Last night; reality television bowed its head for 2011 with a lovely finale for Beauty & The Geek Australia. In a blog post; I went through the key aspects that went into making the final week of reality for this year a success while also hinting at future prospects for this blog. In the final recapping blog I will be posting for this year, I will detail the year that has been; the highs and the lows. Pretend it is one of those lengthy recaps shows attach to the top of their finales. Then I will preview what is in store for the coming months and into 2012.
The year began on 30 January 2011 with the launch of The Biggest Loser Australia’s sixth season- the first in the ‘families’ format. The season began with four trainers; Shannon Ponton, Michelle Bridges, Steve Willis (formerly ‘The Commando’, now a fully fledged trainer) and new ninja warrior Tiffiny Hall, all heading to the homes of their respective families to eat what they eat, do what they do and most importantly, live how they live.
It was an eye opening experience, and the perfect way to introduce the four families- the Westren family containing Leigh Westren, fiancée Lara Whelan, mother Sharlene and father Craig. We also had the Moon family, containing sisters Sarah, Jodie, Rebecca and Kellie. The Duncan family contained Emma, Jarrod, Sarah-Jayne and Meg and the Challenor family contained Damien, Nathaniel, Joe and Greg.
One by one, these families competed for immunity and power. Joe became a villain after making his nephew Nathaniel enter an elimination when it should have been him and also giving away immunity to someone other than his brother, Damien.
Despite being eliminated, a twist in the show saw Lara, Nathaniel, Rebecca and Emma return to the show. Two of these four were supposed to be eliminated, but after gaining weight at a weigh in, previously safe contestant Joe joined the line up and was eliminated with Lara, meaning three people were allowed back into the competition.
After 13 long weeks, Kellie, Sarah, Leigh and returnee Emma returned for the finale and despite great odds, Emma Duncan was crowned Australia’s second female Biggest Loser, with Leigh coming in second and Kellie and Sarah coming in third and fourth respectively.
In the same era, My Kitchen Rules returned after a highly successful first season. Its second season seemed to tap into the success MasterChef saw in 2010, and won pretty much every night it was on.
Amongst all the teams, we had High Achievers Kelly and Ash Cooke, Newlyweds Anne-Marie Battista and Nick Sharp, urban hippies Mal Gill and Bec Saul and of course, sisters Sammy & Bella Jakubiak.
It was a toughly contested battle, and MKR became something of a phenomenon. In the end, it was sisters Sammy & Bella who took the crown and have been close to Seven’s heart ever since, even making a few appearances on Dancing with the Stars.
Speaking of which, Dancing With The Stars made its 2011 debut with a big cast. Well, it wasn’t so big, but those people in Seven’s controversy department were prepped and at the ready. A change to the judging panel saw Josh Horner take the place of Mark Wilson, someone who seemed all too keen to create a stir.
The dancing line up consisted of newsreader Samantha Armytage, Home & Away’s Dan Ewing, bungled model Lara Bingle and most infamously, socialite Brynne Edelsten.
Brynne was at the centre of two very public controversies that helped lift ratings for the show. The first saw new judge Josh Horner describe her as a ‘bedazzled sack of potatoes’, causing her to cry after only her first dance. The second saw co-host Sonia Kruger comment on her and her husband, Geoffrey Edelsten’s age gap, referring to the latter as the former’s dad.
Despite all this, the country was ‘bedazzled’ by Brynne’s story, and also that of Samantha Armytage who was also given a beating by the judges. Both stayed in the contest for quite a while longer than many would have thought, with Samantha only just missing out on a place in the final.
Another contestant, Haley Bracken, who’s husband Nathan competed on the show only to be eliminated first, delighted the judges and scored herself a few ten’s, regularly winning challenges.
She made it all the way to the finale with singer Damien Leith and chef Manu Feildel.
While her dancing skills were enough to ward off Damien into third place, she was not able to beat Manu, who won the public vote and therefore the very controversial contest for 2011.
