Most television is female-skewed, responding to the theory that women have control of the remote and the ‘purse strings.’
Not many in the Reality genre have male viewers in their crosshairs, but SAS Australia does just that. But thanks to pointed casting there’s enough for women in Seven’s latest offering too. And while a lot of celebrities will talk of being “out of my comfort zone” this local version of a British format is as close as it gets. Turning off the camera would be the only other step…
The “famous and the infamous” line up for this gruelling commando crash course filmed in the Snowy Mountains. There are 17 participants, stripped largely of their name and profile, who have signed up for a series of challenges that will test endurance and character. Producers have cast a mix of ‘heroes / villains,’ some of whom are hoping for TV redemption or a career kickstart.
“I want to find out who I am under all the years of suppression,” says convicted Bali drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, while comedian Merrick Watts insists he isn’t here to be the funny guy, but to show his serious side.
Chief Instructor Ant Middleton, who makes his entrance by falling from a chopper into freezing waters, barks instructions like Private Benjamin on steroids. This guy means business, and he doesn’t hold back, resulting in an M classification.
“I’ve saved lives and taken lives,” he insists.
“For us this isn’t a TV show, this is real.”
One of 3 Directing Staff Jason “Foxy” Fox agrees, “I don’t care about anyfink that they’ve done before, what an amazing life they’ve got. I’d like to think that the celebrities find out there’s more to life than being fake.”
(Question without notice: why does being a successful performer or sports star equate to being ‘fake?’ Surely many of this cast have overcome hurdles in order to be famous in the first place?)
Each will have to fall backwards from the chopper into the icy water, which is like the opening of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, but not even I was prepared for the one-on-one boxing where participants were directed to punch another in the face. Schapelle Corby vs Bachelorette Ali Oetjen, anyone? And then male vs female, woah…
It’s clear that people are freezing throughout this opening episode (Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins is positively shivering), and frequently in wet clothes. One celebrity struggles the entire time and another is accused of having attitude that leads to everybody else being punished.
The participants can quit at anytime. With no prize on offer -and clearly no chance to join the British SAS- I’m a bit bamboozled as to why they would persevere. I presume their pay cheque is bigger the longer they stay (which is also how I’m a Celebrity works).
No question the physical tests are brutal, Bear Grylls-stuff. Episode 1 will also see Corby interrogated over her past (which kinda contradicts the edict about not caring about famous / infamous history).
In 2010 SBS screened fly-on-the-wall documentary SAS: The Search for Warriors in which cameras followed actual recruits for 3 weeks. This is not that show. It is clearly formatted for entertainment.
Nevertheless you wouldn’t wish any of this on your worst enemy, which paradoxically makes for fascinating voyeuristic television.
If you’ve ever wanted to snigger from the safety of your couch as a celebrity falls face down in the mud only to get yelled and feel humiliated …SAS Australia has you covered.
SAS Australia begins 7:30pm Monday on Seven.