Yes, it’s early days; MasterChef is just commencing its fourth week and Dancing has only just had its fourth instalment.
MasterChef is now in its third series, and Dancing with the Stars is in its eleventh, however for the sake of comparison, let’s call it its fourth series in its newest iteration under new host Daniel McPherson.
On Sunday nights of late, viewers are seemingly spoilt for choice when it comes to reality competitions. Dancing kicks off at 6:30PM and MasterChef at 7:30PM, and this is accurately represented in the ratings figures.
Week 1: Dancing (1,505,000) beat MasterChef (1,503,000)
Week 2: Dancing (1,613,000) beat MasterChef (1,409,000)
Week 3: MasterChef (1,511,000) beat Dancing (1,429,000)
Source: TV Tonight
Due to this close ratings tussle, it would seem as if both shows are churning out more quality addictive content; more drama, more competitiveness, new twists, etc.
And to some extent this is true.
We have seen criticism of personal jibes at contestants (Dancing), controversy over cheating claims (Masterchef), professionals and judges spats (Dancing), spectacular triumphs and cringeworthy train-wrecks (both).
However, haven’t we seen it all before?
Here’s what’s making news today.
The Age’s Craig Mathieson gives a nice little explanation as to why Australia’s Got Talent bested MasterChef on Tuesday night;
“Right now, Channel Ten’s culinary extravaganza looks like an overly long journey, a forced march of a show that’s become a massive brand that vigorously spruiks multiple brands and is hosted by various brands who judge contestants who are very keen to launch their own brands. Apparently, there is some is food involved, too.”
I don’t exactly agree with his glowing appraisal of Australia’s Got Talent, as it can seem overly contrived at times, but the continual flogging of products, as well as the machine-like way it is going about its business every year will eventually contribute to its demise.
Did Lisa Edelstein (who recently exited Fox show House) jump or was she pushed? The TV Guru asks the question. Either way, it’s gotta have a detrimental effect on the show, doesn’t it?
Right now, Channel Nine is currently in the middle of a full frontal military assault.
It’s called Operation Big Bang.
It involves bombarding viewers with as many Big Bang Theory episodes as possible.
And why? You may ask, surely too much of a good thing is, well, too much… But that isn’t the same way programming execs think.
Especially ones at Channel Nine.
You see, Nine are a desperate network. A network desperate to reclaim their number one title off Seven. They don’t have a massive stable of popular shows like Seven do. Seven have their Border Security type shows, which always pull decent ratings, they have a dominant news element- Today Tonight and Sunrise almost always beat their Channel Nine counterparts nationally; they have a hit Australian drama in Packed to the Rafters, and a promising show in Winners and Losers, they also have solid year-round staple shows such as Better Homes and Gardens.
In comparison, Nine has Underbelly, and the closest things it has to a staple show are 60 Minutes (which is usually trounced whenever a show like Dancing With the Star or MasterChef is up against it) and Australia’s Funniest Home Videos (which is given a good run for its money in Melbourne when it is up against Before the Game).
Yes, Nine is struggling, still. So, you might say, who could blame it for scheduling excessive amounts of hit shows? I’m certainly not, but if they want to extract any sort of longevity out of their popular shows, they need to adopt a different method.
And its not as of they haven’t had the chance to learn from their mistakes;
Year of the Ramsay
Back before MasterChef became popular in Australia, there was one AngryChef that took Australia by storm. His name was Gordon Ramsay. In 2008, after Nine had been scheduling episodes of his “Kitchen Nightmares” UK series without much fanfare, it noticed that it was receiving a bit of attention. Before long, it was receiving pretty good ratings, and also had half of Australian radio talk about it.
Nine, sniffing some ratings blood in the water, went in for the kill, and before long had scheduled three hour long Ramsay episodes a week. And luckily for Nine, there was plenty of Ramsay in the tank (he was, by that time, very successful in the UK). Every week from then on, viewers received, from Tuesday to Thursday, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen and The F Word. Of the three, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares remained the most popular. At one stage, he was even interviewed on 60 Minutes.
However, after many weeks of F-bombs, abusive rants and a bit of trouble with ACMA (which may or may not have been related) viewers grew tired of the foul language… Or just Ramsay’s whole “act”, and began switching off.
Eventually, Ramsay was removed from the schedule altogether (though there is the occasional Nightmare on Tuesday nights, possibly in the hope that Ramsay-fever ignites again?).
And as all shows like this follow a pattern, the death knell finally sounded after Gordon Ramsay appeared on A Current Affair in 2009 and was interviewed by Tracey Grimshaw. He subsequently likened her to a pig at a cooking demonstration. He then received a barrage of criticism, which only served to expose him as a bully (for the few who hadn’t realised it yet).
