Unfortunately, it looks as if The Rivals‘ producers grabbed a bunch of reality-TV tropes, chucked them in a blender and poured the results into the existing MKR mix, hoping to add zest. Manu and Colin head opposing houses competing for supremacy. Five pairs of contestants occupy each house, the same live-in approach as is adopted on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The teams are divided into fans and favourites, avid MKR devotees pitted against people who have previously appeared on the show, a set-up that recalls Survivor and The Block.
In a nod to The Voice, Colin and Manu act as mentors, although Manu also swaps hats to judge the meals with Pete. On the basis of the opener, where “mummy bloggers” Jenni and Louise, representing the House of Colin, have to present the first instant restaurant, not much mentoring is required. Colin suggests the inclusion of more prawns for the entree bisque and looks surprised when the “mum hack” of store-bought marshmallows in the strawberry mousse actually tastes OK.
All of this plays out accompanied by standard reality-TV elements: the shameless sponsor promotions; the annoying recaps; the pounding drums on the soundtrack designed to accentuate the suspense when, say, the duck hasn’t been rested long enough before being served.
What’s lost in the new construction are the early MKR rounds where the teams presented instant restaurants in their homes, one of the more entertaining aspects of the competition.
Yet some things remain the same. The main ingredient of MKR has always been conflict and, in the opener, the knives are out and the insults are flying before the main course. Because, as part of the favourites brigade, a couple of voluble, attention-seeking stirrers have been reintroduced: Sophia, from season four, and Romel, from season 10. Now united as a team, their presence suggests that the show is after fireworks.
Whether or not these tactics can revive interest in MKR remains to be seen, but the producers are clearly itching to ignite some nasty explosions in order to bring heat to the kitchen.
My Kitchen Rules: The Rivals season premiere is on Seven, Monday, 7pm.
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