Did I suffer through two episodes of Scrubs last night? Yes. Did I enjoy myself through two episodes of Better Off Ted? Of course. Did I watch Rena Sofer on NCIS? How could I not? What thrilled me most, though, was the return of Last Restaurant Standing. Season three of the BBC America show premiered last night, and it featured at least one curious change.
For those unfamiliar with the show, each season follows a bunch of two-person teams who want to open a restaurant. One person in the team has to run the front of house, and the other the kitchen. It's a pretty simple concept for a reality show, and while I've certainly had some issues here and there in past seasons, the idea is interesting enough and execution good enough to hold my interest.
As for the changes, the biggest thing we saw last night deals with exactly what the contestants will have the chance of winning. In past seasons the winner would only be entering into business with Raymond Blanc. He had helpers with him to judge the contestants, but it was he who had the last word. That is no longer true. This year, Sarah Willingham and David Moore will also be investors in the restaurant. This doesn't seem to put them on the same footing as Blanc, but it certainly gives them more of a say.
It will be interesting down the line to see exactly how that will affect things when it comes time to boot couples off the show. The other judges now having a stake in the outcome has to change the dynamic, but who knows at this point exactly how much.
What we did see last night with great certainty is that so many of the couples this season just have no idea what they're doing. The main task was for every team to cook a "signature" dish – it was a very basic, very standard sort of opening task on a cooking show. The specific requirements of such a task may very from show to show, but you would think that contestants going on to a show in which cooking plays a part would have a couple of recipes they were great at, and, failing that, at least know their way in a very basic fashion around a kitchen. That was not the case.
Last night we got the team who liked to cook fresh, seasonal food. They were using fresh peas but didn't know how to cook them or how to judge their readiness. There was one team that couldn't open a can – one of that team's members actually took a rather large knife and started trying to jam the knife into the top of the can in order to make a large enough hole to get the contents out. Another team's dish for the most part consisted of Scottish smoked salmon that had simply been removed from the package it was purchased in at the supermarket.
These sorts of things worry me. They feel like a setup. It's a little hard to accept that there were so few qualified people who applied to be on the show, so I wonder if the producers decided to toss a few ringers in. I'm not sure which is better – shallow applicant pool or us purposefully being given a few bad teams.
On the plus side, there are several teams this year that both seem to have a good concept of what they want their restaurant to be and how to actually cook. It seems as though season three of Last Restaurant Standing is going to take a lot of time to separate the wheat from the chaff, but once the show gets to the point where the teams involved all deserve to be there, I think it could prove just as good as past years.