Masterchef has effortlessly reached new heights of sentimentality and melodrama. Just a short series ago, all we had to endure was a mildly watery eye in the waiting room after an arduous task was completed, or a slightly dizzy phonecall to a partner to say they'd made it through (followed by the ubiquitous hysterical screaming down the line while the contestant stood looking dazed and confused or grinning like a mad thing while choking back tears).
In the new, re-vamped, over-worked series, our patience is being stretched to new limits. In the first programme we were subjected to a wholel new range of friends and relatives hugging, laughing, crying, high-fiving, back-slapping and generally expressing unrepressed, nay wanton, encouragement to their warrior cook. If there was any dignity left in the programme it is safe to say that it has been chucked out with the vegetable peelings and the old set.
Such was my weary exhaustion at the end of the viewing hour, I did not even bother to go back to it till tonight. Things have not improved. I missed the first 15 minutes getting children to bed, but it quickly became clear I had actually missed nothing at all (though I'm glad I did not miss the spectacle of Gregg Wallace in a grey tweed flat cap and green barbour trying to do 'country' up in the Scottish Highlands). The levels of camaraderie seem to have no limits now. At every excuse, they are all embracing - men as bad as women - and punching the air and jumping up and down and looking aghast and surprised and flaring eyes and nostrils while clasping hands to mouth. And let's not forget the mantras of disappointment (I'm just not ready to go home'), or of success ('I just don't want this to stop) together with the ever-more irritating breathy voice-over of India Fisher announcing that the contestants 'are about to face their toughest test yet'. You don't say. As if all this wasn't disturbing enough, John and Gregg have clearly been instructed to ham up their naturally hammy characters even more. We are now watching caricatures of caricatures with ever more face-pulling, frowning, head-shaking and raised eyebrows. And even they are now embracing in a way never seen before. Two have become inextricably one. Certainly when it comes to leering at one contestant's perfect skin and perfect cleavage. No wonder they put her through. Oh, and just in case one should be in any doubt as to the deity which can be achieved by becoming a Masterchef Champion, a 3-line whip was drawn up of previous winners, all now looking suitably smug and enjoying their new status of judge rather than contender.
By the end of it all I was left with a bad case of indigestion and a strong desire to scream, intelligence duly insulted. Masterchef has become the latest victim to the misery that is reality TV. Shame on the BBC.