Life after Masterchef. Will there be a new reality?
By the year 2014, scientists - meaning my brain - predict that four out of every five Australians will have participated in a televised cooking, singing or renovation competition.
Unable to find anyone over the age of six who hasn’t ruined a batch of macarons, covered an ‘80s ballad or panicked about tiling patterns on national TV, producers will be forced to resort to the construction of an army of immortal robots tasked with endlessly installing water features and preparing fusion dishes until civilisation crumbles and George Calombaris becomes ruler of the rag-tag group of rebels who patrol the Earth’s shattered highways.
For years, our screens have been dominated by accountants and architects in aprons, couples having domestics on building sites and bubbly teens with floppy fringes sacrificing themselves to Kyle Sandilands - the human-shaped God of Patronising Rage.
The latest show to gain a strong following is The Voice - a singing program distinguished from its peers by the fact one of the judges is an ancient, fleshy vessel containing the entirety of human sexuality (known to mortals as “Seal”).
Yes, we’ve occasionally had shows such as The Amazing Race, which has seen a number of Australians have to purge the words “organised”, “loves a challenge”, “works well under pressure” and “doesn’t scream at wife while abseiling” from their resumes.
But these shows are usually presented as distractions from all the jazz hands and minor kitchen-related burns. They never even come close to toppling the Australian Idols and The Blocks for television.
It’s time to find something new - something exciting and fresh and potentially dangerous.
We need to find a new skill - other than cooking, building or singing - to get excited about and use it to pit “ordinary Australians”/attention-starved narcissists against each other.
And no, I’m not interested in the kaleidoscopic, caffeine-addled collection of cartwheelers, waistcoat-wearing card shufflers and wranglers of small dogs known as “Australia’s Got Talent”. I’d prefer to avoid sipping from that particular bubbling vat of exploited childhood dreams and over-priced props.
What we need is a focused, high-stakes competition that chooses one specific skill and sticks to it - no oddball clowns competing against juggling children and grown men who wear sparkly hats.
We could, for example, hold extreme vintage car races in abandoned aqueducts, find Australia’s greatest Jenga master (spoiler: someone gets crushed by the weight of their own ambition/irresponsibly-tall Jenga tower) or clone carnivorous dinosaurs and challenge contestants to tame them over 12 emotional weeks. None of these, you may notice, involve singing, cooking or renovating (except maybe the dinosaur thing).
All of them, however, still present ample opportunity for passive-aggressive exchanges, over-sharing and the emptying of many tear ducts. We would pluck everyday Aussies from obscurity, put them in front of a camera so they can publicly talk about how much they hate their current lifestyle and occupation, hand them a pair of fire-resistant pants and escort them to their potentially-explosive vehicle.
And we would watch as a deli worker from Dalby named Kimberley (with five lower-case i’s) cries because her drift on the 18th corner wasn’t perfect.
“It’s just always been my dream,” she’ll tearily say.
And the judges would tilt their heads sympathetically in unison, before condescendingly explaining that she “just needs a little more time to find the emotional core of her panic-stricken high-speed cornering”.
Finally, a new and interesting show would score a victory against the tyrannical cooking/singing/building format, ending George Calombaris’ sweaty reign of terror.
At the very least, it would give us something to watch until the next season of Masterchef.
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