Pushing kids into stressful, competitive situations and forcing them to be Little Adults until they inevitably break down under pressure for our amusement has always been one of the best, most American reality show concepts. A new cooking show called Man vs. Child looks like it’s going to accelerate the genre toward its absurd logical conclusion.
The premise: A team of five comically named children—Cloyce (13), Holden (14), Emmalee (12), Dylan (11), and Estie (7)—squeezes into one oversized chef’s jacket like a five-headed Muppet monster and competes in cook-offs against grown-up professional chefs. Or maybe the kids all compete separately—the program’s press release does not specify. To reiterate, one of them is named Cloyce.
Man vs. Child builds on the success of MasterChef Junior, a show where Gordon Ramsay, a thin film of human skin stretched over a pulsing knot of rage, babysits several knife-wielding children. But instead of subjecting its tiny cooking prodigies to unhinged yelling, Man vs. Child will torture them more subtly: either with Harlem Globetrotter-esque thrashings at the hands of the adults they look up to, or with the sneaking suspicion that these grown-ups who do this for a highly-paid living might be throwing the game.
Either way, the kids lose (but the audience wins).
Man vs. Child premieres July 23 on something called FYI.