Why Did ‘MasterChef’ Give Ben Ungermann So Much Screen Time Despite His Serious Charges?

With word now emerging this afternoon that cast member Ben Ungermann was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault, the question absolutely begs: Why did MasterChef producers press ahead with featuring him as heavily as they did throughout his stint on the series?

Ungermann was formally charged with two counts of sexual assault on March 6th, according to a Victoria Police statement. Those charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred in Docklands on February 23rd.

He was swiftly removed from the production at that point, with host and judge Jock Zonfrillo telling fellow contestants he was dealing with “a personal matter,” and would “not be returning.”

Ungermann was not present for filming during the Katy Perry cameo episode. However in the five weeks of broadcasts leading up to his removal he was featured heavily, routinely spotlighted, and championed in multiple episodes.

His work was highlighted, entire episodes were anchored around him, major storylines of the show were placed on his back. And while we don’t know for sure, because Network 10 refuses to elaborate, it’s likely these episodes were cut together with producers fully aware of the serious legal issues Ungermann was facing.

For a show that produces such a massive volume of broadcast content, it seems insane that a work-around could not be found; that post-production teams, who had a 38-day gap between Ungermann’s arrest and the show’s season premiere hitting screens, could not come up with a way to downplay the Season 9 runner-up’s involvement in the series. If for no other reason than to enable them to say that they did everything they could.

Editing TV is a tricky game, particularly on a show as massive as MasterChef is, but the optics on all this are terrible.

Ungermann – who was, again we stress, levelled with charges during active production – was given favoured screen time over scores of other contestants, many of whom struggle to get their face on camera despite progressing far into the competition.

There’s even a solid argument to be made that, beyond the quote-unquote “big name” former contestants like Poh or Reynold or Sarah Tiong, Ungermann was a face production relied upon heavily to anchor broadcasts.

At best that’s a pretty pisspoor display of judgment, and at worst it’s an insane oversight.

Ungermann, of course, is free to pursue whatever it is that he wants while the legal process plays itself out. But that MasterChef producers apparently exhibited little-to-no ass covering as far as both this matter and the show’s editing goes is something else entirely.

PEDESTRIAN.TV reached out to Channel Ten for a statement on today’s developments, but were instead referred to a previous statement issued by production company Endemol Shine in March. That statement, in full, reads “We can confirm Ben Ungermann has left the MasterChef Australia competition. As this is a police matter, we will not be making further comment.”

That last point could not be clearer.