When someone describes a show as “wholesome” or “family friendly” many of us roll our eyes in disgust. Visions of hokey, saccharine-sweet programming you’d find on the Hallmark Channel or some fringe cable network dance through your head. And it’s usually the worst dance you can possibly imagine.
This does not apply, however, to FOX’s Masterchef Junior.
The series, produced and starring notoriously cranky and acerbic chef Gordon Ramsay, is one of the most delightful and yes, wholesome shows on television. There’s an air of happiness, creativity, team work and fun that surrounds this competition series. The usual tropes of backstabbing, arrogance, cockiness and talking trash is virtually nowhere to be found — and that’s what makes this series great.
The focus of Masterchef Junior isn’t the drama of clashing, often annoying personalities, but the culinary genius of the kids in the competition. And let’s get one thing straight – these kids are culinary geniuses. The complex nature of the dishes prepared on this show are mind boggling. Multiple times throughout the Season 3 premiere judges (and chefs) Ramsay and Graham Elliott comment how the technique and creativity is the kind they’d find amongst their adult peers. These compliments are given to kids who aren’t even teenagers yet.
Whoever lights and shoots Masterchef Junior deserves an awards because they make every single dish look like the most delicious thing anyone has ever created. It’s hard not to drool over the dishes, particularly the “mystery box” dishes the contestants prepared at the beginning of the show.
One thing does need to be corrected from the earlier part of this review — personalities are a focus of this series, just not in the way you’d expect. The “interviews” with the contestants are sincere and sweet. These kids genuinely care for one another — they cry when they’re fellow contestants get eliminated, they’re concerned when they get injured (as evidenced on the premiere when a contestant suffered a pretty nasty knife wound), and they help each other out. Instead of instilling the “out for myself” mantra into kids like most contests do, Masterchef Junior celebrates team work, friendship and honesty. Best of all, they do this sincerely and honestly – no saccharine and disingenuousness involved.
The most surprising aspect of the series is Ramsay himself. We’re so used to the volatile, foul-mouthed Brit from Hell’s Kitchen that the thought of him working with children seems horrifying. However, Ramsay is absolutely amazing with the children. He’s supportive, sincere, and heartfelt, but still delivers truthful and insightful criticisms. He does not hold back his thoughts, he just tempers them.
Masterchef Junior is a fantastic hour of television that really caters to all ages without pandering to any specific demographic. It’s a sweet, enjoyable, fascinating and yes, wholesome, program that we can’t recommend enough.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Masterchef Junior airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on FOX.
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom