Tag Archives: reality-programming

Dock You Meant Aries

So there’s this thing that’s been on the television for a while, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but the kids are calling it “Reality Television“.

Anyway it’s this thing where you get real people in real life situations and follow them around or see them in fish-out-of-water scenarios like the mother from one family going to live with a different family for a couple of weeks.

It reminds me a lot of this thing they used to have on television called “documentaries“. Do you remember those? They were fantastic. We’d learn all about the world as people showed us the lives of ants or, if they were on SBS, the lives of Hitler’s ants.

Well, hold on to your seat because documentaries are back, baby, they just look a little different.

Because people have such low attention spans and trust issues, these programmes need to have famous British people:

And of course, they can pretty much only be on the ABC for them to have any credibility whatsoever.

This week we’ve got the premier of two of these documentary things*.

The first is on Sunday night on ABC1. Stephen Fry, who you might remember from Blackadder, driving through the US and telling us about local customs in a way that is different to Louis Theroux or Ruby Wax.

Then on Tuesday there’s Tony Robinson, who you might remember from Blackadder, presenting the history of Crime and Punishment.

Apparently, this is not as you would expect – a 5 minute piece saying:

Dostoyevsky had an idea for a book, sat down with pen and paper for a few months and then got a publishing deal.

No, instead it’s about laws and criminals and punitive measures.

I don’t know who else from Blackadder is making documentaries but they seem to be the most trusted people in the world.

* Be aware that this was written to go to air on 7 August so time references might have no bearing to the actual time you’re reading this, if you are reading this, and if you’re not, I’m not talking to you so turn around and face the wall.

MasterChef Cooks Its Results

The following, in a different form, was used as a rant on John Richard’s excellent The Outland Institute radio show. In case you missed it, which you shouldn’t have because it’s an excellent show, as I previously stated.

This week’s television controversy surrounds MasterChef. We’ve been sold a bill of goods. We’ve invited into our homes a Poh-faced liar.

From the very beginning Poh has been shown favouritism by the judges. How many other people had the opportunity to go home after failing the audition and return to cook another dish?*

Poh not only failed once, but twice. Poh was eliminated from the competition and then, with no reason given, allowed to return along with some other, seemingly randomly selected contestants. No one else in the MasterChef competition has been given as easy a ride as Poh and that is outrageously unfair.

It’s true that Julie also received some leeway with the rules of individual challenges. Out of the last three challenges in this week’s finalist series, Julie failed to finish her dish all three times: twice serving raw food and once just failing to plate up all the elements of her dish in the allotted time.

Many times in the last 18 hours people have told me via twitter and sometimes even to my face that Julie only ended in the final two because they want to publish her cookbook.

The night before, after Justine lost, Matt Moran went to her house and offered her a job. We all felt wonderful because it worked out well for Justine.

Couldn’t the same thing have happened to Julie? If Julie had lost the competition last night but her pitch for a cookbook so overwhelmed Donna Hay that she offered her a publishing deal on the spot, we would feel joy and heart-warming tingles because Julie was well on her way to success.

There was no sensational coda for Chris last night.

And so it comes down to the internal logic of the show. Like any good story the characters need to live by the rules of the story’s universe. Despite the real-person/contest nature of the show, it’s still telling a story. In last night’s episode the rules were laid out in the beginning: make a dish that would look good on the cover of a cookbook.

When it came down to judging, though, the aesthetics of the dish were largely irrelevant. Suddenly it came down to the flavour. The judges said that Chris’s dish didn’t taste good.

Somewhere along the lines they changed the rules without telling the contestants or, more importantly, the audience.

A good TV show has turned into a farce.

* In a moment of subtextual racism the judges sent Poh home to gather the ingredients to create a Malaysian dish. The implication that she was unable to create modern Australian cuisine because of her ethnicity should have been seen as a slap in the face with regard to her skill as a cook. Instead the judges somehow made it seem like they were encouraging her. Would they expect a Cajun to only make craw-fish gumbo? Would a Jew only be rewarded by making gefilte fish and matzo ball soup?

It’s unfair to everybody that she was given a second chance AND told what to make. It’s unfair to her that they did not judge her ability on the merits of her first dish. It’s unfair to an entire race of people that we should expect them to only be good at cooking one type of cuisine.