The Big Adventure was as much of a leap of faith for host Jason Dundas as the contestants, writes COLIN VICKERY
NO WONDER Jason Dundas is excited. At the end of The Big
Adventure he is going to tell one of the show’s contestants: “You have just won $1 million.”
Channel 7’s new reality show comes from the creators of My
Kitchen Rules and House Rules but it doesn’t resemble those programs.
Instead, The Big Adventure is a mash-up of Survivor with The Hunger Games, Indiana Jones, The Amazing Race, Wipeout and even It’s a Knockout.
A dozen Aussies on a secret South Pacific island face a series of torturous team and individual challenges. Contestants who win the challenges get the chance to dig for a guaranteed $1 million in a specially designed Treasure Grid which looks like the ruins of a Mayan temple.
The show’s hero element is the mammoth Sky Rig – a stadium suspended over water – where all the team challenges take place. It looks like something out of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.
When competitors first arrived at the island, they had no idea what the show was about. It was left to Dundas to reveal the size of the prize and it’s fair to say that the contestants were dumbfounded.
“When you stand in front of these 12 average Australians and you tell them that one of them is going to win $1 million – it gave me goose bumps,” Dundas says.
Aussie TV viewers know Dundas from his five years on Getaway. He left the Nine travel show in 2011 to further his career in America.
Over the past three years, Dundas co-hosted VH1 pop culture program
Big Morning Buzz Live. After The Big Adventure he returns to the US to host MTV’s Beyond Dance, a reality program on professional dancers.
Dundas says he was just as mystified by the concept of The Big
Adventure as the contestants. “I had a meeting with (producer) Rikkie Proost and he said he had a show in mind for me which he can’t tell me anything about.
“He said ‘think Hunger Games’ and ‘think massive’. Ever since I started on TV I’ve wanted to host the biggest shows in the world and facilitate the journeys of average people and this show hits both those.”
Right now, though, Dundas, sporting an Akubra, is galvanised on the Treasure Grid, which looks like a giant chess board in the sand.
Despite the draining jungle humidity, one of the contestants is digging hard. He has three attempts to find one of 12 golden keys.
One of those keys will open a treasure chest containing $1 million. The trouble is, one contestant is eliminated each episode, with their keys passed on to the remaining contestants.
The competitors are a mixed bunch. They range in age from 23 to 52 and include the outspoken cosmetic surgery rep Jess, ship’s cook Paul, grandfather Sean and tradie Mark.
Some, like 28-year-old conservationist Annaleis and 25-year-old landscaper Dane, whose twin brother Luke has cerebral palsy, have altruistic plans if they win big. Others just blatantly want a million bucks – and will do anything to get it.
“I get physically and emotionally affected when I have to tell someone they have lost a challenge or they have been eliminated,” he says.
THE BIG ADVENTURE
TONIGHT, 6.30PM, SEVEN
Big gig: Jason Dundas is excited to be hosting such a major new show. Below, Dundas with the contestants.