There was a time during the early days of television, when receivers had just come on the market, that people gathered in front of department store windows to ogle at the new technology. When TV arrived in Australia, the often notoriously unreliable cathode ray sets were at first very expensive and only the better heeled families could afford them. It was not uncommon to see very young children, wrapped up in their dressing gowns watching Mickey Mouse cartoons in the early evening, in the window of a local appliance store – at least in the less well to do suburbs.
It wasn’t long before sets became much cheaper and less likely to go kaput after only a few months use. By the mid to late 60s, virtually every Australian home had a so called idiot box and most programming was designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Appeasing the lowest common denominator has become the modus operandi of commercial television ever since. Just when you think the bottom of the barrel has finally been scraped, and the networks are now devoid of any new ideas, it’s time to wake up the dead!
Reviving an old program concept is nothing new to Australian TV and some like Family Feud survive like almost indestructible zombies – sneaking back onto the airwaves like a menacing marauder from a George A Romero movie. In recent years an atmosphere of desperation has prevailed as our free to air networks, faced with immense competition from Netflix and other streaming sources, grapple to maintain their ratings.
Why else would you resuscitate such tired old formats like Dancing With The Stars and Big Brother, as has been the case with Channel 7 in recent weeks. The other networks are just as guilty and whilst they might not revive an actual title, their endless dating and cooking shows are just variations on a long running theme. If nothing is actually new, perhaps it’s time to at least reinvent some of these programs to give them a contemporary bite and a relevance to 2021. Here are just a few suggestions:
DANCING WITH THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED: Schapelle Corby certainly broke new ground with her appearance on 7’s Dancing With The All Stars and perhaps the way is now open for a rehabilitation series that features an exclusive roster of those who have previously served time. Peter Foster, Eddie Obeid and of course Schapelle herself, would all be potential celebrities. Should Tony Mokbel win his freedom at his forthcoming retrial he would also be a natural, with a variety of colourful hair pieces to charm the judges.
‘BAD’ NEIGHBOURS: Neighbours the soap has been around since 1985 and whilst it has occasionally touched on social issues, it has never really attracted much controversy. That is until recently when a number of non-caucasian cast members went public with accusations of racism on the set. Time to expose the ugly face of discrimination and introduce a serious dialogue into the program. When a family of anti-semitic, neo-Nazi, white supremacist terrorists move into Ramsay Street, the community rallies to burn down their house along with the swastika flying in the backyard.
BIG BROTHER – ON NAURU: George Orwell would no doubt turn over in his grave if he knew how his omnipresent controller from 1984 had been appropriated into a global TV franchise. The latest manifestation on Australian TV sees contestants forced to perform a number of stupid stunts to maintain their presence in the house. Why not move the entire production to Nauru, smack dab in the middle of the detention centre there. Contestants would then have to compete with genuine refugees to be voted off the island and return to Australian soil.