Two and a Half Thousand Men
Channel Nine had acquired Two and a Half Men many years ago, however it was not until 2009 that it started airing episodes by the dozen- well, ten episodes a week. This included the Monday-Friday 7PM slot, where it really gave Home and Away a scare after its 2008 dominance; new episodes in various timeslots; “Adults Only” episodes and repeats aplenty on GO!. However in the latter half of 2010, ratings began to wane, for no particular reason. Well, no reason apparent to Nine execs. It was simply because viewers were sick of it.
Then came 2011. The year of Charlie Sheen, for all the wrong reasons. Without wanting to go into all of the detail (You can go to any other site right now and read about it – ANY other site).
It may have been a combination of Nine’s oversaturation with the world covering Sheen’s “antics” mercilessly that led to it’s demise, but it was a long time coming.
The prophecy once again was fulfilled, with the death knell being Sheen getting the chop from the sitcom.
Nine bizarrely attempted to revive the flagging show’s ratings by advertising the show by playing up how insane Sheen apparently is. They have recently advertised a new episode as being possibly Sheen’s last ever episode (it was the last one filmed before the meltdown and insults thrown at the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre). They were signs of a desperate network, on the brink of losing a former powerhouse.
And the proof that it is dead (or close to it) is no more evident than the fact that its position in the primetime-heading 7PM slot has been stripped from it, to be replaced by The Big Bang Theory.
Top Gear used to be cool. It used to be a little show on SBS that only a few people seemed to know about (even though it was attracting upwards of 600k viewers regularly).
Which was why Nine was so bloody happy with themselves after yanking Top Gear off SBS in 2010, that they decided to play it to death.
And why wouldn’t they, with early figures for Top Gear attracting very healthy figures. However, they started plugging holes all over the schedule with repeat after repeat- initially to great success. At its peak, Nine was airing 1 episode on Sunday on GO!, 1 episode on Tuesday on Nine, 1 on Thursday on GO! and another on Fridays on Nine.
But now, in 2011, somewhat amusingly, now that they finally have been able to show new episodes, absolutely no one has been interested (no one in TV terms = around 600k).
The death knell hasn’t sounded as yet, but it’s coming.
Basically, the lesson is, Nine, don’t make the same mistake with The Big Bang Theory, a show which still has the respect of viewers.
However, Operation BB is already well underway, so brace yourselves.
Note: In most cases, “Renewal” refers to a show being granted another season in 2012, or later in the year, depending on the show.
The 7PM Project
Once a basket-case in terms of ratings, format and style, it would now be difficult to picture a Ten schedule without “7pm”. It doesn’t exactly set the world on fire every night, but at least it has a natural rhythm and to have a live program on TV every night that isn’t a straight news broadcast is a real novelty that we shouldn’t take for granted.
The Biggest Loser
You’d have to think the Biggest Loser has at least one more season left in it. Especially given Ten’s ability to constantly reinvent it. It isn’t performing terribly and fills a decent amount of Ten’s schedule.
However, Ten would be wise to give it a “rest” after 2012, just like it did with So You Think You Can Dance and Australian Idol.
But at the end of the day, the decision will be made based on ratings. And here are its ratings starting from Week 5 of TBL.
Sunday: 1,076,000 (FIRST in timeslot)
Ten pretty much lurves Chris Brown, as demonstrated by his constant appearances on The 7pm Project. They will find a spot for him in the schedule, no matter what.
Undercover Boss Australia
Ready Steady Cook
Good News Week
The Fifth Quarter
Before the Game
One Week at a Time
Junior MasterChef Australia
It would seem a shoo-in for a third season in 2012, however, Ten would be wary of exhausting a more limited brand than MasterChef, given the whole show operates around a central gimmick: “Wow, those kids can actually COOK.”
In addition, if there is indeed another iteration of Masterchef waiting in the wings (possibly a Masterchef: The Professionals series, such as the one which aired in the UK), you would imagine it would be logical to swap the old for the new to avoid it becoming… stale.
Talkin’ Bout Your Generation
The only uncertainty surrounding this show being renewed for 2012 arises due to Shaun Micallef’s potential piloting of a new show. If this show were to be picked up by Network Ten, it would be hard to envisage 26 episodes of “Your Gen” as well as another 10 episode Micallef show (hypothetically), unless:
The Your Gen quota was lowered to one 13 episode run, or, Micallef were to be replaced as host of the show (unlikely, because he IS the show).
6PM with George Negus
Everyone knows about George’s ratings woes, and on any other network it probably would’ve got the boot by now. It would also be nervous with new interim boss Lachlan Murdoch in charge.
However, it has garnered no shortage of positive remarks in recent times, and Ten would be desperately hoping this translates into at least mediocre ratings soon.
It probably belongs somewhere in the middle of “Low” and “50/50”, but chances of renewal for a fifth season in 2012 at this stage seem shaky. It was lucky to be granted a fourth- to air in 2011- as it drew mediocre ratings for much of its third season. Plot-lines also seem tired.
