Critics’ Choice: The Worst of 2011, Trends of 2011.

In Part Two of TV Tonight’s annual Critics’ Choice, we look at the Worst shows of the year, and the Trends of 2011.

The trends are divided into two sections: 2011 Trends asks “What will be 2011’s Legacy?” while Programming Trends drills down into network habits and scheduling techniques.

Some answers were popular, such as the stripping of Reality, and the Coding of shows with OzTAM, but curiously given as replies to different questions. It’s all about interpretation, really.

Interestingly, critics have again noted the rise of Multichannels as one of the year’s defining trends -having previously noted it as a trend of both 2009 and 2010. Will it be a trend of 2012 too?

RC: Richard Clune, Sunday Telegraph.
AM: Andrew Mercado, The Playlist.
GS: Geoff Shearer, Courier Mail.*
MH: Melinda Houston, Sunday Age.
DS: Debbie Schipp, Sunday Telegraph.*
GH: Greg Hassall, Sydney Morning Herald.
EM: Erin McWhirter, TV Week.
HB: Holly Byrnes, Daily Telegraph.
SY: Sue Yeap, West Australian.*
KQ: Karl Quinn, The Age.*
AMD: Amanda Meade, The Australian.
AMF: Andrew Murfett, The Age.*
JM: James Manning, MediaWeek.
* new

DOG OF THE YEAR (Aussie): Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth (Runner Up: The Renovators).

RC: Ben Elton take a bow – I know you think we’re a mean spirited bunch but what do you expect critics to say when you’re peddling gags that clearly went off in 1988? It was shame – you’re a talented fella, just don’t underestimate the audience and perhaps watch a little more telly to see the progression comedy has made the last 20 years.

AM: This is Your Life – horrible set (Crown Casino), hapless host too lazy to stand up (Eddie McGuire) and honourees only there because their husbands were more famous (Deborra Lee Furness, Teri Irwin).

GS: Ben Elton’s Live From Planet Earth: While Kyle and Jackie O came so very close to pipping this tripe, it was Elton’s embarrassing attempt to publicly justify this woefully derivative and unfunny crap that stank the most.

MH: It pains me to say it, but Joy of Sets. I wanted to love it so badly….

DS: Tie between The Renovators and Live From Planet Earth.

GH: Kyle and Jackie O’s Night of Stars. Not so much for the show, which was only as bad as you’d expect, but for Sandilands’s graceless response to criticism.

EM: No surprises here: The Renovators. Network Ten held high hopes for this reality reno show, but it was all a little too late. Too many challenges and not enough time in the houses forced us viewers to flick the switch on this TV dog of 2012.

HB:  A battle between Ben Elton and Kyle and Jackie O’s Night With The Stars. Same adolescent jokes, deserved the audience it got. Or rather didn’t get.

SY: Ben Elton’s Live from Planet Earth, The Renovators.

KQ: Oh come on. That’s Koko, the star of Red Dog, of course. What? That’s not what you meant? History will say Live From Planet Earth but I really didn’t think it was as bad as all that.

AMD: The Renovators again. From the dreary judges, to the silly warehouse challenges to the unwieldy cast, this show was very unappealing.

AMF: The Renovators/Rescue Special Ops/Sea Patrol/Junior MasterChef/Dinner Date Australia/The One.

MOST OVER-HYPED (Aussie): The Renovators (Runner Up: Angry Boys / Wild Boys).

RC: Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys – he’s a ridiculous talent but the laughs came too irregularly.  Not that it matters, Lilley will be in this industry, should he choose, the remainder of his days and I’m sure what comes next will see his comedy crown returned.  I also lump Underbelly: Razor into this category – all tried their best but the writing, ultimately, didn’t deliver beyond the opening.

AM: Despite an avalanche of publicity about how fat and lonely he was, Kyle and Jackie O’s Night of the Stars was a massive ratings flop. It also had no stars and sounded like it was recorded in a tin shed.

GS: Tie here between Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys which was just disappointing scene after unfunny scene; and Wild Boys which was supposed to be action packed and slyly funny, but when it rode in, the horse was well and truly on its last legs. MacPherson and Ventoura’s acting, or lack of, nailed the coffin shut.

