’d actually eliminate people blindly, instead of after learning who cooked the worst food, but that does give the judges/mentors a chance to fight for their chefs. Overall, there’s less pointless fighting among the judges, though Ludo is still annoying. Marcus Samuelsson is, of course, an exponential improvement over Brian Malarkey, who he replaced.
Overall, it’s clear a lot of thought went into identifying what worked and what didn’t. That’s impressive, and makes for much more watchable reality TV.