Back to TEN, and their reality ratings juggernaut, MasterChef Australia, returned for its third season. Branded as the biggest yet, a massive mystery box in Sydney Harbour was enough to herald in that promise to viewers watching at home.
The new season had a Cerebral Palsy sufferer, a surfer pin up dude, a few at home mother cooks and a fighter pilot.
Ratings for the season opened fairly high and fairly consistent, but the series was never going to reach the success of 2010. By the end of the season, it was also clear that its days of creating a 3 million plus viewership finale were over.
But there was plenty to celebrate in between. To make up for a lack of inspiration found in most of the dishes presented this year, the contestants headed to the likes of Margaret River, Busselton Jetty, a mine, Malaysia, New York and Melbourne for challenges and episodes.
The production team were in overdrive, and the production of the series was insanely great.
Storytelling also played a big part as many events grabbed news headlines. Firstly was that little fling between Ellie and Hayden which resulted in nothing. The second, and probably the biggest controversy to ever hit the MasterChef kitchen came from contestant Mat Beyer, or more frankly, his smart phone.
During one challenge, it was suspected by the judges that Mat had brought in a smart phone that could have been used to find information on recipes. Their suspicions were somewhat confirmed and he was kicked out of the competition.
Other stories also attracted attention. The shock elimination of CP sufferer John Hughes in the top 50 round, the deletion of fighter pilot Paul Lombardi before the top 24 round even started and the shock walking of contestant Adam Bowen all left viewers with something to watch.
Moving into finals week, and Ellie, Dani, Alana, Michael and Kate were left to fight for the title, although Ellie was eliminated just before all this.
It all came down to Michael and Kate in the finale where mother Kate beat out SA Michael, 87 points to 84. It wasn’t a very memorable finale, and Kate hasn’t been heard of since, but it was still another successful slate for TEN.
Reality television was Seven’s forte in 2011 with Australia’s Got Talent also on the rise. All three judges; Kyle Sandilands, Dannii Minogue and Brian McFadden returned and found the likes of The Old Fella, Ben Price, Jack Vidgen and Cosentino and launched them into the spotlight.
Also launched into the spotlight was comedian Jordan Harris where, after a successful first round of auditions which was based on jokes ‘borrowed’ from other joke makers, he managed to alienate his audience in the semi finals with a less than impressive and rather cringeworthy performance of his own.
They also ‘re-found’ Timomatic who, after modest success on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia in 2009, returned to this competition to place third.
In the end, performer Cosentino placed second to singing schoolboy Jack Vidgen, who was famous in his own right for those veneers.
Seven also launched The Amazing Race Australia, which brought out probably the most diverse range of characters seen on reality television this year. We had Muslims Mo & Mos, Big W employees Anne Marie and Tracy; reunited sisters Alana and Mel and dopey farmers Tom & Matt.
The first season saw these guys race to places like Indonesia, South Africa, Czech Republic, Poland, Singapore and Hong Kong, and face challenges ranging from playing a famous Chinese casino game, to stacking crates of beer to skydiving!
In the end, it was surfer duo Nathan & Tyler, the former of which dated Erin McNaught, won the show over Perth models Renae & Sam. Surprisingly, it all came down to a race around Perth.
But I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about Seven and TEN for now; so lets visit some of Nine’s reality offerings.
Well, most famously, we had The Block. Now in it’s forth season, the producers mixed things up a bit and introduced a new stripped 7PM format. The show also moved out of apartment renovating with this year’s contestants asked to renovate four houses on a block!
Lastly, there were eight teams, not four. Four of those teams however were eliminated in the first week, but they all made appearances in challenges throughout the series.
The four main couples were Josh & Jenna, a bickering boyfriend/girlfriend duo who were in charge of the only double fronted house on the street; Polly & Waz, a very quirky, young and savvy couple who had nil background in renovating; Katrina & Amie, two sisters with emotions made of concrete and a very stylish yet obscure design technique, and seasoned renovators Tania & Rod.
