bites - 21st February 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
year's shows are all so dull. Come on, has anyone
really managed to make it all the way though The Hot
House, My Restaurant Rules, What Not to Wear Australia
or The Resort yet? Truly, we have arrived at a strange
place in pop culture history. Who among us would have
imagined that we would one day pine for the good old
days of Reality TV, when the genre wasn't so moribund?
Of course, I have a crackpot theory about all this.
reckon it's a gigantic corporate plot to make us look
forward to the ad breaks.
calibre of host. Australia doesn't have enough frontmen
for these shows. You can't just stick ordinary dorks
like me in front of the camera and hope they'll be
interesting, but that's what the networks appear to
have done. Do I want to be told about style on What
Not to Wear by Wayne Cooper, a charisma-free bloke
with a second-hand David Beckham haircut? Darling,
I don't think so. My Restaurant's Curtis Stone is
interesting purely for his lack of hair gel continuity
from shot to shot. Then, of course, there's The Resort's
Jon Stevens. Good bloke, top singer and all that,
but a television black hole.
calibre of contestant. Has Australia really run out
of young couples with anything but one-dimensional
personalities? Is the supermarket of this great country
really stocked only with no-frills people? Because
that's what it seems like. I hate to be mean to my
fellow citizens, but my TV has been overrun by scrubbers
and, umm, what's the word for a male scrubber?
calibre of celeb. The Osbournes worked because there
was something endearingly oddball about the family.
It grew tired when it became obvious that nothing
much changed from day to day in the household. The
latest celeb offerings, Newlyweds and The Simple Life,
are built around people with all the personality of
single-cell life forms. True, Newlyweds has the sheer,
unadult(erated) vacancy of Jessica Simpson to gawk
at, but that just seems sad by the second ad break.
And what can you say about The Simple Life, except
that it is Paris Hilton's least interesting video.
devaluation of the currency. This year's new wrinkle,
as evidenced by The Resort and My Restaurant, is onscreen
audience participation. Viewers of each can take part
by staying at the resort or eating at one of the restaurants,
while the show is being made. So not only do the contestants
get their 15 minutes in the spotlight, now you and
I might be able to grab 15 seconds as well. The prize
- fame - just keeps losing its value, like a photocopy
of a photocopy.
course, the sooner everyone in Australia has appeared
on a Reality TV show, the sooner we can get this over
fact that none of these shows are Reality TV. OK,
here's a crash course in reality. It's that thing
that happens to us between waking up and going to
sleep, right? So, when was the last time you found
yourself taking over an island resort with a dozen
other people? How many houses have you had to renovate
without help from anyone but a dozen or so non-professionals?
When were you last put in charge of something - a
restaurant or any other kind of business - of which
you had absolutely no experience? How often have you
been voted out of your own life?
category title. It's just wrong. My Restaurant Rules,
The Resort, Hot House, Big Brother, Australian Idol,
The Block, Survivor - these are all game shows, not
Reality TV. Here's the litmus test. Does it have a
contest and a winner? Yes? Then it's a game show.
The only ones even close to the notion of Reality
TV are programs such as Wife Swap, which do their
social engineering at the start of the program (introduce
vegan, hippie, control freak wife into family of chauvinist
fast-food addict) then stand back to see what happens.
insulting to the industries they copy. What annoys
me most is that each of these shows sells the illusion
that aggressive amateurs are every bit as talented
as professionals. They pretend there is no job that
cannot be mastered almost instantly. Does anyone really
think that people with no experience are, in eight
weeks, going to open a restaurant or resort that is
any good? Are a bunch of bickering idiots going to
come up with a better living space than architects
and interior designers? Are two cheeky gay guys really
substitutes for builders?
Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney Morning Herald: Entertainment