I’m no expert on making television involving children, but I imagine that there are some immutable rules. One would probably be never ask the children to do something you wouldn’t ask an adult to do. Another one might be make sure you keep them to manageable numbers because in a large group one might be easy to lose. And a third one might be to not expose the children to adults who are, let’s say, obsessed with themselves and obsessed with showing large chunks of themselves to the general public. Yet that’s pretty much what happened when the kids were taken to Venice Beach and were subjected to a group of very strange men, who, it seems obvious, are no longer that attracted to societal boundaries. What next: a walking tour of Kings Cross, Sydney? Cooking for the inmates of Goulburn Gaol?

Yet the weirdest part was that the four musclemen chosen to parade themselves in front of a group of prepubescent children were chosen because of their similarity to the actual four judges! And what is most strange about this arrangement is that there is a man in the USA who hangs out at Venice Beach day after day, working out almost endlessly, trying to perfect his physique, only to end up resembling George, who has honed his physique simply by the two tried and tested methods of eating lots and doing not much else. In my opinion, if you’re working out all the time and end up looking like George, you may need to tweak your routine a little.

Once the soft pornography shoot was over and the two teams were picked, it was time for the first challenge, which, in the words of George, was “The most American dish there is to offer”. A claim like that would usually lead one to think of such culinary luminaries as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein, but it turned out the most American dish was not in fact the victim of a cannibalistic serial killer, but rather a hamburger. And that burger would be cooked on the beach, with the public to decide which was the best, in a scene strikingly similar to another episode of another series of Masterchef.

The red team seemed pretty focused and rattled off a list of ingredients that befitted a burger. The blue team, however, struck trouble early in the form of dissent. While the majority of the blue team were satisfied with making gourmet burgers, Jack put his size 15 foot down and said “My name is Jack, and I’m hungry. So let’s call our burgers Hungry Jacks!” Notwithstanding that they were in the USA trademark law knows no bounds and as soon as the lawyers turned up and made suitable threats, Jack withdrew his objections.

The kids threw themselves into the burger making contest with vim and vigour as middle aged men nearby threw themselves into their exercise routines with vim, vigour and very little clothing. The scoring was neck and neck the whole way through, as each team found their fans, and each team found their detractors. However, what this challenge did, and it was only a small contribution to the wellbeing of the entire globe, but what this challenge did was, for a brief moment in time, it ensured there was a group of Americans whose mouths were stuffed full of food that, for once, they couldn’t speak. It may have been but a tiny gesture, but it was appreciated the world over. Actually it turned out that half of the customers were Australian, so wasted opportunity I think.

However, tragedy was soon to strike, when the red team ran out of beef, causing all the American customers to decry “Where’s the beef?” to the confusion of contestants and viewers alike. While numerous replacement opportunities walked by in the shape of dogs and homeless people, the red team instead opted to use the turkey mince. This was probably a good choice as it saved them the time needed for deboning and skinning the alternatives, yet the change in meat still put the red team well behind, and the blue team started to catch up, and eventually took over and won the challenge.

For losing, the red team were forced into one of the poorer areas of Los Angeles, where illegal Mexican immigrants battle each other for the very limited dollars in either the drugs trade, or the dressing like Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin from the movie the Three Amigos trade. They (the red team) were advised in the strongest possible terms that they would compete against each other cooking a prawn quesadilla, but with their own interpretation.

Greg Berber, owner of La Luz Del Dia restaurant, was one of those who would be judging the children, but he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Also judging were Greg’s mother and Uncle Frank (that sentence could be interpreted to read that Greg’s mother and uncle are the same person, a person called Frank, but we all know that this is unlikely and that I have just left out a comma and am too lazy to go back and put it in. Interestingly, this kind of comma is sometimes known as an Oxford comma). Questions should have been asked about whether, in a story line reminiscent of Hamlet, Uncle Frank killed Greg’s father just so he could get closer to Greg’s mother and take over the restaurant, but unfortunately it never occurred to the dullards who pose as judges on this show and so the opportunity was missed to solve one of the world’s most least interesting unsolved mysteries.

Anyway, the cooking began with Steven wearing a plastic glove to protect himself from the mummified chilli, which had Brendan Fraser kicking himself that it was so easy. Harry over spiced his guacamole, and spent the rest of the challenge rocking from one foot the other and weeping maniacally. Kieren admitted to Anna that he was struggling with the recipe, while Anna admitted to Kieren that she was struggling to tell him and Steven apart.

