Let’s get real

TV loves a formula, so the news about a new ABC panel show in this story from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph isn’t that surprising…

Across on Aunty, former Triple J breakfast presenter Tom Ballard has scored his first TV hosting gig, fronting a new ABC panel show Reality Check (to air later this year), which will take a blowtorch to the belly of reality television.

The co-production with Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder will see Ballard joined by three ­industry experts, from producers to ex-contestants and ­judges, each week “who will share their war stories and ­reveal what really happens ­behind the camera”.

Meanwhile, the official press release features the usual limp self-promotion. Does anyone really think the reason why Stephen Spielberg is “a genius” is because he makes people cry?

“Reality is TV’s 800 pound gorilla,” says ABC Head of Entertainment Jon Casimir. “It’s the most successful cultural force of the last decade. It’s the ABC’s job to examine the world we live in. We hope Reality Check will give ‘Reality TV’ its due, acknowledging its drawing power and asking why it works and what that says about us.”

“Reality is dramatic, funny, poignant, and in many ways, reflects our community more accurately than any other genre. This series examines how it works and asks the question: if Stephen Spielberg is a genius for making audiences cry, why shouldn’t reality producers be lauded for doing the same thing?” says Nick Murray, Managing Director CJZ.

As Australian Tumbleweeds reader Daniel G points out, it sounds a little Gruen doesn’t it? Which makes us wonder a few things…

  1. Who’ll be the Russell Howcroft/John Hewson “break-out star” of Reality Check? Hotdogs? That bum dance woman who was in Big Brother more than a decade ago?
  2. What amazing Gruen-style, not-at-all-news-to-anyone-with-a-brain revelations about reality TV will the panellists reveal? “It’s mostly scripted and put together in the editing room.” “We deliberately cast contestants who are so fame hungry that they’ll have sex with other people on the show without encouragement from us?” “We keep the temperature in the Big Brother house high so the housemates will strip off.”
  3. Will they award a trophy to the weirdest reality TV program at the end of every episode? (No, wait, we know the answer to that, which leads us to…)
  4. How many examples of weird overseas reality shows will have been previously discussed by Charlie Brooker in either his Guardian column or Screenwipe, or on the UK or Australian version of You Have Been Watching? We’re going to guess the answer is “a fair number” but at least it’ll be hard for them to crowbar in that footage of E.V.B. Sampson.

So yeah, don’t expect this to be anything more than the Gruen concept applied to a different topic. Something which is fittingly cynical when discussing reality TV.

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  • Urinal Cake says:

    This is a great topic…about a decade ago.

    Even a ‘Internet clip’ show would be better even if it is ‘look at these young people doing all these funny yet disturbing things’.

  • UnSubject says:

    They can also raid Cracked.com for some of its recent reality-TV interviews.

    Also, aren’t most of the people on these shows signed up to non-disclosure agreements that are exceptionally tight? Precisely to avoid these kind of disclosures?

    I can’t help thinking that even if this show works, it has an exceptionally limited life.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    If someone were to reveal that this was an extremely last-minute replacement for the dumped Spicks and Specks revival, we wouldn’t exactly be surprised.