They were all a bunch of laughs with only a few moments of sadness. There was a time when Tania & Rod were called off the block to attend a family funeral, and there was also a time when Katrina’s Crohn’s disease overtook her emotions a bit. But in the end, these couples, with the help of host Scott Cam, new host Shelley Craft, sometimes embattled onsite manager Keith and a whole set of reward winning challenges, were able to manage four great houses for auction.
The only disappointing thing about this season, was most probably the only thing that the producers didn’t want to end in disappointment- the finale.
After last year’s ‘shock’ announcement that Chez & Brenton’s apartment was to be passed in, it was a surprise to everyone watching when three of the four houses were passed in. It was even more of a shock that the winning house, selling for $15,000 profit, belonged to novice’s Polly & Waz. And it was an EVEN BIGGER shock to Jenna, whose night was turned upside down by a proposal by Josh. She said yes!
Nine also had Top Design, a brand new show by Jamie Durie, once Nine’s love child and host of The Block. The series failed to fire and was at one point shown first run on GEM ahead of a Nine screening.
Robert Davidov won the show, beating out Lisa and Steve at the finale, which was quite a high key affair for such a low key performer. I guess for me personally, the thing I will remember about this show was minutes after blogging the finale of the show on a Friday, news that Big Brother Australia was to return on Nine surfaced.
Nine also had two seasons of The Farmer Wants A Wife, however I only watched the second, which was the series’ seventh overall.
In this season, containing farmers Wil, Trent, Frank, John, Kev and Tim, a seventh mystery girl was added to the picked girls the farmers chose as potential wives. This seventh girl was chosen by the families. The farmers had to decide whether or not to take her back to the farm with him and two others.
Some jumped at the opportunity, some did not.
The show saw numerous exits; most notably, Farmer John’s favourite Belinda. The finale also saw a shocking outcome for Kev, who after two eliminations, his chosen girl got cold feet and left, leaving him with no one to pursue. Potential season eight candidate, anyone?
The season end showcasing the wedding of former contestants Nathan and Amanda.
To end the year, Nine debuted the oftentimes controversial Celebrity Apprentice to a stripped 7PM format. The series contained celebrities including Jesinta Campbell, Deni Hines, Jason Coleman, Julia Morris, Pauline Hanson and Shane Crawford.
Deni became an instant villain; constantly attacking Polly for her lack of celebrity, and generally acting like a spoilt brat and damaged diva. She was soon eliminated.
Pauline Hanson would most likely be considered as the most unlikely hero of the series after showing real integrity and a real maturity towards challenges. She was constantly saved from elimination due to her work ethic and public support backing her, especially after washing some guy’s car in underwear, was shiny.
Another surprise characterisation came from Jason Coleman, who while showed great leadership and well-spokenedness, constantly lost challenges and began to be deemed a villain in the eyes of the contestants who saw his constant need to be in control and his somewhat demeaning mannerisms to be quite rude and somewhat crippling to the receiving contestant’s place in the competition
In the final week, eliminated contestants Polly, Didier, Deni and Max returned to help out finalists Jason, Julia, Shane and Jesinta in what was an explosive and controversial week. Mad Max Markson, who was known for his immaturity, outspokenness and time wasting abilities, somewhat ironically eliminated after competing in a challenge sober of these qualities, returned to give Julia and Jason one more test of patience and control.
But it was Deni Hines who stole the show, seemingly playing up for the cameras and using the villain persona she received in her first stint on the show, and arguing with people, mostly Jesinta, at any opportunity she got.
She later admitted that she did it for fun, and even commended enemy Jesinta on her smarts. It wasn’t enough to let Jesinta and Shane win, and in the end, it all came down to Julia and Jason. Julia Morris won the show, but decided to split the money with Jason Coleman and his charity; a rare show of such true honour and dignity. Julia will be one contestant who’s ‘brand’ isn’t damaged by this show.
TEN also experimented with The Renovators; but it turned into an overall flop, despite showing signs of life throughout its run, and even giving TEN a second place position on finale night. The renovation show saw host Brendan Moar and judges Peter Ho, Barry Du Bois and Robyn Holt guide 20 renovators through challenges, which included a 24-hour makeover of a house on wheels, carted into the show’s massive warehouse studio, and a week trip up to Brisbane to help flood victims, and eliminations which I personally noted for their initial lack of imagination.