When it came to tasting, George and Matt sat down with Greg, Greg’s mum Beatrice, and Uncle Frank, with George and Matt intelligently sitting between the Hamletesque protagonists, lest they get their hands on some Hemlock. Harry was criticised by Matt for his lack of guacamole, while Steven was criticised for having low ph levels in his name, but George thought his dish was spectacular, so much so that he mixed his baseball and cricket metaphors when he said Steven “stepped up to the plate and hit it for six”. Matt thought there was something about Mireade that was a little bit too thick … her quesadilla that was, whereas Uncle Frank loved it as he eyed off Queen Beatrice. No one could find anything in Greta’s dish to criticise, so they picked on her hair instead, while with Kieren, well let’s just say they were confused as to why Steven was presenting another dish. After all the tasting was done and the scores were tallied, Harry was 3rd, Steven (or Kieren) was 2nd, and Greta was 1st again.

Next the show was off to the often controversial but never boring, well almost never boring, Disneyland. Closed for the day for the purposes of fumigation after claims that a couple of giant mice were roaming the various side shows and rides, the kids had free reign of the entire theme park save for the vault where Walt Disney’s head awaits a cure for not having a body and reanimation from the cryogenic hell it currently is in.

Gary welcomed them to Disneyland, the happiest place on earth outside of Nimbin, and claimed this was where memories were made, confounding decades of neuroscience. With Mickey Mouse standing silently by, the judges explained how the challenge would work: various ingredients were hidden about the theme park, including maple syrup, rocket, tomatoes, baby basil, lemon, sweet potato, apple, mozzarella, pecans, pretzels and sea bass (sans fricken laser beams no doubt), and they had 30 minutes to find and return with them, where they would have an hour to create two dishes.

But before they could start, 17 middle aged single men who live with their mothers came running up towards the kids, dressed as various forgotten cartoon characters, and hugs were enjoyed by all, as the teams were chosen.

As the ingredient collection was carried out, there were some ructions between Steven and Jack, as Jack was unable to control himself ate all of Steven’s carefully collected nuts, in a scene reminiscent of all the Chip and Dale classics brought to you by Walt Disney. Similar difficulties beset Kieren and Greta when they met up with Pocahontas, otherwise known as a hardworking actress in a skimpy costume, and Kieren could barely drag himself away to find the next food item. Meanwhile, Chandler was busy scaring Indigo with his snake.

Once the ingredients were collected the kids didn’t waste much time before starting the cooking. With only one hour to cook a dish they’d never tried before, with ingredients they’d never used before, in a location they’d never been to before, with the threat of a middle aged loner in a mouse suit grabbing them always in the back of their minds, this challenge was never going to be easy.

Romantic tensions were evident between Greta and Kieren, as Kieren told Greta to “don’t stress” and Greta told Kieren to “shut your face Steven”. Mireade and Madi were making a pretzel crusted sea bass, which was bound to make anyone who tasted it thirsty. Chandler claimed his dish was inspired by Disneyland because “it is nice and colourful and full of rodents”. Meanwhile Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny looked on from the other side of the razor wire fence, seething with jealousy, plotting their revenge.

Once the cooking was done, the children had to serve up their dishes one team at a time. Greta and Kieren served theirs first, and while Mini stayed silent the whole way through the tasting, the judges were effusive in their praise. Notwithstanding this success, Greta refused to hold Keiren’s hand on the way back. Jack and Steven were next, and after the initial confusion felt by the judges when they questioned why Kieren was back again, they got on with the tasting with relish, however criticised the boys for their lack of any relish. Madi and Mireade followed, but their fish was raw, although not as raw as Madi and Mireade felt after Anna’s scathing comments that the sweet potato chips “didn’t quite work”. What a cow!

So far Matt hadn’t found a dish he could die for, and nothing changed when Chandler and Indigo presented their dishes, though the judges could find nothing to complain about. They certainly thought they would have something to complain about when Zac brought up his probably raw fish, but it turned out that the hour waiting under a hot Florida sun had cooked the fish to perfection, as well as significantly increasing the risks of skin cancer. Lily and Harry were next, all the while being stalked by oversized, steroid ridden chipmunks.

Lining up for the verdict, each of the children mused about their positions on the ladder and their chances of gaining some points. Zac and Alysha grabbed 2 points for 3rd, Lily and Harry 4 points for 2nd, and Greta (again) and Kieren 6 points for 1st. Meanwhile, Chandler, who had come to the US in the lead, but saw all his points wiped mercilessly away on arrival, fumed, seethed, and plotted his revenge.

Junior MasterChef – Sun/Mon 7:30pm, Ch10.