You know it’s coming, it’s hard to ignore and you either love it or hate, maybe even both. Masterchef New Zealand is returning to our boxes this Sunday at 8.30 and what should we be expecting this time round? Well I am sure there will be joy and laughter, there will be talk about how this is a life long dream – a little strange as we have only had the show for 1 year -, there will be tears and breaking of spirits, there will be great dishes and complete failures, god help me if there is a crayfish, Simon Gault is bound to say “Rock’n’Roll” and of course our add breaks will be filled with sponsors and everyone favorite (NOT!) Richard Till telling you all to ” Shop smarter New Zealand”.

I most certainly be watching this season, not only so I can give you episode recaps, but also because I have a morbid curiosity for what it will be like compared to my season, that’s right I called it MY season, I decided I own it. When the first season came out it wasn’t to long since we had all watched the Ozzie season and from what I have read, heard and personally experienced, we were all expecting something much like it but this time we are little bit more used to the kiwi format – although I still prefer the Australian one – so will it add up to our expectations?

Josh Emett is the new kid on the block, he’s already been deemed ‘the hot stuff’, which I don’t quite get, perhaps I am a little to young ( I also never understood the allure of Richard Gere so there you go), but there is a certain slickness about him that I am sure will translate through his style of judgement and into his preference of food.

Returning of course is Iran adventuring Simon Gault, who often appears in the commercials on the Food Network, cooking free range chicken. And the elusive Ray McVinnie: now I know that when the show aired last year a lot of people gave Ray a bad wrap for whatever reason, I would like to say that he is such a lovely, gentle man with an amazing passion for food and eagerness for others to learn. He is also quite funny

The Masterchef extravaganza congers up some mixed feelings for myself, from happiness, to joy, regret, nausea and frustration. And to this day I am still not sure how I feel about the whole experience, maybe that is because reality TV competitions are so far from reality that it is hard to make ones peace with it in any sense.

There is also the whole ‘watching yourself on TV’ thing which, honestly, I found unbearable, I had to sit in my bedroom and watch it on my own. Often with the TV muted and my eyes covered, peeking through occasionally, like a small child watching a scarey movie in the dark At the the time it helped me to think that if there was no one else in the room when I watched it then maybe no one else in the world saw it. It seemed logical at the time.

So here is what I want to do, I want to open the floor you, my beloved readers……..there are people reading this, right? Between now and Sunday you can ask me questions about the show and I will endeavor to answer them the best I can *CoughAndWithinMyContractCough*.Also, will you be watching this season? Do you think It will be better than the first? New Zealand can sometimes struggle to pull of a successful sequal.So fire away people, tell me your thoughts, come come grasshopper……………..I dont know what that quote is from but I wanted to say it, it felt right xx

Last night we had the première of the second season of New
Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker, or NZHHB as I shall put it from now on and I must
say it was an interesting watch. I only watched last year’s season when it was
on repeats in December and from halve way through, I will admit I got quite a
lot of laughs out of it, mainly from the host Colin (at him not with him) and
from those hideous aprons, I don’t know if they were trying to make them look
homely but the impression I got was that they looked like old pillow slips, tea
towels and table linens sewn together by thumb-less monkeys. So what happened
last night? I shall reveal all…..


Intro talking of woman from the city and country, in flats
and in heels and the narrator tells us how there is ‘even a man’!!!! as if this
is meant to be some big shock that a male can bake, isn’t the leading judge a

Jade Lipton is the new judge this year; she makes cakes, how
nice. And has her hair pulled back so tight that you can see her cerebral
cortex working away. Dean Brettschneider is returning judge, he is a global
baker (what does that mean?) and has 7 books, I will confess that I own one of
his books and it is quite good.

The contestants will compete for prizes, how original.

Opening sequence, where the contestants are all on kitchen
products, milk cartons, flour, and golden syrup: did they put ‘the man’ on the
honey jar for any particular reason…. Anyhoooo, they are all doing funny little
poses and look like they need a little help from multi-hosting talented Colin.
I must say I think it is interesting how both the shows he hosts kind of work
at extremes ends about food attitudes, just a thought.

 ‘They are going to
have to have some key baking skills to win’ Jade. Well that’s a given I assume;
better to have baking skills than sheep husbandry skills in a baking contest. Today’s
task is preparing ‘afternoon tea to impress’ in two and half hours, they can
make anything thing and as many as they want. Gretchen asks Dean what sweet
things he likes to eat and laughs when he says caramel, hmm a little flirty
maybe? Another contestant asks if the food needs to both taste good and look
good, ?!?!?!?!?!?!?