DS: Wild Boys – it looked like heaps of fun to be an actor in, but trigger wisely pulled on this series after one run.

GH: The Renovators. Cynically sandwiched into the MasterChef finale, it was all downhill from there. Viewers had clearly had their renovation fill from The Block. Angry Boys. The budget was bigger but this lacked the heart of Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes.

EM: The Renovators.

HB: Can’t split Wild Boys and Underbelly: Razor.

SY: Kyle Sandilands.

KQ:  In terms of promo, expectation and expenditure it would have to be The Renovators. The format wasn’t terrible, but some basic errors – too much time in that monstrous warehouse, judges lacking in charisma and with a horrible knack for stating the bleedin’ obvious, and competition rules that needed too much explaining – meant it just didn’t connect. Next year should be better – if there is a next year.

AMD: The Renovators, without question. From claims it would be as big as MasterChef to David Mott’s statement that there was no plan B, this mega-series was set up to fail.

AMF: MasterChef.

JM: Ben Elton.

2011 TRENDS (What will be 2011’s legacy?): The Rise of Reality TV.

RC: The Channel Seven Factor – the network couldn’t put a foot wrong, regardless of what pap they offered up. MKR, The X Factor and AGT enjoyed swollen audience numbers while Beauty And The Geek – a stale US format – had all eyes on it. They mucked around with Packed To The Rafters yet still the audience comes. Winners & Losers may have been light, but it too found a decent following. When you axe a show that’s pulling 900s (Wild Boys) you know you’re in a pretty bloody special place.

AM: 2011 was all about the domination of Seven and the fall of Ten.

GS: This will be known as the year MasterChef went off the boil.

DS: Success of stripped format – when it’s done properly. You need great casting. Great timing, and then a dose of luck.

GH: It was the year viewers flocked back to feel-good variety reality shows such as Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor. The multichannels made their presence felt. While a handful of shows continued to pull big numbers, the general trend is a flattening of ratings so that 800,000 to 1 million viewers has become the new benchmark for commercial viability. The ABC returned to local drama in a big way with Paper Giants, The Slap and its first long-running drama in years, Crownies. Ten’s failed experiment with serious current affairs suggests the commercial networks will wash their hands of the genre in future, leaving it to SBS and the ABC.

HB: Insult-the-star journalism on 60 Minutes. For shame Michael Usher (Sarah Ferguson) and Liam Bartlett (Joan Collins).

SY: Singing, cooking, renovating. Surprised there wasn’t a show combining all three. Reality lives. It may just get a big tweak for 2012.

KQ: Fragmentation. This was the year we really saw multichannelling bite. What impact it will have on production values – especially for drama – will depend to some degree on the convergence review, but at this stage I’d be worried.

AMF: Death by Twitter.

JM: Splitting shows for the OzTAM rankings – let’s hope it’s a trend that doesn’t flourish.

PROGRAMMING TRENDS: Tie: OzTAM Coding stunts / Stripping formats.

RC: Nine’s ability to strip was a winner – The Block and Celebrity Apprentice proved people want regularity and we’re likely to see a whole lot more of it next year.

AM: Using rock music for promos (thank you Seven and Downton Abbey).

GS: Coding the last five to 10 minutes of reality TV show finale (“the winner revealed”) as a separate program to skip a series up the night’s ratings rankings. OzTam needs to clamp down on this practice which simply blurs peak and average audiences for a program. It’s been done in previous years, but was an across-all-networks scourge this year.

DS: Cross promotion intruding further into “news” and “current affairs” shows. Increased inability to program shows in time to promote them. Slick promos for shows which were then rescheduled at the last minute. TBAs and late changes remain viewers’ biggest bugbear. They won’t commit to shows because they can’t trust them to stay around.

GH: Nine’s success stripping reality shows at 7pm has given it a strategy for 2012. Coding shows in segments to artificially inflate the ratings as Nine did with The Celebrity Apprentice. If everyones does it, ratings will become meaningless.  The continued rise of the multichannels. As long as they have a clear identity they can work wonders for the network total without canibalising the main channel.

