There is no guarantee celebrities will pull in the viewing public, writes Colin Vickery
ARE celebrities worth it? That is the question TV executives have been pondering since Excess Baggage crashed in the ratings. Channel 9 was confident that its celebrity-filled weight loss show would be a ratings winner. Instead, it is 2012’s biggest flop. Nine spent big money to sign up Britney Spears’ ex Kevin Federline, former Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester, AFL champion Robert Dipierdomenico, singer Christine Anu, actor Gabby Millgate and paparazzi photographer Darryn Lyons. It didn’t work. Excess Baggage
premiered to 880,000 viewers nationally on January 30 and quickly slumped in the ratings. It was shunted to GO! after a fortnight.
The contrast with My Kitchen Rules couldn’t be starker.
Seven’s cooking show, which is filled with no-name ordinary Australians, is a monster ratings success.
About 2 million viewers a night are mad keen to see teams including Peter and Gary, Carly and Emily, Megan and Andy, Leigh and Jennifer — people they didn’t know from a bar of soap a month ago.
Media analyst Mark Mccraith says the reason Excess Baggage flopped is easy. Its celebrities weren’t famous enough.
Mccraith has slammed Aussie TV networks for signing has-been celebrities in a desperate bid to boost ratings.
Australia’s size means there is a much smaller pool of celebrities for TV networks to draw on compared with the US.
‘‘ TV networks have been scraping the bottom of the barrel recently,’’ Mccraith says. ‘‘ They have had B and C grade celebrities that are not high-profile enough, or known or loved.’’
Switched On readers were certainly quick to pounce on the quality of celebrities on Excess Baggage.
‘‘ What do they (Nine) expect with a bunch of C-grade hack celebrities?’’ Gary of Flemington posted online.
‘‘ A person who photographs celebrities is not a celebrity,’’ another said, taking aim at Lyons.
Channel 10’s celebrity-filled Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation is in a ratings slump, but the ABC’S Spicks and Specks thrived for seven years with an all-star guest line-up including comedians Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.
Seven and Nine are banking heavily on celebrities to turn upcoming shows into ratings hits.
Seven has just announced the line-up for the next series of Dancing with the Stars.
Kerri-anne Kennerley and Shannon Noll would definitely make the A list.
But disgraced AFL star Brendan Fevola, singer Johnny Ruffo, actor Zoe Cramond and model Vogue Williams would tumble into B, C and even D.
‘‘ Dancing with the Stars (is a success) because people enjoy seeing celebrities out of their comfort zones,’’ Mccraith says.
Last year Nine struck ratings gold with Celebrity Apprentice Australia, featuring controversial former politician Pauline Hanson, singer Deni Hines, and comedian Julia Morris. Nine is hoping to repeat that success. It has flown Baywatch star David Hassel- hoff from the US to appear alongside former Aussie Idol judge Ian ‘ Dicko’ Dickson and glamour girl Tania Zaetta for the new series.
Fusion Strategy’s Steve Allen says big names don’t guarantee ratings success.
‘‘ We understand why celebrities are put into programs— to draw viewers in because they are well known — but they have to be relevant,’’ Allen says.
‘‘ Reality shows, especially, require audience engagement to generate water cooler moments.
‘‘ Excess Baggage did not generate this but Celebrity Apprentice did.
‘‘ People did not want to know about the weight challenges of the rich and famous.’’
Nine has spent millions of dollars signing big-name stars as judges and mentors for its new talent show The Voice.
Singers Delta Goodrem, Seal, Keith Urban and Joel Madden don’t come cheap.
But it is the talented ordinary Aussies, and not the judges, who will determine whether The Voice is a success.
Seven’s Australia’s Got Talent had a big ratings spike last year because of teen discovery Jack Vidgen — not because of star judges Dannii Minogue, Kyle Sandilands and Brian Mcfadden.
Hiring Tina Arena as a judge for Young Talent Time hasn’t stopped the kids’ talent show from sliding in the ratings.
‘‘ It is the real people in these shows (that determine ratings success) because they generate real emotions,’’ Mccraith says.