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Show caption Not a terrible show but a pointless one … Kayla Greer, Stacey Dooley and Big Zuu in Hungry for It. Photograph: Jack Barnes/BBC

Television

From its uninspired format to its hamfisted use of Gen Z tropes (pop ups! Peckham! Saying ‘remix’!), only Big Zuu’s presence saves Hungry for It from being terrible TV

You might want to brace yourself before watching BBC Three’s new series Hungry for It because it comes with a premise so bold and groundbreaking that anyone who tunes in might be forced to spend the rest of their life piecing together the fragments of their exploded mind. Ready? OK, deep breath. In Hungry for It, contestants cook things for some judges.

Isn’t that wild? Isn’t that unlike anything you have ever heard of? Who could possibly know how or where the producers managed to come up with such a pioneering idea. Maybe it came to them in a dream? Maybe it’s the result of an intense horizon-widening ayahuasca retreat that forced them to confront their deepest inhibitions? Or maybe it’s because they just watched one episode of MasterChef and thought: “Sod it, that’ll do.” We may never discover the answer.

Fine, it’s MasterChef. Hungry for It is MasterChef. There are contestants, just like MasterChef. They cook some food, just like MasterChef. There are judges, just like MasterChef. There’s a bit where they have to cook food in a restaurant, just like the bit of MasterChef where they have to cook food in a restaurant. The only thing that separates Hungry for It from MasterChef is its lack of Gregg Wallace stumbling around the place going “WORRRRRR” at everything.

It’s baffling. Who is Hungry for It aimed at? It can’t be for people who don’t know what MasterChef is, because it has been on television for ever. It is impossible to go through life not knowing what MasterChef is. It is harder to avoid than Omicron was at Christmas.

Bright and eager … contestants on Hungry for It. Photograph: Jack Barnes/BBC

Perhaps the answer lies in the channel that broadcasts it. Hungry for It is a BBC Three show; one specifically designed to appeal to young people. By this rationale, it transpires that what the youth of today really want is to watch exactly the same shows that their parents watch, except with infinitesimally louder music and Stacey Dooley presenting.

Obviously, to reflect the BBC Threeness of it all, every conceivable Gen Z identifier has been mashed together into a thick, grey sludge and smeared across every frame. MasterChef was filmed in Wandsworth? Boring! This is filmed in Peckham. MasterChef has a kitchen? Boring! This has a pop-up. MasterChef asks people to cook food? Boring! Hungry for It wants contestants to “remix” food or “level it up”. How many times does MasterChef use the word “hub”? Is it less than once every three and a half seconds, as if they are being forced to do so at gunpoint? Yes? Boring!

In fairness, not everything about Hungry for It is bad. The contestants all seem bright and eager, and the judges have a lot of potential. One of them, Big Zuu, was arguably the biggest winner at the TV Baftas last month, and his infectious enthusiasm is present and correct here. Big Zuu has the air of someone who knows that he is going places. He is so magnetically funny and warm that he has developed a kind of gravitational pull around him, which draws you in to even the show’s weaker elements.

The other judge, the American chef Kayla Greer, is a little less successful. She has moments of being thoughtful and analytical, but these are scuppered by her relentless desire to be the mean one. “Disgusting!” she shouts at a quivering contestant at one point in the first episode, just like reality TV judges did in 2006, back before they realised how terrible it made them look. On the plus side, this rudeness appears to be a complete affectation, and hopefully one that will be quickly dropped.

Hungry for It isn’t a terrible show. But it is a pointless one, and that should be concerning to anyone with an interest in the survival of BBC Three. This, after all, is the channel where the BBC will grow its future viewers, and that seems unlikely to happen if it’s just going to rehash old formats. What next? Gardeners’ World: Rave Edition? One Man and His Peng Dog? BBC Three, you are better than this. Now prove it.

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