And their off, all making a million and one treats, these
guys really put out a lot for afternoon tea, one or two gingernuts anyone?

Throughout the challenge the following events unfold:

Paula ‘The crier’ forgets to put the syrup in
her syrup cupcakes and cries. ‘They want disasters on TV but why does it have
to be me’, she looks very red. The challenge ends and she cries.

Gretchen ‘The temptress’ bats her eyelashes at
Dean who tells her ‘come work for me any day’. Dean also thinks she is ‘cheeky’
to try and make macaroons that even some pros struggle with.

Stephen ‘The Man’ makes more desserts than
afternoon tea. Dean gets all blokey around him and mentions how they are the
only to males there – um, Colin? And his Bannoffy pie is ozzing.

Dyani ‘The Nester’, well she nests, as in
creates a heap of mess and clutter everywhere, to the point where things are
spilling and falling of the bench, so she can be comfortable. Hmmm. She seems a
little bit like she is away with the fairies too.

Catherine ‘The Farmer’, who lives on the farm
with hubby and her parents, is told by Colin how she has the same haircut as
him, she doesn’t look impressed and her pastry is very thick

Desiree ‘The Dyer’ is making just one lonely Red
Velvet cake which has what looks lie a 1/3 of a cup of food colouring in it and
could potentially be used as stage blood in Sweeny Todd. She also likes to talk
about how everyone else likes her baking so why shouldn’t they.

Carolyn ‘ The….well I’ll think of something in
the next episode ‘ is here cause she loves baking and really wants a new kitchen
but has also done a Red Velvet mix but done it the proper way

Chelsea ‘ The smiler’ is cooking for an army,
and huge portions, ‘I’m an Islander, we eat big’ (her words not mine). But she
has great time management skills and is funny, I like her.

Judge Jade seems to enjoy laughing at the
contestants in her interviews. Easy Daisy, they are just home bakers. But she
also has some good tips

Everyone talks of how baking is all about love,

Several of the women have ‘Home Executive’ listed under
their occupation; I think this is now the PC way of saying Housewife.

Judging is tough and Jade is brutal while Dean is a little
bit more forgiving, while the contestants watch the judges on a monitor in a ‘secluded
room’ with plenty of product placement in the background. One thing I have
learnt from watching cooking competitions is that the word ‘Rustic’ covers a
multitude of sins. And it is funny watching the judges try to comment politely
with food in their mouths.

The verdict is in, Colin feels a need to remind those of us
with failing memories who the judges are, and the top three for the day are
Gretchen, Catherine, and Chelsea. Gretchen takes the win; her food did look the
most professional and sound very yummy. Dean gives a cheeky brow raise as he
says her name and is named today’s Hottest (hmm) Home-baker for the day.

Our bottom two are Stephen and Desiree, my bet is on Desiree
going, they cant get rid of ‘The Man’ this early on. Desiree missed the mark on
the brief and ‘The Man’ had too many slip ups. And the baker going home today
is Desiree. She quite surprised, emotional about it and baffled as ‘Everyone
loves that cake’. So Desiree is Dejected.

Colin does this strange self-fanning action as he instructs on
next weeks challenge, which will be taking a recipe from both judges and enhancing
it to wow them with flavor and decorations.

All in all I’m enjoying the show (based on one episode), we
shall just wait and see what will unfold before us next week. I’m guessing,
more tears from Paula, more ‘Blokey’ behavior from ‘The Man’ and Dean, tight
hair-dos and sneaky seduction from Gretchen, oh you naughty girl.

We’re passed half way on the new season premieres that are happening this week.  There are a few more on the horizon though, like Masterchef New Zealand which returns on Sunday the 20th of February on TV One. I suspect Marcus Lush’s North will also appear there as well.  However, to whet your appetite for Masterchef, Simon Gault has his Intrepid Journey at 8:30pm on One. That, of course, if you’re not watching TV 2’s new super-powered show in No Ordinary Family. Bones returns to TV3 at 8:30 as well.


Before those, Police 10-7 is back on 2, Nestle New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker is back on 3 and American Dad is back, albeit on Four. Futureama, The Cleveland Show and South Park also all return to the new channel tonight.

The show of the night though is An Idiot Abroad at 9:30pm on TV3. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you love Ricky Gervais, it’s a must watch.

On Four, new comedy The Good Guys debuts at 9:30pm as well.

And if you don’t have Sky and you’ve managed not to listen to the radio, read an online news site, Facebook or Twitter, then Prime has highlights from the Halberg Awards from 11:30pm.

What are you watching tonight?

As is usually the case, it should be TV One’s night tonight. Packed to the Rafters returns at 8:30pm. Last night in Australia, their fourth season started with 1.9m viewers. Yep, we’re an entire season behind. 

