GOT THE MOVES
ON POINTE: AUSSIE TV HIT DANCE ACADEMY STEPS UP TO THE BIG SCREEN
Anew wave of television formats are set to get into viewers’ heads – and their private lives – like never before. Australian versions of shows such as Married at First Sight, The Seven Year Switch, The Bachelor/ette and even The Bigger Loser have had audiences simultaneously captivated but morally muddled for many years now.
It seems the line between ethical and entertaining is blurred worldwide.
An eye-popping Italian game show that allows couples to snoop into their partner’s mobile phone and a Spanish dating program that uses hackers to spy on potential dates were unveiled at MIPTV, the world’s top TV gathering, in Cannes.
The shows are part of a new generation of programming that analysts say uses technology to make TV more intimate and compelling.
The Phone Secrets gives participants total access to their lover’s phone messages and social media accounts.
The couple that survives the ordeal with the least to hide wins. The makers of Hacked Love, which will air later this year in Spain, claim that six out of 10 people lie on their first date. To counter this, they employ hackers to dig into contestants’ pasts while out on a date, pointing out lies or potentially embarrassing information to the person they are dating, live on the air.
The new Israeli game show Contacts has found an even more devilishly ingenious way of putting relationships to the test. Those taking part in the popular culture quiz must ring someone from their phone’s contacts list for an answer to a question even if they know it themselves.
If their contact gets it wrong, they lose.
However, analyst Virginia Mouseler of the influential The Wit website, which charts trends in the industry, said other program-makers were using technology in less sensational situations.
She says factual entertainment is moving away from raising goosebumps to more of a feel-good vibe.
“Life coaching and self-help is emerging as quite an important factor in quite a few of the new shows coming up,” she tells the MIPformat arm of the gathering at Cannes on the French Riviera.
An upcoming BBC show In Your Ear pairs people going through crises or major moments in their lives with their own personal gurus, who secretly give them advice through an earpiece.
The gurus range from psychologists to a real-life Indian guru, an Irish nun and American management experts. “These ‘guardian angels’ follow their subject through the camera and give them the benefit of their support in all sorts of situations,” Mouseler says.
“The only catch is that they must never reveal even to their nearest and dearest that they are being helped,” she adds.
Yellow Card, a new Japanese show from Fuji Creative, goes one step further and employs a range of experts – from doctors to lawyers and etiquette experts – to follow participants and point out their failings.
Rather than giving them a shoulder to lean on, experts are there to give “a yellow card to bad habits,” the company says.
A financial expert ticks off a woman as she shops, scoffing at her naive bargaining skills, while a lawyer intervenes to stop a girl from giving a V-sign on a selfie because her fingerprints could be stolen from the picture.
As well as stern dressingdowns, the show “contains useful life-hacks and advice,” Mouseler says.
German TV channel RTL2 pulled on the heartstrings when it brought in health experts earlier this year to come to the aid of children of obese parents in Help! My Parents are Fat! The hit show features an overweight father who had not eaten salad in 20 years but signed up to change because of the emotional pressure from his children.
The self-help theme continued in the new Swedish show Sold! which follows people trying to sell their homes online without help from estate agents.
If last-minute repairs are needed, they could do worse than turn to the controversial show Denmark versus Eastern Europe, which pits local tradesmen against migrant workers from poorer former Soviet states.
Mouseler says the show has sparked huge debate in the Scandinavian country where immigration has become a hot political potato.
The quality, price and safety of the work are ruthlessly compared, she says, with hidden cameras showing how differently both sets of workers are treated.
Married at First Sight’s controversial couple Cheryl and Jonathan are outdone by the latest crop of boundary-pushing TV shows.