MasterChef coming to America; The People Speak coming to the UK

Our monthly look at international format news.
November 1, 2009


MasterChef‘s recent run in Australia saw the cooking competition’s finale rack up a 3.72 million viewer average for its final hour, pushing it past Australia’s previous non-sports related ratings topper, Australian Idol. That, coupled with the involvement of super TV chef Gordon Ramsay, was the recipe needed to make the format the right dish for Fox in the U.S.

MasterChef will be coming to Fox via Reveille and Ramsay’s production shingle One Potato Two Potato. Shine International handles the format’s international distribution – Shine UK produces the most recent British version of the show, due to head to BBC 1 from BBC 2 in 2010. The show’s origins stretch back to 1990, airing in the UK until 2001 and then revamped by Shine in 2005. Currently, the show is the number one cooking format in the UK, with three iterations (MasterChef; MasterChef: The Professionals and Celebrity MasterChef) commissioned up to and including 2011 and with a fourth, Junior MasterChef, in production.

‘The format had already been reinvigorated by the UK, and with Australia’s mastery of it now we have a huge American sale,’ says Reveille co-managing director Howard T. Owens. ‘I’m sure that’s just the beginning of this franchise’s growth.’

The American version will more closely resemble Australia’s, which Owens says is larger in scale than the UK version. ‘With the Australian version, the idea was to make it a national search and to make it a cooking show about and for the people,’ he says. ‘They initially launched it on a broadcast network that embraced it as a broad network-ready reality show… As opposed to over-thinking why it worked, we’re taking what worked and bringing it here.’

As for Ramsay’s involvement, the extent is to be determined, but with Fox already airing his Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares series, it’s fair to say the net probably views another Ramsay-centered cooking show, especially one with the buzz of MasterChef, as a safe bet.

‘We view him to be the biggest cooking star in the world so we want him to touch the show in as many ways as possible, but the exact role is to be discussed with Gordon, his partners and the network,’ says Owens.

Advance PR has reference to a ‘unique U.S. spin,’ but as it’s still early days for development, Owens can’t elaborate. One notable difference from the UK version could involve brand integration. But Owens says the key priority at this point is to cook up the right creative mix for U.S. audiences.

‘There are a lot of natural brand integration possibilities,’ offers Owens. ‘But our first course of business is to get the show right for America. We’re going to try to launch this in a big way, and it’s all about getting the show right with the creative from the start.’


The saying goes that ‘history is written by the winners,’ but, as seen in History’s upcoming The People Speak, premiering in the U.S. on December 13, maybe it’s shaped by the common person. It’s a thread that runs throughout the unique program, in which top actors including Matt Damon, Viggo Mortensen and Marisa Tomei among others recite quotes plucked from American voices of the past, as captured in the best-selling books from historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History).

With AETN International controlling the format rights, the concept made its way to MIPCOM, with a UK version announced at the market. Colin Firth is slated to develop the first international format in the UK with History (UK) and (out)sider Productions, the show’s US producer. Firth is also in discussions to direct and produce.

‘It’s grounded in the concept that democracy is not a spectator sport, and that everyday people, sometimes the ones without a perch from which to speak, are the ones that create and shape history over time,’ says Cohan of the American edition, exec produced by Damon, Zinn, Josh Brolin, Anthony Arnove, and Chris Moore. David McKillop and Russ McCarroll are the EPs for History.

‘Internationally, most territories and markets, if not all markets, have a tradition of activism – these everyday people that drive huge, dramatic change,’ adds Cohan.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.