In TV terms the game is only getting underway, but perception is also valuable. TEN Chief Programmer Beverley McGarvey tells TV Tonight running a Live Reality show from South Africa is a big risk but the buzz is appreciated.
“It’s lovely to have a show that everybody wants to talk about. It is that type of noisy show and it is a good time of the year and also the format just lends itself to that,” she says.
“It is bold but if you take a big risk you are more likely to get a big upside. Saying that we run sporting events all over the world live all the time, it’s no more risky than getting the winter Olympics out of Sochi. We have obviously have satellite paths, we have redundancy satellite paths, basically we’re kind of treating it like a sporting event.”
The pairing of hosts Julia Morris with Bondi Vet Chris Brown, who both announced Logie nominations for TV Week last year, builds on their chemistry.
“There’s much more to Chris than people imagine. He’s predominantly known as a vet but he’s actually an entertaining, smart and witty guy. So it’s a great opportunity to show off his skills and Julia is fabulous.
“The fact that Chris knows about animals is an added bonus. Because we’re doing it in the jungle he will add a lot of insight and comfort and it shows we’re taking our responsibilities seriously to look after the animals.”
On Sunday TEN launches Shark Tank, hosted by Sarah Harris, in which entrepreneurs and inventors pitch a business proposal to potential backers.
“The first episode is fantastic because the entrepreneurs are excellent,” says McGarvey. “I think together they are worth almost a billion dollars and they’re all self-made and the show has so many layers to it.
“The Sharks are interesting, they are articulate, they’re all different, they have diverse backgrounds.
“Some of the ideas are brilliant business ideas, some of them are fun some of them are not so good, but there is good range in there.”
When more than one Shark wants to be part of a business pitch, they compete to outbid one other, turning up the show’s drama.
“Tonally it’s very Australian, it doesn’t look like the British version of Dragon’s Den, and it doesn’t look like the American version of Shark Tank. Tonally I would compare it probably to MasterChef in terms of the judge / mentors.”
Gogglebox, based on the UK series, will premiere on LifeStyle channel 24 hours before its TEN screening. But will viewers watch a show about people watching television?
“It’s one of those shows that “don’t tell me, show me.” You’ve really got to see it together and the people. It’s all about the casting and if you’ve seen the British version, what’s interesting about it is people are commenting on TV, but some are funny and some are sad and there’s a whole range of things,” she explains.
“The thing that makes it compelling is that when people are sitting in their living rooms they kind of have their guard down, like they don’t on other reality shows. So you really get an insight into who they are. A lot of people are actually really funny in the privacy of their own home and the way it’s shot allows them to really relax.”
The show is filmed on a fast turnaround every week so that the shows are relevant to the current viewing climate. Shows will also include rival broadcasters, but if families criticise a TEN show, will that be included?
“The short answer to that question is yes, because in order for us to see people being authentic we have to take the good with the bad. I think we have to be quite brave in that and let people actually relax and be themselves,” she insists.
“I think if we start editorialising in that way we will lose what makes the show really special. We don’t tell the people what to watch, they will watch what they want, so we get what we get.”
Wonderland returns with new episodes. Despite network promos branding it as Season 3, McGarvey was clearer about this being the continuation of Season 2.
“Season 2 of Wonderland, we are only a little bit into it. So Wonderland will be on air for quite some time, at the top of the year and then we will introduce some new dramas towards the end of the year.
“Season 2 of Wonderland is much stronger and this second block of season 2 (is even better). When you consolidate the numbers there is a definite core audience who love the show. We would absolutely love that number should be bigger so we would be working very hard on that this season.
“We think there is potential future for the show. We know that we have work to do but it is something that is important to us.”
Neighbours marks its 30th Anniversary in March, an historic record for Australian Drama. The celebratory special will premiere on TEN before being replayed on ELEVEN.
TEN also has new drama projects Mary: The Making Of A Princess and The Peter Brock Story, however: “We won’t have any of our new dramas until later in the year.”
Hit series MasterChef is the lynchpin to Quarter 2, following a return to form in 2014.
“We went back to basics last year and I think what we will see this year is more of the same and that sounds not as exciting as it actually looks. What we have this year is a group of contestants who arguably are even stronger in terms of their cooking skills,” says McGarvey.
“It’s pretty far down the line production-wise so we’re really excited about that. Also you know we have our celebrity guests, we’ve got some new guests entering the MasterChef family this year, so I think that add a bit of freshness.