Following Rafters is a doco on William and Kate’s romance.  If you don’t particularly care about that Drop Dead Diva starts over on TV2, following a night of comedy that begins with Two and a Half Men at 7:30 followed by Scrubs, Big Bang Theory and Cougar town.

It’s reality on TV3 with Sudden Impact and Triple Zero Heroes from 7:30 and the drama kicks off at 8:30 with SVU and Sons of Anarchy.

Four has The Biggest Loser from 7:30 for two hours and then Covert Affairs and Friday Night Lights.

Prime has Got to Dance and Wife Swap from 8:30 after that awful program Supernanny.

What are you watching tonight?

It’s new season time.  Particularly exciting if you love seeing New Zealand content on television!

Tonight marks a host of new shows and really, it should be TV3 and Four owning the night. I’m particularly excited about seeing two Kiwi shows on TV3. Firstly, Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger at 8:00pm on 3. The new reality series that features James Coleman and Greg Page redesigning everyday household items. Spectacularly blowing things up Mythbusters styles from what I could tell from the promo so I’m desperately hoping it lives up to it’s expectations.

Secondly, South Pacific Pictures new show The Almighty Johnsons at 9:30pm on 3.  You can read our thoughts on the pilot here.  We love it and second time around we’re looking forward to picking up things we missed first time around.

On Four, Community also starts at 8 which is a bit unfortunate with its competition but if you’ve got a PVR, find the record button for this one.

Four also has a new series of Top Chef. Just Desserts probably won’t have the same pressure to perform as Top Chef did on 3 and is a good alternative to the other shows that are on.

And if crime, drama or reality aren’t your thing, there is alway Expedition Antartica on Prime at 8:35pm.

If you can’t get enough medical dramas then Mercy begins on Four at 9:30, but make sure you set your recorder so you don’t miss The Almighty Johnsons over on 3.

TV2 finally brings back the cancelled Dirty Sexy Money at 10:30pm.

All in all, a relatively good night on television. How the ratings reflect the quality of 3 and Four’s programming will be interesting.

Being it January about to rock into February every 2 seconds on the TV you have the ‘TV season’ preview with lots of little clips from the soon to be on air shows all strung together with shots of the stars all moving about to some heart warming little ditty. Now I was watching the TV2 preview the other day when it caught my attention that there is yet another ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ about to bust its way back into our living rooms (most likely on a Tues or Thurs) for the gazillionth time.

When is enough, enough with some of these shows! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the reality – and I use that term VERY loosely- TV show but how many times can you do a show like this. It’s like watching a film for the first time, you’re like ‘Yeah that was a good movie’, then they do a remake of that same film, you are then all ‘hmm, not as good as the original but I’ll roll with it’. BUT THEN they remake it again but all they do is change the meaningless supporting cast and extras – most of whom who cant remember their names or anything of significance that they did –so by now you’re all pissed off, and feeling ripped off as if someone has sat you down in-front of the TV and play ‘This is the song that never ends’ sung by Lambchops (whatever happened to that show) and being told you have to be entertained by this!! Water-cooler talk the next day at work goes from being ‘Did you see what happened on that show last night’ to ‘Am I the only one who feels like they are experiencing Groundhog Day?’.

Now I actually quiet like Gordon Ramsay, but when he is in shows like ‘The F Word’ and not having the living day-lights edited out of him in any reality show. If you have seen him in other shows you’ll know that the yelling angry mother-swearing is something that he is playing up, most likely to fulfill his contractual obligations.

Back in the day when they were only a couple of seasons into Hell’s Kitchen they used to play the unedited dinner service at 11.30pm and boy did that shed light on what really happened, I say shed light when what I mean is it was like having a full circle of flood lights blaring onto the situation and having all your hopes of the ‘reality’ of the show nuked.

Another thing that gets me with the show is how predictable it is, in each season there will be an ad for an upcoming episode where Ramsay or the Voice Over will say something to the affect of ‘We/I have never done this in Hell’s kitchen  before’, would almost put money on it if I didn’t need it for something else. But also my Nostradamus skills tell me that once again in the upcoming season, plates will be thrown, someone will storm out, someone will be kicked out and come back and grovel for mercy to God Ramsay and the mystery man that is Jean Philippe will mutter under his breath of how incompetent the contestants are as he has to tell diners once more that they’ll have better luck going to the gold arches.

Hell’s Kitchen is starting to have more seasons than Dante’s Hell has levels. Why oh why oh why must we hellishly suffer

Tonight we were at the preview screening of South Pacific Pictures’ brand new comedy/drama The Almighty Johnsons which debuts on February 7th at 9:30pm on TV3. 

