Thursday, June 14, 2012

Reality Check

The amount of reality shows on Australian television is staggering.  The amount of those reality shows that are really bad is… almost equally as staggering.

Australia broadcasts a lot of the American reality TV shows, and they also broadcast a lot of the British reality TV shows, and then they also make versions of their own.   There’s pretty much a version of everything:  The Apprentice Australia, So You Think You Can Dance Australia, Big Brother Australia, Amazing Race Australia, The Biggest Loser Australia, Australia’s Next Top Model, Beauty and the Geek Australia, and even a Project Runway Australia.  The problem is:  Australia has a relatively small population and a relatively high number of reality TV shows.  By my very scientific estimates, every single Australian citizen will have starred in at least one reality TV show by April 2015.  This lack of population also means a smaller talent pool.  While that might not be so easy to see on the above shows, it definitely reveals that reality in others.

Let’s take singing for example.  Now, if you can sing, you can go on Australia’s Got Talent, or even better, Australian Idol.  Now, if Idol is too out-dated for you, you can try for X Factor Australia.  And if that’s too cliché or some shit like that, how about The Voice Australia?  There’s a plethora of options.  Only problem:  there’s not a plethora of talent.  Now, I can’t sing to save my life, but I can usually tell when someone else can or can’t.  Being religious about American Idol has spoiled me for years – big voices like Kelly Clarkson and Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood all came off of American Idol – and their performances on the show were sometimes incredible.  I still remember when Carrie Underwood sang Heart’s “Alone” – shivers.  Or when Fantasia Barrino sang “Summertime” – they should have changed her name to Fantastic Barrino.  But that doesn’t happen here.  The judges on these shows continually praise the contestants for performances that would have been better placed in a karaoke bar on a cruise ship.  A low budget cruise ship.  I have now watched my fair share of X Factor Australia and The Voice Australia and I’ve yet to hear one singer blow me away like at least one person did on nearly every episode of American Idol.  Actually, I’ve barely heard any singers that I thought were good.  In fact, I’d say 95% of the songs I’ve heard have actually been so bad that they’re offensive.  What would Simon Cowell do if he was one of the judges?

There would be blood.

Don’t fret now, singers.  You still have a career!  If you manage to use your mediocre voice to land a spot on X Factor Australia and then use your good looks and sex appeal to make it all the way to third place, then you’ll pretty much be guaranteed another TV spot like on Dancing With The Stars Australia.  That is exactly what happened to Johnny Ruffo.

Yes, he actually sang with his shirt off one time just to get votes from the mass of teenage girls and gay boys watching.  The amazing thing is:  he was the ONLY star that I had actually heard of!   I didn’t know any of the other celebrities.  My further research revealed that Johnny wasn’t the only previous singing contest turned “celebrity” dancer.  The runner-up from the first season of Australian Idol was also a contestant this year.  That season of American Idol aired… way back in 2003.  If you can’t dance but are still quasi famous, you may end up on The Celebrity Apprentice Australia or Excess Baggage – which is a celebrity version of The Biggest Loser.  David Hasselhoff was one of the contestants on The Celebrity Apprentice and he’s not even Australian!  And you can’t even guess who the biggest celebrity was on Excess Baggage.  Another non-Australian.

Kevin Federline.  WTF?

Now, for those of you who are keen on the traditional dating reality TV shows, you haven’t been forgotten.  The Farmer Wants a Wife is Australia’s answer to The Bachelor.  The Farmer Wants a Wife actually started as a British show and they even did a trial of it in America but it didn’t last.  A farmer competes for the hand of one of a group of city women.  And for some reason, one farmer isn’t enough.  So, the show follows SEVEN farmers – each with their own group of women.  That requires the entire population of Adelaide to cast.  And if you want something trashier, then go for Please Marry My Boy.  It’s sort of like MTV’s Date My Mom, but ever so slightly less trashier (though every bit as entertaining).  A mom chooses several women to date her grown son who still lives at home.  So, basically, an overbearing old bag lures in vulnerable, lonely women to date their loser offspring.  Did I also mention one of the mom’s was a crazy Serbian lady who liked to yell at all the girls who weren’t the one Serbian girl who signed up for the show?  God I wanted to smack her.  And thank her.  For making me feel better about myself.

Home renovation shows are all the rage – as exhibited by the success of The Renovators and The Block – where amateur people like you or me (ok, maybe not me) – have to renovate homes for prizes and such.  But my favourites are the cooking shows!  MasterChef Australia is big here, and there are quite a few good cooks, and I love looking at food, so I tend to get sucked in.  As with most Aussie shows, the budget is a bit less than in America, so some of the challenges aren’t that exciting.  I remember when Top Chef did an episode where the contestants had to cook airplane food for Continental Airlines.  That was out there!  They don’t do anything that out there here.

But they did sort of come close…

Even better than MasterChef Australia is My Kitchen Rules!  Twelve pairs of amateur chefs from all over Australia and New Zealand compete in cooking contest after cooking contest for the $250,000 grand prize.  MKR, as it is lovingly referred to, actually had some pretty neat challenges – like having to cook street food for the lunch rush in the Melbourne CBD (downtown) and having to cook in the little kitchen in the back of an RV for a big fair in some podunk town in the middle of nowhere Queensland.  Not bad.  Not the big airplane food challenge, but not bad.  The only problem:  MKR was sometimes on up to 5 NIGHTS PER WEEK.  Are they insane?  How much time can people devote to watching this?  And it’s not just MKR – many of the Aussie reality shows are on multiple nights per week.  Where do people find the time to watch all of this?  This must be why work-life balance is so much better here.  People need to leave work at 5pm to ensure they get home in time to watch their favourite reality TV shows… every night of the week.

But there was an upside to having 5 nights in a row of My Kitchen Rules.  It also meant 5 nights in a row of Nic and Rocco.

Ok, so they may not be the hottest of the hottest, but put them in the kitchen and they can turn up the heat, especially Rocco.  I mean, Nic is ok.  I probably wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers, but he’s not Rocco.  Yummy Rocco.

He made macarons on the show and they looked so good and I almost melted.  In fact, nearly everything he made looked so good.

Why didn’t they do a topless challenge?

So, I suppose Australia found its saving grace in my eye with MKR.  It also helps that flipping through the channels last weekend I encountered something far worse:

New Zealand’s Next Top Model.

Australia has fewer people than Texas alone – over 10% fewer actually.  That means Australia has a smaller talent pool.  New Zealand takes that to a whole other level.  NZ has fewer people than Houston alone – over 25% fewer to put it into perspective.

God it was tragic.

I’ll be grateful for my Aussie reality TV from here on out.


  1. Oh my god, I LOVE Farmer wants a wife. They did a season here in the states- HILARIOUS. do they send the discarded girls away in a beat up pick-up? Awesome. Also sounds like MKR is very similar to Masterchef.

  2. Not sure if they send the discarded girls away in a pick-up, but it wouldn't surprise me. I don't think I've ever lasted through a whole episode! And MKR is like MasterChef, but teams of 2 and they cook in their houses for the first part of it. It's pretty neat!