“Also in terms of how the challenges work there are some new concepts coming through, some different people and different types of ideas.
“So we are very excited about how the show is going but it is fair to say that it will be an evolution of where we were last year, not a revolution.”
An overseas trip for the show sounds unlikely this season.
“We did Italy one year, so we’re always looking at it but it’s not something we consider critical to the show, it’s just really if it makes sense.
Kylie Kwong will also appear however, “we’re reconfiguring how everybody is positioned, so George, Gary and Matt are still there in their critical positions. Kylie is really important to the show so she’ll be there and there will be some other stuff around that we’ll announce shortly.”
Joining MasterChef in Quarter 2 is Working Dog comedy Have You Been Paying Attention? which has survived multiple programming shifts.
“When we played the show at 8:30 Mondays, we really saw some positive signs towards the end and I think the things with that type of comedy panel show, it really takes time to find its audience and given the calibre of the production company and the guests, we’re very confident that the show has a lot of growth in it,” she explains.
“I think it’s important that we give it some sort of shot and give it some time to find an audience. They do a great job, it’s a genuinely funny, well-made show, so it will definitely make it back into the schedule mid-year.”
Social media darling The Bachelor returns, accompanied by The Bachelorette, but both will not be on screen at the same time. Despite the proposal fallout last year, McGarvey says the show remains authentic.
“What we saw last year was real because what played out on screen was what was actually happening. The interesting thing with The Bachelor is we’ve done two seasons and we have one great relationship with Tim and Anna and one that took a slightly circuitous route to get to where it ended. So a strike rate of 50 / 50 for 2 seasons we’re pretty happy with,” she continues.
“In terms of the authenticity of the show we cast it with someone who we genuinely believe wants to get married.
“Interestingly, probably because of (the way the show ended) last year, we have been inundated with applicants.
“If the show takes twists and turns along the way that’s the nature of Reality TV.
“Bachelorette is a short series. It’s a stunt, an event series. So we’ll do it this year, Year 3, but will we do it again next year? Who knows. But we’re not really doing that many more hours of the shows combined.
“Our thinking isn’t that we will do two cycles of the show every year.”
The Biggest Loser moves to the final quarter of the year and is undergoing a refresh and a name change to TBL Families. Despite TEN’s CEO noting the show was tired, McGarvey says the show deserves nurturing.
“TBL Families will play later in the year and will have had, effectively, about a 20 month break. We think there is life in this format. It worked for 8 seasons and 1 season it didn’t perform, but to throw away an established franchise because it failed 1 out of 9 times is probably (unwise).
“The show really resonates with Australians but Ararat was a particularly difficult series, our schedule was difficult and there are many reasons as to why it didn’t work.
“But it’s important to nurture established brands and we have shows in different stages of their life cycle on the schedule.”
The show may yet undergo key cast casting changes.
“We’re in pre-production and casting contestants at the moment so we will make those announcements in the next few months. But we are looking at everything.”
Family Feud has lifted TEN’s 6pm share and is now airing 6 nights a week, but while extra eps are now being filmed there are no plans to change Sunday editions.
“No, there are carry-over champions and the thing with early evenings is that it is habitual,” she says.
“We like the content that we have and we’re obviously very happy with Grant (Denyer).”
Also returning are quiet achiever The Living Room, lifestyle Bondi Vet and the long-running Bondi Rescue.
“Bondi Rescue numbers were up and down last year but it showed some good signs. We think it’s a really good show, it’s really important to the brand, won a gazillion Logies and has been on air a long time.
“Similarly to Loser, we think it’s important and that we can make improvements to the show and grow the ratings.”
TEN will also announce a key Quarter 3 commission before the end of the month.
“It will either be constructed reality or entertainment,” she teased.
Amongst new international fare are The Odd Couple and CSI: Cyber , both yet to launch in the US. McGarvey says the success of Empire in the US prompted a re-think, from screening the show on ELEVEN to TEN.
“Empire is a big dynastic family drama and we were really interested to see episode 2 before we made any decision,” she explains.
“It’s done great business for FOX and has been picked up for a full season after episode 2.”
She also reveals The Graham Norton Show is set to get a new timeslot.
“He’s probably the best talk show on television and he gets amazing guests. We think it could do better than it does so we’re just going to see if we can find a better timeslot for a broader audience,” she insists.
The show has been impacted by local sporting commitments but is also affected by pre-emptions in the UK.
“That’s why we’re trying to see if there is a better slot where it could play more consistently.”