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Everyone’s a critic

  • 16 August 2022
Five years ago, the beloved and I were in a reality show. It was called Everyone’s a Critic, and featured a carefully selected cohort of demographics: male/female, old/young, gay/straight, disabled/abled. There was a mix of representative ethnicities, cultures, educations and backgrounds. Rick and I fell into several of these categories: old and straight for starters.

The show took us all to art galleries, mostly in Melbourne and Sydney, plonked us in front of some artworks carefully selected by the production team, asking us to say what we thought of them. They flew us up and down the two states, put us up in decent if not posh hotels and fed us well. The production team folk were overwhelmingly considerate and good-mannered.

We saw wonderful art works and got to meet some lovely people. I understood that my comments on Richard Bell’s brilliant ‘Little Johnny’ were unlikely to be aired because the ABC, under attack by the then federal government’s racist demagogues, didn’t want to get nuked. I realised too, TV norms being what they are, that Rick and I could have a ten-minute conversation about artists with whom we were already familiar — and that what would make it onto the program would be ten seconds of me mentioning my mum. Despite this, I think that EAC hosted possibly the luckiest of reality show participants ever on this planet.

Why was this so different? I hear other stories about the treatment of reality show participants that seem to support the notion that our benign and respectful experience was rare. Even shows that aren’t predicated on showing people at their worst and most vulnerable have their flaws. So forget the obvious atrocities like Love Island, Married at First Sight and Big Brother: I’m thinking of cooking shows: not so much like the Colosseum, more like World Championship Wrestling. These have morphed from the days of magisterial teaching figures on their televisual Mt Olympus instructing the plebs how to poach an egg, to gladiatorial contests pitting hopeful plebs against each other. Did we lose anything of value along the way? These MenuLog days, when few youngsters cook anything more demanding than 1-minute noodles, they’re still switching on to watch MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules while chowing down on delivered Domino’s pizza.

'I’ve been watching MKR and MasterChef pretty much since they started so it would be dishonest of me to think of adding the lofty phrase