Marcus Aurelius said “To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.”* Such a relief, then, to see that the Australian television industry is free from all malice, as they join hands and combine to serve us a homogenous array of competition drama.
These are not reality shows, but rather a kind of existential reality where you idolise the biggest master who’s talent rules and mark their dance card with an X.
These realities simulate contests but actually are, like life, far more varied, subtle, oblique, unfair and satisfying than any staged match, and describe life in their arbitrary and pre-ordained outcomes, which are classified and ritualised according to secret, arcane, often contradictory rules:
1. It is not a competition, but a journey. There are no losers, just explorers.
2. That said, the real losers are winnowed out early with cloying, efficient, kindness. Ensure that you watch the first episodes, when the duds are dealt out of the game, with extreme prejudice.
3. The winner will get there entirely on merit but actually, by serendipity, as they’ll have the best back-story and the most telegenic face.
4. A winner shall eventually be drawn from every State or economic centre.
5. Gender, Race, Creed and Socio-economic status are irrelevant but shall smooth out statistically over a few seasons.
6. Repetition is Key.
7. Time shall be ruthlessly confined – there’s hardly time to diet, dance, sing, camp or blanche.
8. Challenges shall grown evermore daunting.
9. The fat shall grown thin; the dish-hand shall produce a Michelin-worthy moules marinieres; the plain Jane shall sing like an archangel.
10. When children compete, as in a spelling bee, none shall be humiliated [nb: these rules don’t apply in the TVC lounge room – when one tot became ‘discombobulated’ trying to spell it, overwrought Mum whispered ‘Oh, he’s got lost’, to which P sneered hideously at the screen: “No Madam, he’s been found…Out.”] [*Meditations, Book VI translation by Maxwell Staniforth, 1964.]