What got me thinking of this was this past week's TNFNS, which eliminated Nikki despite the fact that Colombe was staggeringly terrible when she got her chance to perform in front of the judges. I would think that many who watched the show figured that Colombe would be on the chopping block, particularly considering the fact that she was close last week. Now, the cynical among you might say that Colombe is skating on her looks.
But the issue here is that we really aren't in a good position to be able to judge who should be eliminated, and this goes for all of the shows. We're not there 24/7 and we're not able to see what goes on in a way that allows us to form a full opinion. This is especially true because, as I mentioned in my gripe about Top Chef last week, it's very hard for us to be able to form a sound judgement about food. On American Idol, you can hear whether the person is a hack or not. We don't have that luxury with food. Licking your television screen will not get you any closer to the answer. (Although you will have a cleaner screen.)
We're at the mercy of the show's editor, who pulls together all of the footage, figures out what the important stuff is and then puts it together in a way that is designed to heighten the dramatic tension. Of course, dramatic tension = not knowing who's about to get booted. So there are probably going to be a few red herrings in there. Hell's Kitchen really has a habit of doing this, especially after they get done eliminating the no-brainers at the beginning. Of course, that's FOX, and I suppose I just assume blatant manipulation from them.
That's why the judges are so important on these programs. Yes, they have to be interesting characters in their own right. But the most important thing for them to be is trustworthy and clearly possessing the necessary expertise that allows them to act as the viewer's proxy. If we can't clearly see and believe in Tom Colicchio's palate, Gordon Ramsay's ability to run a kitchen or TVFF's Favorite FN Exec® Bob Tuschman's eye for on-air talent, we're never going to be able to fully buy in to the drama of the show. And if that's the case, why watch?
Got a thought on this? Always suspicious of that disclaimer that reads: "The judges' decision were made in collaboration with the show's producers?" Feel free to weigh in with a comment below.