Dumbing down the reality of reality TV
WANT to win an Australian reality TV show?
I am going to tell you a sure-fire way to win absolutely any genre of reality competition show on TV.
You must have: a short, one-syllable name, a unique style trait (a penchant for always wearing a beanie, unusually bright reading glasses, samurai ponytail, strange accent/word use, etc), a down-to-earth vibe preferably with a bit of battler, and a compelling backstory.
Reference Masterchef's Adam, Julie and Kate; X Factor's Reece; The Voice's Karise Eden; The Block's Waz and Polly and Brad and Lara; Big Brother's Reggie, Trevor and last year's winner, Ben; The Biggest Loser's Robyn and Katie; and of course My Kitchen Rules' Dan and Steph.
Be memorable, be gen-uine, be accessible and you've got it in the bag.
What you don't need is cliche clashing with the truth, as we saw in a misguided promotional campaign for the current season of Masterchef.
Eyes rolled when Ten publicists went old-school boring with pre-season advertisements announcing that it was going to be girls versus boys.
Eyes rolled again when the contestants were slapped with sexist, stereotypical labels like '50s housewife, stockman and the dude.
Then eyes popped out of heads when judge Gary Mehigan told popsugar.com.au that Masterchef had always "blown stereotypes out of the water", before going on to gloat about how clever they were for throwing up the cliche bait but broadcasting a very different "reality'' switch.
"The '50s housewife is actually a lesbian and a single mum," he smirked. By the way, she is not actually single, but let's go with that. Labelwise, single mum is one of our favourites.
My question is, why run with cliches at all? Cliches become cliches through over use.
I implore the producers of these shows to stop treating their audiences like idiots. Enough of the labels. People are more than a single-word heading on a snappy two-line website bio.
And when that heading doesn't accurately describe the person and is actually wrong, so is the person in marketing who came up with that idea.
Don't feed us over-processed cliches, stereotypes and labels when we want intrigue, mystery and challenge. We've evolved, why haven't you?
Individual's stories are memorable and interesting, it's what makes them genuine and accessible. It's what helps us connect with them.
Don't dumb them down if you want ratings to go up.