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Clash of 2014 reality titans: My Kitchen Rules, The Block, The Biggest Loser
TV and Radio
January 16, 2014
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Film, music and TV critic
View more articles from Craig Mathieson
If there's a tipping point for reality television it may occur next month, when Nine's decision to extend their 6pm news has meant that The Block will screen at 7.30pm, opposite Seven's My Kitchen Rules.
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watches Hot property: Dan and Steph Mulheron celebrate their 2013 My Kitchen Rules season victory.
fake rolex watches Once upon a time we used to laugh about what would become of television programming, joking about putting strangers in a house and filming them 24 hours a day or creating pop stars via a talent quest.
rolex datejust The more outlandish the concept, the funnier the fake pitch … until the reality series started doing all that and more. And now we live in the reality television age.
replica watches In 2013, seven of the 20 most watched regular programs on Australian television were reality product; by contrast news and current affairs provided just six. Australians watch an awful lot of reality television, and each year there seems to be more as existing franchises are supersized across entire weeks and new concepts are launched.
rolex submariner replica Back for more: My Kitchen Rules judges Pete Evans and Manu Feildel.
rolex datejust replica "Reality shows capture people's imaginations," says television critic and social commentator Josh Kinal (hookturn.com.au). "It's like midweek sport, but with different teams."
From this week, as the commercial television networks reveal their 2014 schedules, those reality teams are back again. From Seven ( My Kitchen Rules , House Rules , The X-Factor , The Amazing Race Australia ), Nine ( The Voice , The Block: Fans v Faves , Australia's Got Talent ), Ten ( MasterChef , The Biggest Loser Australia: Challenge Australia , The Bachelor , So You Think You Can Dance ) — the year will again be blanketed with tense countdowns and tearful eliminations.
"They're the foundation stone of every commercial network," says media analyst Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy. "We hail My Kitchen Rules as the best of them because Seven applies itself diligently, and Nine is also doing that nowadays with The Block , to quantitative refinement. They understand what makes it a hit: they know they have to cast heroes and villains and how they have to produce the tension that keeps people engaged."
Doing his block: Scott Cam.
There are several factors that make reality series so valuable to television networks, Allen says: They have an immediacy that's a social currency — audiences watch them live or soon after they air, which vastly reduces illegal downloading and pleases advertisers. They've made up for a lack of smash hits from the once-reliable American market. And they're comparatively cheap, especially with the ability to integrate sponsors' products.
Kinal takes a measure of reality television's standing by informally asking people what shows are talked about in the workplace. It's the talent contests that create the most chatter, but no matter what the reality format may be, there's a danger in extending successful shows and dragging out competitions.
"If you can't think of something new, why not make the existing thing bigger?" is the guiding philosophy Kinal says. "It's a sign of desperation. With My Kitchen Rules people love the first five weeks, but last year they brought in new people and tried to milk it and milk it. There's a kind of contract that the shows have with their viewers that they're investing their emotions in a story and that story is going to happen, and some people got annoyed with My Kitchen Rules for breaking that contract."
If there's a tipping point for reality television it may occur as soon as next month, when Nine's decision to extend their 6pm news means The Block will screen at 7.30pm, opposite Seven's My Kitchen Rules juggernaut. When the Winter Olympics finish on Ten, it will air The Biggest Loser in the same timeslot, creating a fierce battle (and perhaps an unexpected bonus for the ABC and SBS).
"It will be wall-to-wall established franchise reality television," says Allen. "When you add extra formats and extra hours the overall audience grows a bit, but the averages fall because there's just too much and people have to choose. There is a finite point of the amount of viewership to reality."
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