Despite the low rating performance of the show, it was generally well received by the public, with many of you suggesting contestants for the Top 20 Reality Contestants of 2011 competition. While it was able to shake comparisons to The Block; its similarity to MasterChef remained and became the show’s only lowlight. Despite all this, I would say that where the Renovators was different was in its increased personal approach to its contestants and its laid back approach to the whole structure of the show.
There were plenty of team changes, but ultimately, Natalie from the sixties suburban (formerly, the shop), August from the shop, Peter from the half done house, Michael from the fibro cottage, Mel from the weatherboard and Luke from the terrace became the show’s finalists for auction night.
While not many houses sold for profit, they did all sell, and it was SA’s Michael Lynch’s fibro cottage that sold for the most and gave the tradie from Laura a win!
Junior MasterChef Australia was generally a miss for TEN, after initially debuting a brand new Top 50 format. Matt Preston took leave for the series, but Matt Moran took his place and Anna Gare returned as a solely Junior MasterChef judge.
The show continued the celebrated production of the main show, and the trips to Disneyland and the inspiring dish after inspiring dish of tasty food was a massive bonus; possibly making it a better season than the first, but the viewers didn’t come, and this is one show that will most probably be forgotten.
For those of you who don’t forget it, Greta Yaxley won the show, with 92 points over Jack’s 84 (if I recall).
Back to Seven and it was another year for The X Factor and it was going to be big. Natalie Imbruglia and Kyle Sandilands didn’t return, but they were replaced by the gorgeous and talented Natalie Bassingthwaighte and singing superstar Mel B. The rest returned.
This year, it was the likes of Emmanuel Kelly; a talented Iraqi orphan and Luke O’Dell, an untalented Adam Lambert wannabe who stole the show; but none of which made it to the finals.
Out of the twelve who did, Mel B’s lot soon disappeared. Tyla Bertolli and Jacqui Newland were both eliminated early on and despite a promising first half for Christina Parie, she wasn’t able to make it into the top 5.
Conversely, Guy Sebastian kept all of his three acts until the final five, with Declan Sykes leaving in fifth place. His other two acts, Johnny Ruffo and Reece Mastin, both became finalists along with Natalie Bassingthwaighte’s Andrew Wishart.
After winning last year with Altiyan Childs, Ronan Keating did not renew his success this year, with his final act Three Wishez only making it to the final four.
In the end, SA’s Reece Mastin beat out Andrew Wishart and Johnny Ruffo (runner up and third place respectively) to become the winner of the show’s third season.
Seven also had The One; a show that briefly saw the light of day in 2008 and pits psychics against each other to find out who is the most gifted.
Judges were Richard Saunders, a sceptic, and Stacey Demarco, a psychic, whose bickering became a somewhat entertainment staple for the show.
Challenges these contestants faced included anything from in studio readings, finding of objects as small as gold to as big as helicopters using only their abilities; and ended in a now controversial challenge which saw them try to locate the body of missing, presumed dead woman, Kerry Whelan.
Greg Riley, empath Heidi Hanley and detective Debbie Malone were awarded finalist positions, and you at home got to determine the winner. Like the psychics themselves, you all chose Greg to be The One- Australia’s Most Gifted Psychic.
The last show of course, was Beauty & The Geek Australia which returned with Bernard Curry as host for its third season. The twist this year was a simple one; a male beauty paired with a female geek in the form of Troy and Helen.
Other than this, the show didn’t deviate away from its usual format of humorous storytelling, classy cutaway quotes, wonderful production and just plain stupidity. There was a time when the human twists, Helen & Troy, were eliminated quite early, but they were able to return via a twist. One episode later and they were eliminated again.
The season saw geek Lachlan and beauty Jordan, who both went on to be apart of the final two teams with their respective partners, hook up, break up and make up throughout the course of the season. The main problem came when Lachlan got his partner Sarah’s name tattooed on his arse. Pardon my French.
During makeovers, which were a dazzling array of spectacles, Dolly announced her decision to quit on medical grounds, leaving previously eliminated contestant Jacelle to fill her void with Gilbert.
In the finale, Mackenzie and Jimmy were eliminated after an exam challenge; Gilbert and Jacelle were eliminated after a formal challenge and Julian and Jordan were eliminated after a quiz, leaving Lachlan and Sarah as this year’s winners.
Lovebirds Mackenzie and Troy also announced their engagement throughout the final.
And that my friends, was the year in reality. Quite a hefty one wasn’t it. But enough about 2011; that was so last year (well, technically it was this year, but you get my drift)- let’s talk 2012.
The only show from the above list confirmed not to be returning is Top Design, but grave fears are being held for The Renovators, which despite being announced by TEN as a returning show, has since fallen victim to second thoughts. The only other show that will probably not return is Junior MasterChef Australia- but it would be for the best. Oh, and The One.
The Biggest Loser Australia will return and revert back to a ‘singles’ format. Dancing with the Stars will return with a new host after Sonia Kruger’s defection to Nine; possibly Nat Bass. My Kitchen Rules returns with a Kiwi pair. MasterChef returns with Matt Preston.
The Farmer Wants A Wife, Celebrity Apprentice Australia, The Block, The Amazing Race Australia, Australia’s Got Talent, The X Factor and Beauty & The Geek Australia will all return, or are all set to return based on viewer satisfaction and ratings.
To join them are a sleuth of new Nine shows. We have The Voice, which features blind auditions and battle rounds. Judges will be Joel Madden, Delta Goodrem, Seal and Keith Urban.
Big Brother returns to our screens on Nine with new host Sonia Kruger and a new ‘Secrets’ format where every housemate has a secret. Location, spin off shows and narrator are yet to be confirmed.
Excess Baggage will be a new celebrity weight loss show where eight overweight celebs pair up with ordinary contestants to lose the flab. Celebrities include Darryn Lyons who has previously competed on Celebrity Big Brother UK, causing a stir after revealing his ‘six pack on top of a beer gut’ formed stomach which evolved due to ‘contouring’. Having watched this season myself, I will warn you now; just in case he takes his top off, don’t eat dinner through this program! Kate Cebrano hosts.
And that is just a taste of what 2012 holds in terms of reality television! It’s the substance which makes up these shows in between which will really determine the flavour. And we won’t know what any of this ‘substance’ is until these seasons debut.
Over the next few months, Throng will still be delivering important reality news. Of course we have the Top 20 Reality Television Contestants of 2011 competition which will run from the 16th of December right through until New Years Eve.
I will then be taking a break for the first half of January before returning with some opinion pieces to get you in the spirit of the 2012 reality ratings season. This will also be my last post before December 16 less any important announcements. I’m sure the other lovely writers here on Throng will be keeping you up to date anyway. There’s always an excuse to log onto Throng.
Then, in 2012 I can officially announce, Throng will be returning its episode-by-episode detailed recaps of EVERY episode of EVERY season of reality in 2012 (minus any last minute disruptions or planned events), so keep an eye out!
That’s all from me; a few last minute thank you’s before I sign off- firstly to AndrewB and Regan for letting me post my thoughts on reality onto this site in the first place. You have given me so much support and I have loved every minute of it.
Johnson, as many of you would know, has helped in nearly every single episode of MasterChef, Junior MasterChef and The X Factor; and has even helped out in other random episodes. I truly thank you for that, Johnson, as you have enriched my knowledge and therefore my love of this genre and this job.
And Ryno; who offered his complete support and helping hand throughout September, and while it didn’t all go to plan, I think your offer to help was the most exciting thing about this year.
And to the rest of the readers, who have commented kindly or constructively, or have just read my work, I am motivated by your continued support and I am proud to be able to do this for such a loving and intellectual community.
I’ll see you all soon; for now, it’s time to take a break.