The ride of life

The ride of life - 14th February 2004
Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald

If - and it's a big if - Australians are getting tired of renovation as a spectator sport, this is going to be a bumper year for the ABC. Unlike the commercial networks, the ABC didn't put 90 per cent of its locally laid eggs into a basket labelled Reality.

It has baskets labelled Brainy quiz, Stand-up comedy, Backshed inventing, Competitive dancing, Provocative documentary, and Unclassifiable by normal formulas. Indeed, the ABC is so confident that its act is finally together, it wants to open a theme park to celebrate its greatest moments in programming. More of that later.

To be fair, the commercial networks are not totally dependent on programs centred on renovation. They're also dependent on programs centred on humiliation. It's just that the reno-realities happened to hit the airwaves first. And the public reaction so far has been less than overwhelming. Last Sunday, Ten's The HotHouse drew only 875,000 viewers in the mainland capitals, easily beaten by Nine's cricket and Seven's repeat of Toy Story 2. What scared Ten most about Sunday was that The HotHouse seemed to repel the 16-39s, who are supposed to be Ten's core audience.

Ten's corporate affairs manager, Margaret Fearn, points out that Big Brother and Australian Idol started slowly and went on to glory, so "we think The HotHouse will build - pardon the terrible pun".

Nine's program director, Michael Healy, speculated that viewers were put off by The HotHouse's blatant imitation of The Block. He hopes Australians are saving their emotional investment for the real thing, which starts a second series next month.

Seven smelt blood in the water and is putting My Restaurant Rules up against The HotHouse tomorrow night. If it also fails, the commercial networks will bring on their second wave of reality: fly-on-the-wall docos that pit the rich against the poor, the snobbish against the tasteless.

Nine is making a version of Wife Swap, in which working-class mothers trade places with upper-class twits, and Holiday Showdown, in which plebs who stay in caravan parks trade lives with patricians accustomed to glitzy resorts. Ten will offer a local version of Queer Eye for The Straight Guy. Seven will offer local versions of What Not To Wear and How Clean Is Your House?

If these freak shows fail, the ABC will welcome all the disaffected viewers. It is already delighted with its new drama Fireflies, which attracted 1.3 million city viewers and a further 640,000 rural viewers last weekend.

Which brings us to the theme park. The ABC announced last weekend that it is in negotiation to include rides based on Thomas the Tank Engine, Bananas in Pyjamas, Bob the Builder and The Saddle Club in a $300 million redevelopment of the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds.

The ABC is entitled to celebrate its history of service to the children of this nation, but it should remember that adults need fun, too. We want to stroll down Argonauts Row; target villains in The Bill Shootout; survive The Kerry O'Brien Grill; ride the Kath & Kim Bridal Coach; and savour The SeaChange Experience.

What other classic programs and achievements should be represented in the ABC theme park, and how? Send your schemes to


Mainland capitals, week to February 8

1 Nine news Sunday (9)
2.10 million
2 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (10) 1.88m
3 Friends (9) 1.70m
4 One-day Cricket: Aust v India (9) 1.68m
5 American Idol Tuesday (10) 1.52m



Top-selling albums, week to February 8

1 1 * Fallen (Evanescence)
2 - A Crow Left of the Murder (Incubus)
3 5 Feeler (Pete Murray)
4 4 Get Born (Jet)
5 7 Life For Rent (Dido)



Top selling, week to February 1

1 Finding Nemo
2 American Pie 3: The Wedding
3 Freddy Vs Jason
4 Tears of the Sun
5 Legally Blonde 2

- GfK Marketing


Box office last weekend

1 -* Big Fish $1.18m (total $1.66m**)
2 1 Along Came Polly $0.91m ($6.56m)
3 3 Something's Gotta Give $0.86m ($11.84m)
4 4 The Return of the King $0.83m ($44.11m)
5 2 The Last Samurai $0.83m ($10.04m)


* previous week's position

** takings since release


The Sydney Morning Herald (major supplier of Mediaman headlines)

Mediaman: Entertainment


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