These days, viewers’ TV tastes are clear.
We like cooking and crime-solving and – in the summer – game shows. So why not combine them?
Welcome to “Crime Scene Kitchen,” arriving Wednesday (May 26), to whisk us from one season to the next. At 8 p.m., “The Masked Singer” – Fox’s top-rated regular-season show – has its finale; at 9, “Kitchen” arrives, as part of a summer stuffed with games and food.
“‘MasterChef’ and ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ are very successful on Fox,” said Rob Wade, the network’s chief of unscripted shows. “But we wanted to try a different genre.”
Duos start by examining a kitchen where something has been baked. A few clues linger – some crumbs, some unwashed utensils, a few partly used packages. Contestants must guess what was made, then try their own variation; accuracy counts, but so does taste and appearance.
Judging them are two experts, Curtis Stone and Yolanda Gampp. The host, Joel McHale, is “obsessed with food,” Wade says, but weaker in this area.
“I cook a lot of meat and a lot of fish,” McHale said. “But the world of baking is so complicated and incredible. It’s like magic; it’s like science.”
And it fits the format neatly. More than other kitchen skills, Stone said, baking has lots of turning points for decision and improvisation. “You start with one thing and then you can go in a lot of different directions. The end result is often very, very different.”
That’s a good fit for Gampp, who says she’s self-taught. She did learn from her father (a baker) and studied briefly at a culinary-arts school, but soon quit that and focused on her own baking business. After she drew attention on a TV show (“SugarStars,” in her native Canada), producers of that show linked with her for “How to Cake It,” a YouTube channel that grew to four million subscribers.
A similar background could be helpful to contestants, she said. “A big advantage of being self-taught is you learn through your mistakes …. Schooling is great, but some people just do better on their own.”
Stone took a different approach – working under top restaurant chefs. After cooking with his grandmother in his native Australia, he moved to London at 18 and worked at key places (Savoy Hotel, Chef Royal, Marabelle), before becoming a TV chef.
For McHale, the improvisation spirit works well; he’s alternated between acting (especially on “Community”) and hosting. “It was (both) dreams come true,” he said. “Sure, I never saw my family, but I like doing stand-up and acting and then yelling at bakers. It’s fun.”
He has interesting bakers to yell at, with six duos introduced in each of the first two weeks. There’s a mother-daughter, a mother-son, two friends who met in the military and more.
“We’ve got pie-makers from Missouri,” said producer Conrad Green. “We’ve got high-end chefs from Vegas and everything in between.” All trying to detect some crumby clues.
There’s a quick game-show surge at the start of TV’s summer season – alongside the usual competition shows. Here’s a sampling of early arrivals:
– Fox Tuesdays: “Mental Samurai,” 9 p.m. (starting May 25); “Lego Masters,” 8 p.m. (June 1).
– Fox Wednesdays (May 26): “Crime Scene Kitchen,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays.
– ABC Wednesdays (May 26): “Press Your Luck,” 8 p.m., “The $100,000 Pyramid,” 9.
– ABC Sundays (reruns on May 30, with season openers June 6): “Celebrity Family Feud,” 8 p.m.; “The Chase,” 9; “To Tell the Truth,” 10.
– ABC Mondays (June 13): “The Celebrity Dating Game.”
– NBC Mondays (May 31): “Small Fortune,” 10 p.m.