Before going into the premiere, I’d only seen the trailer and thought that the show probably wasn’t going to be my cup of tea.  That being said, I was definitely curious to see what the creators of Outrageous Fortune, James Griffin and Rachel Lang, were up to next. 

The introduction of the show is a little bit like an Outrageous Fortune season premiere: if you’re offended by sex, nudity (often of the close up nipple shot variety), swearing and more sex, then you’ll almost certainly switch off before the first ad break.  After that, it gets a lot more tame and a lot more interesting and my thoughts of Outrageous Fortune fade well into the distance.  The show is so, so different.  

Without getting into specifics first – and putting the potentially offensive aspects to one side –  I really enjoyed the show and am looking forward to the rest of the season. 

The characters/cast

When was the last time you saw a TV show with only strong male leads?  I’m trying very hard to think of one – Kiwi or otherwise. For years now it’s all been about women taking control and being the man of the house.  Men have regularly been portrayed as the weaker sex and the butt of the jokes. 

The Almighty Johnsons has not one but five strong male leads who each have their flaws, their strengths (and not just their superpowered ones) and are actually likable.  For me to stick with a show, it’s all about me liking the characters and caring about what happens to them.  So many Kiwi shows have had a great basis for a story but I’ve felt so let down by the characters who are often cold and distant.  Rachel Lang and James Griffin have had this incredible knack of creating characters who are realistic and lovable and I think they’ve done this again with The Almighty Johnsons

Tim Balme and Ben Barrington stood out the most to me but all the male actors worked really well.  I even could make the mental switch from seeing Jared Turner as naked-Ben in Go Girls to his new role as Ty.

Supporting them are some nice female characters – I really liked Keisha Castle-Hughes’ character as the cute flatmate with a crush on one of the brothers who doesn’t quite have the guts to tell him.  I wasn’t sure I’d like seeing Keisha on the small screen.  The last time I saw her (not in the print gossip columns, red carpets or magazines) was actually The Whale Rider.   Keisha is still a star and I think the show will remind us again of why we loved her.  Roz Turnbull plays the wife of the oldest brother and we had a little chat before going into the show.  I’m so, so embarrassed to admit that I forgot she played Rochelle on Outrageous Fortune until afterwards.  She’s gorgeous in person and nothing like Rochelle… but I digress! 

The supernatural elements

I was a little worried early in the pilot that the show could go quite B-grade with special effects or superpowers or go all Xena on us but I was able to relax.  The superpowers – while interesting and with lots of scope for potential usage – aren’t the sole focus of the show and their powers are still rather limited (but will grow).  Side point: the red sea was well done.

The storyline

There’s lots of scope for all sorts of stories and directions for where the show can go, as well as having a clearly defined overriding arc.  It’s a show where superheroes inhabit our world (not Gotham city) and have everyday struggles too.  There’s lots of mystery, intrigue and back story (Are the parents still alive? Who else are gods? Who’s the soulmate?).

If you’re into history and mythology, there’s lots of room for you to read up on Norse Gods and their fates.  I don’t know anything about it so was left vaguely guessing as to who the mysterious women in the show are.

Miscellaneous comments

I’d so love it if Mount Hobson was used in a promo for the show like it was in the premiere.  Even if it isn’t, Aucklanders will laugh because they know how often the mountain has some sort of rude symbol or message on its side, clearly visible from the Southern Motorway. 

It looked like parts were filmed in Woodhill Forest, or near Muriwai Beach in the forest.

Was it deliberate irony that we’re told the Norse Gods fled from religious persecution by moving to New Zealand yet Axl lives in a flat right next door to a church?

The most shocking moment

No, it wasn’t the sex.  It was a little ground-breaking moment that I’ve never seen on TV before and one which I thought was potentially quite empowering for women who have been through it.  Kudos to the writers for including this in there (and for making you laugh with a great punchline about it afterwards.)  I’ll leave this for you to see and give your thoughts on without spoiling it. 

Any things I didn’t like?

There’s a lot packed into the first episode that I really felt like I needed to see it again to pick up on more things.  I felt that Dean O’Gorman’s character’s storyline was a little rushed and I was a bit confused about what was going on there initially.  Like Lost, I feel like I’ll get more out of the show if I researched a bit up on the mythology and hope that there will be lots of online discussion about theories on the show so I can get more out of it.   

Overall thoughts

The Almighty Johnsons really do have the potential to be the new family that Kiwis tune in to watch and talk about for the next five plus years to come.   

The Almighty Johnsons debuts on February 7th at 9:30pm on TV3. 