SY: Fast-tracking US shows and swapping timeslots to the point where the audience forgets the show is on or doesn’t realise episodes are new because there’s almost no promo time. Badly or sneakily edited ads that show almost all the best bits of shows or give a wrong impression of what actually happens. Twitter’s continuing power to sound the early death knell of a show and give viewers a voice.

KQ: Well, here’s one that emerged that I expect we won’t see again – the disastrous call by Ten to make a Renovators sandwich out of the finale of MasterChef. It probably hurt both shows, but it definitely left a bad taste in the mouth for all those who had not yet been convinced to give Renovators a try, and I suspect led many to swear off ever doing so.

JM: Nine programmers rediscover the power of the 7pm slot.

Part One: The Best of 2011


  1. effdee, I agree with you. I loved the novel, but the tv series of The Slap let me down. I really actively disliked it. There was one stand-out episode about the woman who was a TV producer but the rest was awful. I stopped watching after episode five, I just couldn’t get into it. Definitely over-hyped.

    The Renovators was a very well-made show of the reality genre but it was let down by being too close in its template to Masterchef. It was like Groundhog Day with paint brushes. Also, it was too big an ask for viewers to get emotionally involved in the show six nights a week following straight on from Masterchef. No way, viewers were fatigued and were never going to do that. Going up against The Block – big mistake. Too many contestants and the chopping and changing of the teams was also a problem. A flat Sydney property market added to its woes. Bring it back in an abbreviated format after the market improves.

  2. thanks David, I was hoping for a list of the flipside too, great read…
    I really wanted The Joy Of Sets to do well, maybe if it becomes more like the Panel for television only…..?

  3. The renovators was actually a really good show. Great production value, smart product integration, a good mix of contestants. The programming clearly let it down. Running alongside the Block was too much, the masterchef wedge was too obvious and it was too much of an ask to get people watching 6 nights a week for something like that (and not to mention the time changes). There wasn’t enough focus on the actual houses and I didn’t like all the swapping around of teams. I didn’t actually mind the white room challenges but thought the outdoor major challenge was a waste of time. There was lots of hype but I wouldn’t call it the dog of the year. It didn’t get axed mid season, it didn’t get taken from prime time and people like myself actually watched it.

  4. According to Herald Sun readers in Colin Vickery’s “Best and Worst TV Shows of the Year” article, the worst show is Ben Elton Live from Planet Earth… While the best shoe of 2011 is Before the Game/The Footy Show… I really want to disagree with these readers on that last result!!!

  5. Maev....Sydney

    I liked SY’s thoughts….Renovate a kitchen….whilst cooking a gourmet meal….and if you are at the bottom two…you have to have a sing off…..*G*
    And oh yes…Twitter power….just look at a recent airlines twitter gone wrong…(I don’t tweet}
    And AM…that rock music in the Downton Abbey ads…turned me off completely….
    @ David….thanks for doing these two lists….

  6. Most over hyped load of tripe of the year was “The Slap”!
    Overlong w*nk that could have been done in 3 eps
    1. The slap itself
    2. The court case
    3. The fallout

  7. Thanks for these roundups David, always interesting.

    It would be nice next year to have some other álternative’ media represented…e.g. one of the Boxcutters podcast regular panelists or (and?) Dan Barrett from Crikey/White Noise or whoever it is who writes the Change the Channel blog. I get most of my TV news from these sources (and you of course) rather than the mainstream folk.

  8. Geez, MH has ‘Joy of Sets’ as her ‘dog of the year’, yet, I recall, adored the entertainment-free zone that was ‘Laid’. There were more laughs in one break of JOS than there were in the entire first series and, no doubt, the second series of this low-rated groaning bore, the mildly interesting premise of which was, in any case, familiar from ‘Northern Exposure’. On a happier note, at least it’s fun to watch critics furiously backpeddling re. ‘Angry Boys’!

  9. “Insult-the-star journalism on 60minutes” ain’t that true, what’s up with that.

    I think the biggest flop/ most overhyped was tens news revolution. And Gap Year probably deserved a mention.

  10. There was a good movie on SBS last night about TV being dumbed down to keep the masses happy and occupied. It was a german movie but I think it relates world wide – including Australia.

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