I caught three new shows this week. And let me begin with the one that I enjoyed the most: Masterchef Australia Season 3 (Star World). The best part about this food show is that it's about food. Yes, not all the food may be familiar to us (it certainly isn't to me), and if you're watching it for the first time, neither will all the culinary luminaries be as familiar to you as they are to the Australian contestants ("Oh my god, it's Maggie Beer! And I'm going to hug Maggie Beer! This is the most exciting moment of my life! Maggie! Maggie!" Er, who? Unless you determinedly follow Australia's food celebrities, you might be excused for not feeling weak at the knees at the mention of Maggie Beer).
But the interesting part is that despite all this, the show is very, very watchable. It's mounted on a grand scale with extravagant production values. Contestants don't burst into tears every two seconds. The judges (Gary, George, the two Matts) don't fight with each other. The back stories are not stretched. There's no unnecessary drama. Most of the drama is in the cooking — the settings, the dishes, the pressure under which everyone cooks. Contestants often cook in the open, even if it's pouring (judges, dripping wet, assess the cooks' handiwork, as the rain lashes down). They cook while racing against time (at the last minute, puddings fall on the floor and splatter, dishes remain unfinished — all this adding to the tight-as-a-bowstring tension).
The contestants keep striding about, confident and smiling, in battle-like formations, but to me, they look more like lambs to the slaughter. The judges are not nasty, but nor are they overly sympathetic. And they do wield the knife that can cut short the contestants' Masterchef dreams.
It's a tightly-paced, riveting show. And for those of you who are seriously into food/cooking, unmissable.
I wish I could say the same for Rakhi Sawant's new show called Ghazab Desh Ki Ajab Kahaniyan (Imagine). Here's the deal. Rakhi, wearing dresses which, if they were slightly tighter and shorter, would probably fit Barbie the doll, invites strange guests on the show and then quizzes them. In one of the episodes, she invited two warring neighbours from Banaras. How do the neighbours wage war? By sending ghosts to each other's houses. "Khoon ka badla khoon, aur bhoot ka badla bhoot!" cried one of them ("Repay blood with blood and ghosts with ghosts!"). He spoke of sending nine ghosts; the other said he'd retaliated by sending seven (though fewer in number, they were more powerful than the nine that had been sent to him, he claimed). I swear I'm not making this up.
On her part Rakhi pirouettes, tosses her hair, pulls faces, says strange things (I guess to match her strange guests), and generally comes across as, well, strange. The 'ajab kahaniyan' bit in the title is accurate. Trouble is, it's too accurate. You'd be better off watching those late night ads for suraksha chakras.
And finally. I saw India's Got Talent (Colors) in which Dharmendra makes his debut as a judge. The actor breaks into poetry at the drop of an act, and unfortunately for all of us, as one watches the show, one willy nilly keeps remembering him in films like Chupke Chupke and Sholay. As far as participants go, things are just beginning to warm up. India's Got Talent is one show that always gets more and more interesting as it moves along. So let's wait and watch.