The fact that Ten was willing to burn off the extra episodes of season three in the TV off-season just demonstrates how little value it is to the network anymore- apart from helping to fill their Australian content quota.
It has only been given a 13 episode run in season four, and you’d have to think, if it didn’t achieve any sort of increase ratings-wise, and Inside Out is renewed for a second season, there will be no need- or value- for Rush in the 2012 schedule.
Don’t Stop Believing
Can of Worms
Wow. That’s all I can say.
Oh, and: why? Why have the ABC held off for so long on producing this gem of a show?
Has there ever been an Australian personality so ready-made for a talk-show than Adam Hills?
Affable, friendly and most importantly… funny.
And it couldn’t have a better home: 8:30 PM on a Wednesday night. A family-friendly timeslot which is usually home to a little show called Spicks and Specks.
It is also coming off the back of one of the worst debuts in Australian history- Ben Elton’s Live From Planet Earth premiered to reviews mostly slamming it as a turgid mess, which was only emphasised by its lacklustre rating of 455,000.
Anything would’ve been a relief. But this wasn’t just “anything”.
Hills single-handedly (see how I didn’t joke about his artificial foot) restored faith in not just Australian comedy, but Australian TV in general.
Yes, we have good shows- ie. Packed to the Rafters, Underbelly, Masterchef, but we’ve seen it all before, haven’t we?
And while the audience will know exactly what to expect from Hills- and that’s not necessarily a bad thing- we have on our hands not only a fresh, exciting new show, but a new format- or at least a new twist on an old one.
It fuses together many elements, but does the show allow Hills to fly into the stratosphere- a place many believe was his rightful and deserved one?
Well, for the sake of formality, let’s run through them.
First, there’s Hills’ laconic chat with his guests- an extended style of his usually more rapid-fire Spicks questions. The chat with Arj was funny- as to be expected. There was a reason that Arj was one of the only bright-spots of Planet Earth last night.
Then there was a mostly serious chat with Simon McKeon- not sure if it was the best opportunity to showcase Hills’ humour- McKeon chosen really because he is the man of the moment than anything else.
However, the chat with Melissa George was the real test- and boy, did it succeed, with at least one YouTube moment that George will still blush about. That’s when the show evolved into everything everyone thought it would be, with off-the-cuff lines flying around and Gadsby spreading her wings.
Ross Noble’s chat was typically weird and as brilliant as always. Now there’s a Brit we can get to host a comedy program.
Then, there’s the side-kick, the Andy Richter, the Paul Schaffer: Hannah Gadsby. The perfect foil to Hills, though that goes without saying. Her humour is deadpan while his is sparky.
An obvious criticism is that there wasn’t enough of her in the first show, aside from a few hilarious facial expressions and the odd one-liner, though I’m sure that will change.
I’m confident that her inclusion will prove to be an absolute masterstroke- even if Hills isn’t for you, you simply can’t miss Gadsby.
In terms of being a talk-show, any show which allows the guests to hang around becomes instantly better. In fact, it was one of the elements which made Rove better when it relaunched in 2006.
Hopefully we’ll get a Julian Clary/Rex Mossop moment in the not too distant future.
Then there’s the audience interaction- something Andrew Denton proved could be genuinely interesting, sometimes audience members even upstaged celebrities on Enough Rope.
And of course Hills’ show “Mess Around” took it to new heights. And it would only work with a handful of comedians, too, as an overly aggressive comedian would alienate audience members and make home viewers squirm.
So basically if you like Hills, you’ll absolutely love this show.
One thing’s for sure; there is absolutely nothing wrong with this show. The first show was definitely funny and it was definitely entertaining. Did you expect it to be anything else?
But a talk-show is one of the hardest formats to pull off, so the fact that it seems like a show in its tenth season is really testament to Hills.
It isn’t often that we know a show will be good, and this definitely delivered. It didn’t necessarily exceed my expectations, but then again, they were fairly lofty to begin with.
It might not be as outrageous as Craig Ferguson, as smooth as Letterman or as cool as Conan, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s Hills at his best and he’s comfortable and charming.
People sometimes say that we shouldn’t go hard on Australian shows that aren’t funny; at least they’re employing Aussies… Right?
Well, sort of.
I believe that we need to give shows a fair go, but if they simply aren’t that funny, it represents a tendency to settle for less. And it isn’t truly indicative of what we are capable of as Australians.
This show is all that we are capable of… And then some. It not only showcases one of our greatest talents, but exhibits everyday Australians as laid-back, funny people with great stories to tell.
Stuff Oprah*, this would be the best advert for Australia. And if not that, jus a damn entertaining show for British telly (Neighbours-style).
Simply put, we needed this show a long, long time ago. It won’t be must-see viewing for everyone as Hills’ comedy isn’t exactly explosive drop-everything-laugh-a-lung-up humour, but no other show can guarantee such a consistently friendly and most importantly, funny show week-in, week-out.
*Sorry Oprah, nothing against you. Please don’t smite me.