Masterchef: the Professionals, comfortably the standout series in the BBC’s foody franchise, ended last Thursday with a tense finale which saw Ash (but, of course, you knew that already) come out on top. While I wish the contestants well in their future careers, their gastronomical abilities are not the reason that Masterchef is better than Match of the Day.
Quite simply, Masterchef is better than Match of the Day because of the cookery show’s (at least in the post-Grossman era) superior punditry. In Greg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr., Masterchef: the Professionals has a perfectly balanced pair of analysts. Big Greg, who has described himself as ‘the fat, bald bloke on Masterchef who likes pudding’, was a green grocer (his business was sold for £7.5Million) and is now a food critic. Michel Roux Jr. is the heir to a phenomenal culinary legacy and a two Michelin starred chef in his own right.
Essentially, then, Masterchef has an excellent cook and an excellent eater.
Match of the Day, on the other hand, has, to extend an analogy, three excellent cooks* and no one who’s really any good at eating.
The effect of this is that analysis on Match of the Day is conducted on an individual level. The mistakes or successes of (Barclays) Premier League players are dissected, while the contextual backdrop to the presented highlights are ignored. Rather like Michel Roux explaining why (yet another) soufflé has failed to rise, Hansen, Shearer et al as expert proponents of the art they are paid to describe do so absolutely in accordance with their own experiences. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this; it is interesting to know why soufflés go soggy and Hansen, as a fine defender himself, is superbly qualified to explain why David Luis is in the wrong place and why Robin van Persie’s movement makes him hard to pick up (that he does so in accordance with his own convictions is an unavoidable but not, in itself, undesirable consequence of this – MRJ does the same on Masterchef).
That, though, is the limit of Hansen’s punditry power. Detailing the experience of a game as it appears to a fan is beyond him. That requires a fat, possibly bald, bloke with lots of experience of watching football.
* It is easy, but important not, to forget what excellent players Lineker, Shearer and Hansen (in particular) were. Also, look at this: