ABC pricks the reality bubble

28 July, 2014 by Don Groves

It’s a fair bet that many ABC viewers are not enamoured of the cooking, home renovations, talent and other reality shows that dominate the commercial broadcasters’ schedules.

But producer Nick Murray is betting that Reality Check, an eight-part, studio-based series that investigates the global phenomenon of reality TV, will resonate with ABC audiences, including those who usually shun the genre.


“We won’t be ripping into reality TV,” says Murray, whose company CJZ is co-producing the show with the ABC, which premieres at 9 pm on Wednesday August 13, hosted by comedian Tom Ballard. “It will be a celebratory look at the biggest form of entertainment in the world, the highs and the lows.”

Each episode will feature two people who have produced or broadcast reality TV, and a former contestant or judge.

Viewers won’t need to be familiar with the local and international shows being spotlighted to appreciate Reality Check, he says, observing, “There will be enough information to enable viewers to understand why we are talking about each show.”

Then there is the curiosity value as the producers look at some of the more outlandish examples of the genre, such as Virgin Territory which screens in the US on MTV and features 15 virgins, all adults.

Murray is keeping much of the content under wraps, not least because one segment, Real or Fake, will ask panellists to choose between an actual reality show and two fakes.

Given Australia’s “fair use” rules, the producers can access clips from local and overseas shows without seeking clearances.

The concept came out of a brainstorming session at CJZ two years ago in which Murray and Jos Casimir, co-creator of the Gruen series, were among the participants. The ABC gave the greenlight before Casimir joined the broadcaster as head of entertainment in April.

The reality genre seems even more pervasive now, a trend which the show will set out to analyse and explain. Globally there are 56 different versions of Got Talent, 49 Big Brother houses, 48 iterations of Survivor, 42 of The X Factor and 41 MasterChefs.

Murray theorises, “It’s about people, those who say, ‘If I could sing a bit better I’d be on this show, or if I were a slightly better cook I could be on that show.’ It’s an average Joe doing something that could change their life.

“The emotions you get in some of these shows are extraordinary. Being poignant and funny is not easy to do, yet these shows do it week in, week out, and with people who are not actors.”