My guilty TV treats are few, but I have to admit that Masterchef is among them.
I know it’s all as much an assembly-line exercise in entertainment as any other successful format, and follows a formula as slavishly as trainee sous-chefs have to precisely plate up their main courses to look delightful rather than delicious, but I like it.
From Gregg Wallace diving headlong into a dessert and John Torode doing that little cock of the head Jack Russell thing that means his tastebuds are not exactly tingling, all the way through to the big reveal when you try to predict who’s going to get the boot this time round, I’m in.
However, I am always left uneasy by the continuing question of the third plate.
Those in the Masterchef massive will know that one of the regular rounds involves the contestants cooking a two course meal for a waiting trio of experts – they could be restaurant critics, they could be previous celeb contestants. You may have noticed in the current season that tireless spotlight hogger Christine Hamilton, she of the scandal-hit MP hubby, always seems to be able to juggle her calendar when there’s a chance of a free bit of scoff.
Anyway, the sweating chefs slave through their recipes, all the time being reminded that cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this – it does, by the way, as anyone who has ever been camping with picky kids can testify – and then they dish up four plates. Three are for the guests, one is for John and Gregg. All clear so far?
Then there’s a follow shot as the trembling trier takes two plates on a long walk, and through some tricky swing doors, to lay their efforts before their diners.
And then they get straight on to the second course, while the third plate has magically appeared before the third critic and they are chowing down.
How did it get there? Does the contestant dash back to the kitchen and fetch it? It’s a long way, it’ll probably be cold by the time it gets back. Does a helpful runner bring it along? Does it magically levitate?
There are two ways they can go with this – either raid the petty cash and provide a little trolley so all three plates can be transported at once, or make carrying three plates in professional waiter style part of the test, and build in a little jeopardy.
In fact, the programme would be considerably enlivened by the addition of an obstacle course between kitchen and table, and the possibility of a full crash to the floor calamity before anyone got fed.
Then the test would be to come up with a replacement at five minutes’ notice, and trying not to fall back on beans on toast. And cooking, if you ask me, doesn’t get much tougher than that...