Ultimate Summer Cook-Off (Food Network)

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Ultimate Summer Cook-Off (Food Network) – Premieres 5th August

A cooking competition where six chefs go head-to-head over 4 weeks in a barbecue based competition to win the grand prize of $25k.

The show is split into two rounds. In the first, the chefs have 30 minutes to make  6 portions of the item required. Before they begin cooking the chefs also have to select a cooler at random which contains an ingredient they have to incorporate into the final dish. The when the food is prepared, tasted and judged, the winner gains an advantage for the next round.

In round two the chefs have 60 minutes to create two versions of the same dish. One set to a certain set of parameters and the other to their own creation. During this round the winner from the last is given access to a selection of ingredients only available to them. And at the end of the round the worst performer is eliminated from the competition.

For a Food Network competition, this one does seem to have more of a focus on how and why the competitors are cooking their variations of the dishes. Which makes it one of the more of the interesting cooking competitions that they’ve released. That said it’s doesn’t have any unique twists like Sugar Rush to make it stand out from the rest, though if you like this type of programme it does the job.

3.6/10

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Ultimate Ninja Challenge (Discovery)

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Ultimate Ninja Challenge (Discovery) – Premieres 5th August

A survival show where nine competitors are put through a 24 day challenge, split into eight parts that are devised by Jinichi Kawakami. Kawakami is recognised as the last living ninja, and each of the tasks the competitors tackle are based on the training principles of the ninja.

In the opening episode the nine are split into three teams of three, where they are dropped of in various parts of the Pacific Northwest. They are then given the guidelines of the task, where they have to work as a team to survive for an unspecified amount of time, and if they fail the are eliminated from the competition.

When the time limit is up the survivors are collected, split into new teams and put straight into their next task.

For a survival show, this lacks the watchability of programmes like Naked & Afraid or Alone. Mainly due to the slow pacing of it all, and the real lack of any jeopardy to the tasks given. Altogether it makes it a bland bit of viewing.

4.1/10

Making It (NBC)

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Making It (NBC) – Premieres 31st July

A competitive arts & craft show, hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, where eight arts & craftists go against each other in the bid to be crowned the Master Crafter and win $100k.

Each episode consists of two rounds, in the first the contestants are given three hours to create something within a theme. Then after the time is up, their work is judged and the best performer earns themselves a lovely wee patch.

The next round is the Master Maker round, where Poehler and Offerman tell the contestants what they need to make, all while never once saying the time limit they have. Where at the end of the round all the work is judged, and the best performer gets themselves a patch and the last place contestant gets knocked out.

All together, the show is like a mix between Bake Off and Trashformers. As well as being the only US programme made in that style to have really captured the twee, laid back, winning isn’t everything vibe of Bake Off. It’s an easy bit of viewing, though one you’d have to be in a particular mood to watch.

4.3/10

The Grand Hustle (BET)

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The Grand Hustle (BET) – Premieres 19th July

A show that is more than a little similar to The Apprentice, this has rapper and entrepreneur T.I. putting 16 business types in competition. Where the last person standing is offered a job within his company and six figure wage.

The show starts off like The Partner, where the contestants all arrive at the house they will be sharing and end up meeting T.I., who goes through what he’ll be looking for in the winning person.

T.I then reveals that weeks challenge and time limit, where he splits the field into four groups and sends them on their way. After following the contestants and occasionally cutting back to T.I., who’s watching the action in a special monitoring room. The teams return where T.I reveals the losing team, then gets eliminates the weakest member.

For what it is, the programme doesn’t stray that far from the business competition show format, though this one does seem slightly more tilted toward the confessional interview angle to add any drama. Altogether, it does what you’d expect, but it doesn’t come across as something you’d go out of your way to watch.

3.6/10

Sugar Rush (Netflix)

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Sugar Rush (Netflix) – Premieres 13th July

A competitive baking show that adds a new wrinkle to the genre, where four teams go head-to-head as they try to win the $10k prize.

The competition is split into three rounds, and before the competition starts, the judges reveal the theme of the episode. Where everything made has to fall into that remit.

To add to the challenge the teams have to complete the first two round within a three hour time limit, where any time left over gets added to the three hours allotted for the third and final round.

Before the first round of cupcake production starts, the judges introduce an added stipulation they have to incorporate within their cupcakes. And during the round as soon as the teams finish, they stop the clock for the judges to taste the food.  Where they then instantly lead into the second round of confectionaries.

When all the teams have finished the first round, the judges then announce which team has been eliminated, leaving the remaining three teams to continue on with the second round. After all three teams finish the second round the judges eliminate another team leaving two to go head to head.

In the final round the judges introduce another stipulation, and the teams have three hours, plus the time they save over the first rounds to produce a cake to fulfil the judges requirements. Then at the end of the show, both cakes are sampled and the winner is crowned.

For a cooking show it’s a decent addition to the genre, with the time management aspect leading to some teams underdelivering to earn more time for a round they might not get to. It’s a nice tactical element you don’t usually see.

If you like cooking competitions it definitely one to check out.

4.9/10

Carnival Kings (Cooking Channel)

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Carnival Kings (Cooking Channel) – Premieres 12th July

Hosted by chef Richie Farina, this is a mix between Carnival Cravings with Anthony Anderson and Big Bad BBQ Battle, where Ritchie challenges a carnival food stall owner to a competition as to who can make the best version of their signature dish in two hours.

It starts off with Richie heading to a carnival, where his competition shows the dish he will be going against, along with showing how its made. After Richie meets the challenger and the smack talk is exchanged, he heads off to visit other vendors to sample what they’re making, and to get some inspiration. Richie then returns to his food truck where he makes the dish that he’s devised, and after it’s been sampled, notes what parts need to be fine tuned.

The show finishes off with the competition, where Ritchie and the challenger have two hours to create 30 potions of their dish. Then the crown of carnival attendees judge whose food is best, and a winner is crowned.

For a short 20 minute show it goes along at a decent pace, and has enough variation in the programme to keep your interest. For what it is it’s a lot more enjoyable than most of the current food competition shows.

3.8/10

TKO: Total Knock Out (CBS)

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TKO: Total Knock Out (CBS) – Premieres 11th July

An obstacle course game show hosted by Kevin Hart, where five competitors go against each other in the chance to win some lovely cash.

In the show each competitor has one run on the course, where along with the obstacles, the people not running get to man Takeshi Castle style projectiles to knock the people off balance.

During the run the competitor has to go through four stages, Where if they fall off once they get to try again to complete it, but if they fail again they are given a one minute time penalty, and made to move onto the next stage. After completing the run their final time has all the time penalties added and are placed on the leaderboard.

By the end of the show the 4th place runner picks up $1k, 3rd gets $2.5k, 2nd receives $5k and winner earns $50k. And if they have one of the top four times in the series are invited back for the grand final for the chance to get $100k.

The show is like a mix between Ninja Warrior, Wipe Out and Takeshis Castle. And with Hart flitting between encouraging and mocking the contestants while they run the course, it all comes across as a bit of family friendly Saturday early evening programming. It not something you’d go out of your way to watch, bit it’s a piece of entertaining fluff that you’d have on as background viewing.

4.4/10