Were MasterChef & Big Brother’s Newcomers Always Doomed To Fail?

From My Kitchen Rules to Love Island and Snowflake Mountain, there's a reality TV show about pretty much everything these days. So in order to keep audiences engaged and coming back for more, television producers are continuously looking for new formats to adopt.
This was the case for MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites and Big Brother: Royalty vs New Contenders this year — both of which featured casts including previous contestants returning to the game, as well as amateur first-time participants.
Doing an old and new cast combo is a strategic move for luring in audiences, and I for one can admit the charm's worked on me. As a long-time viewer of both franchises, I've felt more compelled this year to tune in for the drama, nostalgia and rivalry that returning cast members bring to the screen.
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Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites winner Billie McKay and runner-up Sarah Todd
I wasn't going to miss the Tully and Drew reunion on Big Brother, nor was I going to pass the chance of watching MasterChef's first-ever winner Julie Goodwin going up against a new generation of Tik Tok influencers.
Ultimately, both shows' winners (MasterChef's Billie McKay and Big Brother's Reggie Bird) announced this week are not only returning contestants, but previous winners of their respective programs. So, while the entertainment value is unquestionably there, it prompts the question: Are these formats fair and do the newcomers actually ever stand a chance of claiming victory?
In Big Brother's case, Bird's win was decided by votes from the public and I can't help but think her 19-year-long reputation as the loveable fish and chips shop owner from Season 3 helped her cause. The single mother has always had a loyal fanbase since she became the first-ever woman to win Big Brother in 2003. She's openly spoken about becoming legally blind and her son having cystic fibrosis.
"Going into Big Brother this time, I've got two beautiful children and I really wanted to do this for them," she said on the show. "When I walked into this house, I knew that I just had to win no matter what."
So did newcomers Taras Hrubyj-Piper and Johnson Ashaka really have a chance?
Image courtesy of Channel 10
Big Brother: Royalty vs New Contenders winner Reggie Bird with her children
On the other hand, a MasterChef win comes down to culinary skills and the ability to impress the judges at the final cook. Winner McKay competed against another returning contestant, Sarah Todd, in the cooking finale, and Todd believes it was always going to be a 'favourite' (returning contestant) who would win the show over a 'fan'.
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"You would have to have a lot of knowledge as a fan, but even knowledge isn't enough because experience is everything," Todd tells Refinery29 Australia.
"I think that just going through the competition once before, you've learned how to deal with that pressure. I would have been surprised if a fan had taken it out for sure."
Todd highlighted her comments were "not to discredit how amazing they were because there were a lot of really talented fans in the competition."
McKay, who first won MasterChef's seventh season in 2015, thinks it could've been anyone's game.
"I actually thought going into it that a fan would win," she says. "Because I remember having learned so much when I was on MasterChef the first time. It's an it's an open canvas to learn everything there is to know about food and cooking, and the fans were really taking that on.
"We were in a bit of a mentoring role to them, which sort of happened naturally and it was really lovely. So, I thought one of these fans is going to take it out because they're just going to learn so much in a quick amount of time and build so much momentum. It was anyone's game really from the start."
Regardless of what you believe, it's uplifting to see two women (previous winners or not) take out the winning titles this year. Plus, there's always next year to test the fairness theory again, and see if royalty or a newbie comes out on top.
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