With the obvious exclusion of SBS, lack of diversity on screen is always an on-going issue.
Grey’s Anatomy, The Amazing Race, and The Librarians are some rare exceptions. While we’ve all just had our collective, four-yearly Olympic cultural lesson, I have to say I didn’t learn much about what it means to live in China. Meanwhile, one of the highest-rated shows in Australia depicts foreigners as liars, criminals and drug-traffickers. Significantly, Border Security thrived by depicting nasty foreigners around every corner, at a time when the Tampa incident and Schapelle Corby’s case filled our headlines.
So it’s refreshing to see a mainstream, commercial television show offering up another culture in an heroic form. Sure, Bondi Rescue succeeds thanks to its adoration of the classic Aussie surf lifesaver, but there are fringe benefits to this off-shoot edition. One of the reasons this show has been re-packaged is the seasonal limitation of only being able to shoot during the Sydney summer. In Bali, summer is a “year long season”.
Bondi boys with hard-yakka names like Whippet, Reidy, Chappo, Deano, Yatesy, Harries, Azza G, Kobi and Terry will spend two months at Kuta Beach. The pitch is that the Aussies will impart their knowledge and skills to the locals. The reality will likely be the boys getting something of an education for themselves.
The Aussies face a beach five times the size of Bondi, and the ferocious surf of the Indian Ocean. The Balinese have none of the modern equipment, in either rescue or medical form, that the Aussies are used to. Yet this doesn’t diminish their commitment to saving lives or opening their hearts to (stupid) tourists who shirk basic swimming responsibility. As you’ll see in the opening episodes, the Balinese boys are just as trim, fit and eager as the Aussies to keep the beaches of Kuta safe.
Part of the storytelling is a fish-out-of-water commentary from one of the Aussies. You know, the type who can’t believe there are monkeys in the street, or who is too nervous to eat from a food stall. It’s a little condescending to begin with, but hopefully there’s a story arc that sees him do a cultural U-turn by series end.
This factual series looks set to be a cultural island in a sea of middle-class television.
Bondi Rescue: Bali premieres 7:30pm Wednesday September 10 on TEN.