It has come to this: It’s the weekend of Valentine’s Day and on TV the big deal is two cooking shows battling for your attention and love.
Both are Canadian versions of franchises from elsewhere and both, of course, are all about passion and suchlike feelings. In fact we’re told this so often on both shows that you could forget there exist old-fashioned romances about meeting a soulmate. It’s all about food passion.
The Great Canadian Baking Show (Sunday, CBC 8 p.m. and CBC Gem) returns for its fourth season, with two new hosts and the same format as before, one that clings precariously to the original British template. At this point, the format is a bit tired. There is all that forced jollity, now enacted by comedian/actor/writers Alan Shane Lewis and Ann Pornel as host, and of course the emphasis on contestants doing everything for family and heritage. There is hardly a moment that passes without a fond, wistful memory of childhood food. What you get in this dynamic is very mushy.
The Canadian version, with this season made during the pandemic, hasn’t made the major mistake made by the original. That mistake was turning the technical challenge into something elaborate, cruel and remote from traditional baking. Here, it’s still the coziness of cake week and nobody is ever cruel. Judges Kyla Kennaley and Bruno Feldeisen talk very softly, as ever. Information about what happens is embargoed, but it would not be shocking, in any case. The show is a gentle kind of sugar rush and some people love that.
MasterChef Canada (Sunday, CTV, 9 p.m.) is also back with a new season. And this time there is an interesting twist. Judges Michael Bonacini, Alvin Leung, Claudio Aprile and the producers have invited back 12 former competitors for a second chance at winning the MasterChef title.
This means that in the years since they first competed, many have had culinary careers and are expected to be much better. There’s an extra-nifty twist in the first episode – the chefs are faced with the disastrous meal that got them eliminated last time, and told to do it better now.
Thus there are flashbacks, just like a fictional drama, and we see one contestant reminded of her failure and a judge, back then, sneering, “It just looks like barf.” Naturally there are brief portraits of the chefs and their background is covered, but this is a competitive show and has a much sharper edge than The Great Canadian Baking Show. That wouldn’t be hard. But in matters of food, like love, who are we to judge?
Also airing this weekend
Gespe’gewa’gi: The Last Land (Saturday, APTN) is a new, charming and instructive half-hour documentary series about the Mi’kmaq fishers of Listuguj, Que. Take note that this is not the high-drama and fear-inducing jeopardy of Deadliest Catch. It’s a loving and often funny portrait of a community where the work is harvesting salmon, crab, lobster and shrimp on the Gaspé Peninsula. It’s also about history, conflict with the provincial government, self-governance and self-sustainability. Not that it’s a sermon about anything. Produced by the production company that made Mohawk Girls, it provides a First Nations perspective and boy does it aim to seduce you.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sunday, HBO/Crave 11 p.m.) returns after being AWOL since mid-November. Oliver will have a lot to talk about, you might say. That’s fine, as long as his tendency to get juvenile is held in check.
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