Two years ago, I wrote a blog about how crap NZGT was. I reckon it should’ve been on TVONE, because it would’ve got better ratings, and whatnot. I mean, it didn’t do bad, but it would’ve done better on TVONE or TV2.

As for the hosts, I didn’t think that Jason Reaves wasn’t a good choice. He was too bland, and made the show unwatchable. Andrew Mulligan was okay. He wasn’t my choice in host. He’s more of a sports host. But he gave it a good shot.

Personally, if I had it my way, the host would’ve been Jason Gunn. Because he did a good job on Mcdonalds Young Entertainers. But that’s my opinion. I’m not sure whether or not he would host if it were to be on TVONE, but they could’ve tried it out for at least one season.

Please tell me what you think.

If there is one thing that everyone around the world has in-common with one another, no matter race, creed, age or money status, it would have to be cake. Cake, just say the word and you go ‘hmmm cake’. Its perfect for celebrating, comforting, mourning, catching up with people or just for the hell of it. I enjoy making cake, making a perfect cake really becomes  an art form and to have completed the labor of love that is creating  beautifully moist, light pillows of chocolate, spongy goodness married with lashings of cream, sweet juicy berries and decadent ganache  is enough to send your eyes rolling into the back of your head.

Now I know that some of you might be a tad sick of cake due to being forced to eat great aunt’s dry Christmas fruit cake but if there is one show that fills the cake fix it would have to be ‘Ultimate Cake Off’. Yes it is a show on the Food Network so if you don’t have Sky you might have to get your foodie buddy to record it for you (it’s on Sundays at 4.30).

The Show has 3 teams of 5 (you really only see the team captain) who all work together for some baking or cake store and they must compete against one another to make a cake for a client who is having some big event. But this is not just any old 3 layer sponge jam and cream cake we are talking about, oh no no no no, these cake have to be at least 5 feet (no, that is not a typo, I did say 5 feet), they weigh up to amounts like 400lb, they are architecturally designed, covered in tones of fondant and fondant sculptures, and complete with electronics within the cake.

Everything is over the top but that is the deliciousness of the show, you will be sitting there amazed at what people can do with cake and sugar. And of course being a reality show competition thingy there is cut away interviews where the contestants are telling you what is quite obviously happening right in-front of you just in case you cant see, they can also talk about how they are so much better than everyone else and how all their hopes and dreams they have had since they were a just twinkle in their father’s eye, are pinned on them winning the $10,000. And of course we cant forget the omnipotent, omniscient, supreme judges who watch the competitors every move and give piercing looks behind their backs.

If you have a lazy, late Sunday afternoon with nothing to do and you don’t want to have to turn on your brain I recommend this show, the cakes are true works of art and will leave you inspired for making that next birthday cake. Is it extravagant? Is it very American? Does is it have grown men crying over cake? YES!!! but that’s why ‘Ultimate Cake Off’ takes the cake. (dumb, lame, shameful pun….but so worth it)                      

Hey ya’ll!! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that your New Years celebrations tonight go off spectacularly. But before I run off into the horizon that holds 2011 I thought I’d just quickly post my final 2 cents for 2010.

One of the most common New Years resolutions people make is to loose weight and sadly it’s one of the most failed resolutions. Loosing weight is HARD! There is no quick fix, it takes determination, a lot of sweat and the discipline to resist the bombardment of temptation that is under our noses everyday. Now this has got me thinking about all the food programs we have on our screens today. There are plenty of biggest loosers, what’s really in our food, super-size vs super-skinny and Jamie Oliver crying every two minutes about people eating chips but for everyone of these shows designed to encourage healthy eating there are at least 3 shows that show us how to cook and eat very decadently.

How to bake the sweetest cupcake, how to bast your chicken in an ocean of butter, a million uses for a whole pint of cream and all of it washed down with the right bottle of wine. We all know that obesity is on the rise and I am all for people learning how to make their own food rather than relying on take-outs but is the fact that food TV is very popular just putting more temptation in our faces? So many of the recipes demonstrated are great for special occasions and a little treat every once in awhile but does daily viewing of food make us think more about food which we all know leads to more eating.

I watch a lot of these shows for inspiration and new ideas but I will admit that once I have watched one I find myself walking to the pantry for a peck and this is not always a bad thing but is it helpful, especially when I am not hungry and reaching for the chocolate after watching NZ hottest home baker repeats while eating me lunch.

It’s great to encourage people to get into their own kitchens but is there enough balance of healthy and indulgent recipes demoed, are theses shows making us think more about food than we normally would? What do you think?

Well a happy, festive New Year to you all and I’ll catch you in 2011!…………now where did I put that chocolate….?