The Taste’s second season: so much better than the first

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.

The Taste: B+

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

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.