Yes 2020 was a crazy, stupid year…
We threw out schedules for random press conferences. We learned to accept dodgy NBN Skype interviews as the norm (I’ve never seen up so many nostrils before). Studio audiences were banished, we kept presenters at opposite ends of their desks and a US election was disputed from outside the Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
In lockdown we binged more scripted and Reality TV than ever (thanks Schitt’s Creek and Tiger King). One of the weirdest moments I can recall was watching Dancing with the Stars couples sweating on the dance floor, halting for a live press conference in with ScoMo and Professor Brendan Murphy asking the nation to social distance, then we were straight back to the dancing. But I also recall filing TV ratings in my car awaiting a routine COVID test (negative!). Thanks 2020.
However it’s easy to overlook there were also a few rare moments on Australian TV.
Several were on MasterChef Australia, notably when 5 Asian Australians were being judged for their damn fine food: Brendan Pang, Jess Liemantara, Khanh Ong, Poh Ling Yeow and Reynold Poernomo. You’d never have seen that a decade ago. I also loved a moment when Melissa Leong answered a ringing phone in the middle of an off-site challenge, and proceeded to take a customer booking (normally this kinda thing would be edited out). Lastly, a Katy Perry visit sent contestants into meltdown … especially Reece “You’re the tits, Reece” Hignell.
Big kudos to Neighbours Series Producer Natalie Lynch & team for creating a COVID-friendly production model that drew praise around from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, NY Times, CNN and BBC and was subsequently cloned the world over. Give this woman a raise?
NITV introduced Australia’s very first Indigenous Breakfast show, Big Mob Brekky, as part of NAIDOC Week. On Q&A Meyne Wyatt lit a fuse with his compelling “I don’t wanna be quiet” monologue from his play City of Gold. An honourable mention to Gruen for quietly including two BIPOC female panelists in the same episode, without even needing to point it out.
2020 also brought us Alan Kohler’s books sitting, without comment, on his desk for ABC News broadcasts. Amongst his choices on the day the NSW Premier confirmed a secret romance: “A Damsel in Distress,” “The Indiscretions of Archie” and “Money for Nothing” by UK author and playwright P.G. Wodehouse.
No show demonstrated how we were living better than Gogglebox. It was as if we were collectively holding hands with the cast as they went through the various pandemic stages: disbelief, anger, monotony, depression.. including with Emily, Mick and Di all stepping back as a safety precaution.
Bluey ratings went through the roof, proof that good Kid’s TV can still pull a crowd. One episode on saw its Consolidated total leap to 1.09m viewers!
We had some pretty wonderful musical performances too, in the Firefight Australia concert, Music from the Homefront, The Sound and a glowing all-female tribute to Helen Reddy at the ARIAs.
Hey, 2020 even brought us a Life Drawing Live class on TV. Random. Should I also mention Sam Simmons having Fanta poured into his backside while he cavorted in a blow-up wading pool in LOL: Last One Laughing? Who says Aussie larrikinism is dead?
Bonus… Community TV had a last minute reprieve. And Sam Newman was finally let go by Nine.
See you in ’21.