Gordon Ramsay and Fox Get a Sleeper Hit in 'MasterChef Junior'

The kids cooking competition, which wraps its freshman run on Friday, bucks reality's lackluster time-shifting trend with 50 percent ratings boosts from DVR.
"MasterChef Junior"

It's hard to make noise on Friday nights. The least glamorous night of the TV schedule has only recently been invigorated by aggressive programming -- and ABC's demo hit Shark Tank, CBS' big-audience draws Blue Bloods and Hawaii Five-0 and NBC's Grimm dominate the conversation.

But Fox's MasterChef Junior has quietly become one of Friday's biggest success stories. Gordon Ramsay's fifth effort on the network, which puts culinary-minded kids in the parent series' kitchen set, has been growing upward of 50 percent with DVR views -- bucking unscripted's long-established trend of weak time-shifting.

PHOTOS: THR's Reality Roundtable with Gordon Ramsay

MasterChef Junior, averaging a 1.4 rating with adults 18-49 and 4 million viewers, has not won its 8 p.m. hour outright since early October. Its live-plus-7 score, however, shoots up 50 percent to a 2.1 rating in the demo. That puts it ahead of dominant time slot competitor Undercover Boss, which only rises 20 percent to a 1.8 rating after a week of DVR, as well as ABC comedies Last Man Standing (1.9 adults) and Neighbors (1.3 adults) and NBC's varied offerings in the hour.

Among unscripted series, MasterChef Junior is technically outpaced in percentage growth by America's Next Top Model -- the modest CW veteran jumps 75 percent to just a 0.7 adults rating -- but it scores a decisive victory on the Big Four. Its closest competition, Shark Tank, is rising 32 percent to a 2.5 in the demo.

No official decision has come down on a renewal, but after the Nov. 8 finale, a second season is looking very likely. Fox has yet to put the breaks on a Ramsay series. The original MasterChef scored a two-season renewal earlier this year, Hell's Kitchen has also been picked up, and new runs of Hotel Hell and Kitchen Nightmares are both on tap.