Even with funky promos, viewer-chasing stunts and new hosts, Big Brother Australia is off to its weakest debut ever.  In a predictable turn of events, the oldest housemate was the first to be evicted and naked pictures of the shortest ever housemate have been sourced on the net. 


There’s no way I could say it any better than this awesome clip from Ricky Gervais’ Extras Christmas Special.  Hopefully this gem will turn up on local screens before Gretel Killeen appears as the surprise intruder.







Paying the Price

April 24, 2008

Today in the USA it’s the first day of May Sweeps – a time when things in TV land get crazy as networks desperately bid for viewer’s eyeballs and recall.

Unlike our local system, US ratings are gathered in two ways – via people metres each evening and by analysing data entered into paper diaries that are distributed four times a year. For some reason, even as the US gallops toward phasing out analogue television, this dated method of recording viewing habits is given incredible kudos. So, when the diaries are sent out, every network pulls out its big guns so that when members of a household put pen to paper, its their logo or programs that come to mind. Even though those who get a ratings book are paid for their opinions, you can be certain that US$30 doesn’t change the fact that they’re filled out the night before they’re due for collection.

It’s the May Sweeps that have inspired the newest incarnation of the world’s longest running gameshow Price Is Right. In the primetime Million Dollar Spectacular version that will start appearing next Wednesday night at 8pm, Drew Carey presents games we know and love but offers huge payoffs for guessing the retail value of familiar items. In calculating the cost of running a gameshow and paying for cash or prize giveaways, production companies utilise the expertise of academic statisiticians. These masters of mathematics are brought in to assure everyone that big money will only ever be given away when the show can afford it. Variables like the difficulty of the game, the number of times it’s been played and the likelihood of choosing an intelligent contestant are all taken into account.

However, even with the best equations, anomolies occur. On paper, it shouldn’t have taken 5 years for the first Australian to fulfill the promise of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and certainly the boffins wouldn’t have foreseen this outcome.

The position of television programmer is not generally spoken of with any degree of desire. There’s no reality show offering it as a prize and little kids don’t ever use it as a dress up character. And no wonder. Who would want a position that’s a cross between an Idol Judge (NEXT!), an insurance assessor (zero risk = a well-loved host + a popular format that hit in foreign country) and a D-grade celebrity (you’re here with who?)?

Surely the least wanted job right now is network head at Channel 9. If it wasn’t for popping in a tape of Gordon Ramsay whenever possible, there’d be very little keeping 9 in the ratings war. There may be a slight sigh of relief since Canal Road broke the magic million last night, but it’s early days and one hour a week cannot revive an entire network.

Last week the programmers of the world spent the week in Cannes for MIP TV, the little sister of MIPCOM, which is considered the high point of the TV junket calendar. 13,000 delegates gathered – imagine all the handshaking and bad suits hitting the French Riviera. Deals were done, decisions made, backs were slapped. Unfortunately, still smarting from Monster House, Power of Ten, and the local version of Moment of Truth , Ch 9 went shopping. It’s a pity that two major purchases they made – royal drama The Palace and reality series Ladette to Lady – have already been axed in their local territory. Ouch.

One of the toughest things about holding the top network job is that your work is constantly under the scrutiny of the nation and can be severely impacted by the general public, the lawmakers and several governing bodies. Consider the fallout for Underbelly. Or the amazing story that came out of Venezuala last week where the country’s tv authorities dropped The Simpsons from morning TV after judging the cartoon as unsuitable for children and replaced it with the very wholesome Baywatch.

When things start going wrong people get desperate. Last time a network was in this much trouble was when Ch 7 commissioned Temptation Island. Oh yeah, here we go again.

The figures are in and it seems we aren’t really interested in TV that could educate us about what’s going on in our heads.

Of course, Enough Rope was unlikely to hit last week’s Wayne Carey-fest numbers, but a drop of almost half a million was a surprise. Tuesday’s Stress Busters was watched by 100 000 less than those who tuned in the week before for Wendy Harmer’s Stuff. The only glimmer of hope was a slight spike of 30 000 extra viewers who watched the plight of Sydney’s homeless youth last night at 8.30pm as opposed to the previous week’s drama import Life on Mars.

However, I may have underestimated the educational value of Channel 9’s My Kid’s a Star. It didn’t crack the million viewers that the struggling network would have wanted, peaking at around 870 000, but it certainly has valuable lessons to teach us all, like that there’s more to show business than razzle dazzle.

Such an easy Target

April 9, 2008

If like me, you were one of the 1.5 million people captivated by the 60 Minutes’ story about the incestuous father/daughter couple from Mt Gambier, then you need to read this follow-up in today’s Australian newspaper.  

Words fail me.



TV cares, but do we?

April 7, 2008

A scan of this week’s schedule reveals a list of programs focussing on mental health issues being given prime time slots. 


Tonight at 9.35pm Andrew Denton is delving inside other’s heads for tonight’s Enough Rope special Angels and Demons, that he made after attending the 2007 Annual Mental Health Services Conference.  Tuesday at 8pm a new locally made 4-part series called Stress Buster begins.  SB captures the day-to-day challenges of highly strung workplaces and tries to make them more pleasant places to spend our waking hours.  Screening Thursday night at 8.30pm is The Oasis: Australia’s Homeless Youth; a 2-hour doco that followed a group of Sydney’s homeless kids over 2 years.


There appears to be no obvious reason for all of these ABC shows to be falling so closely together.  Australia’s official Mental Health Week is in October.  It’s a real mystery.  Or perhaps an opportunity.  Programmers often turn away from hard-hitting documentaries because they reckon after a long, hard day at the office, the last thing viewers want is to think about real issues.  But they’ll be watching and if more of us tune in to Channel 9’s My Kid’s a Star (Wed night 7.30) than the above programs, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Idol takes the Mickey

April 3, 2008

It seems that Idol is doing a far better job of cementing global relations than any Kevin Rudd round-the-world handshaking tour.

Firstly, Aussie Michael Johns is in the top 9 of American Idol and winning hearts all over the US, including that of Dolly Parton. Seems even Simon Cowell is being softened by Michael’s Down Under huskiness.


The Australian Idol production team will soon be traversing the globe to unearth the talent of ex-pats for the next local series. And every month that goes by brings us closer to the opening of Disneyland’s American Idol Experience.idol-exp.jpg 

This fusion of mice and men promises a genuine Idol experience, including pre-audition nerves, the rush of performing on stage and the real rejection of not even making it past the first stage in the cattle call, supplied by a Hollywood Studio producer. A lucky few, however, will step up to level 2 of the ‘ride’ where they’ll work with a vocal coach, get a makeover and perform in front of a live audience of theme park guests and a panel of judges. Anyone who survives this with their self-esteem intact could get an audition on the real show.

All this proves reality TV really can bring people together.  Perhaps the Beijing Olympic committee should consider having Idol as it’s demonstration sport.