EXCLUSIVE | Is Colin Fassnidge Seven's new secret weapon against MARRIED AT FIGHT SIGHT in 2020?

Colin Fassnidge will lead a brand new MY KITCHEN RULES

PHOTO: Seven

So far 2019 has been Seven’s very own annus horribilis with Nine’s MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT dominating, but now insiders at Seven claim something big is coming in 2020 and Nine had better get ready.

That something is Colin Fassnidge.

Despite promising two season’s of My Kitchen Rules in 2019 to celebrate its 10th season TV Blackbox can reveal the planned ‘special’ season will not air this year, according to our sources.

Instead, the ‘special’ has evolved into a reworking of the format with Fassnidge (and others) taking centre stage ahead of Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.

Indeed, at the Channel 7 AllFronts on 26 October 2018 the network stated two seasons would air in 2019 with the second season billed as a '10th Anniversary Special'. At the time Seven’s Head of Scheduling Brook Hall was forced to defend the two-season strategy with media buyers fearing “over-saturation”. Speaking to AdNews he said;

"There's certainly no concern of over-saturation with our audience and we've chosen to reveal a little part of that last thing for that reason, we don't want it to interfere with the upcoming season."

The tone of the presentation suggested an ‘all star’ version or ‘celebrity’ edition, but these plans have evolved into an entirely new show.

In February Nick Tabakoff wrote in The Australian’s Media section about Seven’s plans for MKR 2.0, as it is known internally (or “the restaurant show” for those working on the production);

Diary hears that means the Fassnidge-hosted MKR 2.0 (to run later in 2019) will be a restaurant competition. It looks like being a cross between the now-defunct 2004 show My Restaurant Rules (which featured Curtis Stone as host) and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Fassnidge, in his guise as a Ramsay-style mentor, will be used to give tough love to aspiring chefs on the show, visiting struggling restaurants to help them reach their potential, as part of a competition with other kitchens.

To add fuel to the fire David Knox at TV Tonight revealed Seven were casting for a new restaurant series called “Best Restaurant Show”, noting the network was looking for;

“teams of two who will represent restaurants from all cuisines and backgrounds across Australia.”

Our sources say these leaks are essentially correct but the show is less My Kitchen Rules and more My Restaurant Rules in its original format with tweaks. We’re hearing the creative is changing daily as the production team work tirelessly to get the format right - there is a LOT of pressure on this one.

TV Blackbox contacted Seven to find out whether the network still intended to run the second series of MKR this year but they are remaining tight-lipped on their plans.

It’s worth noting MKR 2.0 hasn’t started shooting yet and, considering it’s a 5 month shoot, time is running out for it to play this year. Of course, these things can be rushed through but Seven will be taking no chances if they think this is the future of the franchise.

And my sources deep within Seven are adamant it will not air this year.

It’s also worth noting Seven has a string of local shows already planned to air this year which are currently in production (or have already wrapped) including Bride and Prejudice, Wife Swap, Extreme Weddings and Zumbo's Just Desserts. Speaking of Zumbo, TV Blackbox also understands this will play on the main channel and not on 7TWO as assumed (it is a co-production with Netflix and only got another season due to its success on the streaming giant’s platform).

But the main event is Q1 2020. Seven know the unstoppable Married at First Sight is coming and the network needs a new strategy to take it on or risk playing second fiddle to Nine for the launch of the ratings year.

The strategy of launching a revised version of My Kitchen Rules up against MAFS actually makes sense. Programmers know the MKR brand is one of the strongest weapons capable of standing up to the might of MAFS, even if its ratings were significantly lower this year. By introducing a revised format (even if it’s a completely different show using the MKR branding) Seven could increase its share. The network needs to maintain a point of difference to Nine’s offering rather than playing copycat and if viewers grow weary of the salacious drama on Nine, they might just try out a revitalised My Kitchen Rules.

Who’d have thought we’d be talking about the 2020 ratings race this early‽