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Review Roundup of The Taste: 'Half-Baked,' 'Bland,' 'Confusing,' and 'Humorless'

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Photo: ABC

Well The Taste — the new culinary competition reality show with judges Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey — premieres tonight on ABC in a two hour extravaganza, or what the New York Times' Mike Hale calls a "two-hour blur of choreographed humiliation and tear-jerking back stories." (See previews here and here.) The general consensus among TV critics is that it's a shameless knockoff of the singing competition show The Voice; while a little "tedious" and "bland," it also maybe has potential (critics were only provided a screener of the audition round). Here now, a roundup of TV critics opinions:

Mike Hall/NYT:

The Taste takes The Voice format ... and turns it into something better than the original, if your definition of a better reality contest includes more rational and less insulting to the intelligence... The Taste panel has enough wit, personality and bubbling contentiousness to provide reasonably guilt-free entertainment.

Mike Hall, again on Bourdain:

He's as smart and acerbic as ever... Being confined to not just a set but also a desk has a double effect: it mostly eliminates the creepy-uncle vibe he sometimes gave off during the tipsy schmoozing on "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," but it also accentuates a disturbing capacity for the smarmy sincerity of the game-show hack. The jury is out on what an eight-episode season will do to his credibility.

Brian Lowry/Variety:

[T]he show doubtless has some appeal for avid Food Network viewers, but as the two-hour premiere drags on, the concept offers little hint of possessing the appeal necessary to satisfy ABC's more expansive appetite. Every hit deserves several knockoffs, but this one comes across as perilously bland... this appetizer feels like just the latest half-baked competition idea that doesn't deliver.

Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger, who gives it a "C for the tedious pilot, with the possibility for improvement":

It's too bad only the pilot was available for screening, because the two-hour premiere features the most tedious and unnecessary of all reality show elements — the endless audition round, in which the producers lavish precious minutes on contestants who have no hope of making it to the show. Prime example: The guy cooks a pineapple ground turkey mac and cheese stir fry and pronounces it "food for awesomeness."

John Kubicek/BuddyTV:

If you've seen Top Chef, Top Chef: Masters, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Hell's Kitchen, Masterchef, The Next Iron Chef, The Next Food Network Star, Chopped or countless other cooking competitions, then you have no need for one more... The Taste also fails in terms of its judges. Culinary bad-boy Anthony Bourdain has become a parody of himself... Nigella Lawson is a poor man's Padma Lakshmi, Ludo Lefebvre is an incomprehensible Frenchman and Brian Malarkey finished fourth on season 3 of Top Chef... I'm not sure what the culinary equivalent of watching paint dry is (watching your souffle rise?), but The Taste is it.

Gail Pennington/St Louis Post-Dispatch (who gives it two stars out of four):

With patience, it could turn out to be a tasty midseason snack... Unfortunately, "The Taste" kicks off with a bland and sluggish two-hour casting session... This continues what feels like forever, and as I watched, I imagined first-night viewers reaching for the remote controls.

Liz Medendorp/PopMatters:

The Taste is a confusing show with humorless banter that does not inspire the audience to become invested in the contestants. It's doubtful that viewers will be coming back for seconds.

· All The Taste Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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