ABC's Time Machine Chefs is best described as a combination of Chopped and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Four heroic chefs travel back in time to compete using the ingredients, tools, and techniques of the time period. The winners are crowned Greatest Chef in History. The losers? Left to fend for themselves in the time period of their failing.
Though the basic idea is inspired, the execution, sadly, is less so. Actually, it's pretty awful. For a show that features a TARDIS-Refrigerator (suitably sized for a strapping man with an iconic fedora), it seems to take itself awfully seriously, which is a weird tone for a cooking show. It would be a little like if Chopped switched to a format where losers are thrown into a piranha pit at the end of each round, or if losing Iron Chefs had to commit seppuku. Isn't it enough that they do a walk of shame? Do we also have to pretend to impose even greater penalties on them in the name of fake drama?
Either way the pilot episode is online now.
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It appears as though this show is being presented as a one-off. But it also seems clear that it was originally billed as an ongoing series. The elevator pitch certainly sounds reasonable, "Celebrity chefs battle it out across time and space!" but it appears executives got cold feet when they saw the sad mess that left the editing booth.
Is it an awful idea? Maybe, maybe not. A History Channel show that took viewers on a guided tour through culinary history might actually be fantastic fun. Particularly if it was like "Connections" but with food, showing how the cuisines of various cultures developed and intermingled. That however, sounds like it might conflict with the Pawn Stars marathon so you shouldn't hold your breath.
Still we have to be slightly sad because we'll likely never see their paleolithic cooking episode nor their cannibalism episode.