IT’S been a drought through another summer of damned repeats, saved only by Seven and the ABC, who have shown their respect for us by broadcasting new shows and new episodes of favourites. Even pay TV has been dormant, except for the articulate, thoughtful, and considerate film channels.
When enduring these electronic famines it’s hard to believe TV has come close to colonising the collective consciousness, gathering a population and intensifying the experience of drama in our lives in a way that’s without cultural precedent.
Still, we can be confident we are now entering an era that will witness the death of the TV channel as we increasingly take control. What will it matter which network carries a favourite show when we can program it whenever and wherever it’s screened? It’s something the tech-savvy younger generation is doing already.
But all of a sudden there’s almost too much on. The free-to-airs have launched early in some cases, anticipating the rating period almost upon us. Desperation is already in the air. The ABC has new shows and returning favourites such as Family Confidential, Australian Story and Artscape and there’s some early innovative programming ( Grimm, Kings Cross ER) on pay.
Ten is back with Biggest Loser and Nine has the seeming shameless copycat Excess Baggage — both are so-called ‘‘ stripped’’ shows, running through the week — even though we are assured Excess Baggage is about persistence, teamwork, dedication and trust. Unlike its rival. And we’re told there are no forced diets and no lockdown that removes the hefty contestants from everyday temptations. Oh, and no scales.
While these shows do, up to a point, satisfy a public thirst for stories of adventure, struggle and hardship, they seem little removed from the Victorian freak shows, which thrived on presenting people with physical extremes. They included The Fat Boy of Peckham and Sacco-homann the Famous Fasting Man. Such was the popularity of fat women shows that five alone could be found at Hull Fair, the largest travelling fair in Britain in the 1890s.
Seven’s My Kitchen Rules, also returned, has a touch of the carnivalesque about it too. It’s now a sumptuously produced hybrid of Masterchef and the acerbic British series Come Dine With Me, featuring a cross-section of larger-than-life, rather abrasive contestants. With the series still in the early stages they all present themselves as intimidating exemplars of self-esteem, discipline and ambition. They are smug and assured, and we can’t wait for them to revealed as psychologically fragile and deluded. Just like us when it comes to giving dinner parties.
All these reality franchises are worth dipping and delving into just to see what tweaks producers can bring to their estab-