New Year’s Reality Check

NoMoreRealityTV!I loathe New Year’s resolutions. Crap spouted by people who like to over-promise and under-deliver, just because it’s recently become a different year.

The resolve behind these big, bold seasonal commitments is easy to find and even easier to lose again.

A week-and-a-bit ago, I almost made one.

Not that I would’ve actually made one. But a week-and-a-half later I still have the same strong resolve to achieve my goal, mainly because the alternative is unpalatable – in much the same way that the idea of choking to death on one’s own vomit is unpalatable.

Because if 2015 taught me anything, it’s that I loathe Australia’s commercial television networks even more than I loathe poxy New Year’s resolutions.

Basically, thank fuck for state-run television. As cost-free viewing options go, without our Government-funded broadcasters I’d have nowhere left to run. Coz, in a nutshell, I can’t watch commercial television ever again.

The X-Files is being revived in 2016

It’s a bit of a shame, to be honest, because there are two or three shows on commercial TV this year that I’d probably enjoy (e.g., The ChaseHave You Been Paying Attention?, The X Files). Oh well.

Australia’s three free-to-air commercial TV networks dedicate hundreds of hours a week to so-called “news” and “current affairs”, which annoys the crap out of me, to say the least, coz to be fair Melissa Doyle, no I don’t need you to tell me four times in half an hour what’s coming up on Seven News at 6.

It’s just a cynical bid to bump up local content and snare extra positions on the weekly ratings chart, but even I have to concede that at least news and current affairs is real. However melodramatic or contrived the presentation, at least it’s more-or-less reality.

And, oddly enough, that’s the other thing the commercial networks chock up their schedules with to hit local content quotas – as well as being, hands down, the one thing I dislike more than the 24 hour news cycle: “Reality TV”.


Every Reality show axing has a secret. Soon after Nine revived it in 2012, they uncovered the secret of why Ten had killed Big Brother in 2008.

I’m not sure that label – which seemed so appropriate all those years ago – is even accurate any more, because beyond the first series of Big Brother and Australian Idol there’s been very little realism, let alone reality, about any of it.

Reality TV has no redeeming features. Each program in each genre is a copy of something else which, ultimately, has its roots in the earliest Reality TV concept of nearly twenty years ago.

High-profile judges have become a pre-requisite for talent quests and singing comps.

There’s nothing creative about any it. Reality is lazy, unimaginative, cheap – and, sadly, ingrained. It’s become expected now, in the same way that long-running drama and comedy was expected in the old days, when clever people actually put time and effort and creativity into producing quality Australian television.

Somehow, Reality viewers actually believe they’re being entertained by this bollocks, which is largely comprised of heavily edited footage, spliced together to present a contrived version of events surrounding people doing stuff. Usually mundane stuff. At times it’s clearly scripted and rehearsed. Even then, it’s still mundane.

MasterChef: another over-hyped heavily-edited slice of globalised mundanity.

But virtually every program under the Reality banner is now so far removed from reality that its hard to watch without laughing. Or gagging. And yet our networks still treat their loyal viewers with the same contempt, year on year, by providing a constant supply of reality schlock to gorge themselves on.

Year ago, it already seemed to me that things had gotten as absurd as they could get. It wasn’t just singing and hanging around with a houseful of strangers that had become a fly-on-the-wall prize-winning competition anymore, it seemingly anything you could think of, pitting Australian against Australian in a bid to win appalling amounts of prize money and experience the five minutes of fame attached to being crowned that year’s <insert name of Reality concept> winner. 16 years since the first real onslaught of Reality, virtually everything has been turned into a reality TV concept or, worse still, a worldwide Reality franchise. Thank you very much, globalisation.

Anyone remember 2006’s Yasmin’s Getting Married? Didn’t think so.

There were also more iterations of dating and marrying concepts than should ever have been legal (one of them was one too many); border security and highway patrol activities had also become Reality fodder; and there were – and still are – more variations on singing, dancing and cooking than you can poke a stick at.

Over the last 15 years Reality TV’s covered weight loss, travelling, restoration, modelling, makeovers, house-cleaning, wrestling, buying stuff (chiefly houses and antiques), selling stuff (also chiefly houses and antiques), identifying and valuing stuff (antiques again).

There’ve been Reality series about cosmetic surgery procedures, magicians, stand-up comedians, fashion design, being stranded in a jungle with a group of D-grade celebrities, running restaurants, running hotels, family life, life as sisters, life as BFFs… the list is as long as it is tedious.

A TV show about people having totally natural unscripted conversations about TV shows.

And in what’s surely one of the least-realReality  concepts of all time, even the time-honored tradition of watching television has been given the Reality treatment. About ten minutes of it was all I could tolerate, but I still haven’t decided if it’s truly appalling or just slightly ironic.

A Postmodern Utopia?

So the cost of a standard Australian postage stamp has just increased to $1 from… well, from whatever they cost before. I think I read that they were 70c, but I haven’t bought one in years so I really don’t know. Either way, it’s apparently only the fifth price hike in 23 years.

As if to offset the impact of this somewhat shocking 42.9% price rise, Australia Post also introduced a new multi-tiered postal arrangement, similar to what the UK’s had for about 3 millennia. How very postmodern of you, Australia Post.

StampsOur Government-owned postal service posted (pun intended) a $222 million loss for 2014-15. The degraded performance and steadily increasing losses of Australia Post’s personal mail delivery business had been much publicised for some time.

But even the admission that the one-time essential service was, by now, posting more losses than letters couldn’t quell the protesters in the lead-up to these latest changes – they were vocal and many.

Or, at least, that’s what the media would like us to believe.

Fact is, those most likely to still use snail mail services in any statistically significant volumes are almost entirely unaffected by the changes.

If you don’t have a concession card, you’ll pay $1 or more to pop something in an envelope and have it delivered to its intended recipient (or to “post a letter”, as this quaint anachronism used to be described in the olden days).

The country’s 5.7 million concession card holders – mostly older folk – will retain existing access to 60c stamps, to realise the same outcome with these “letters” and other assorted ephemera that they still feel a need to physically post.

And speaking of anachronisms, anyone who still sends Christmas cards will also continue to benefit from Australia Post’s longstanding tradition of reduced rate festive season stamps, too. Does that leave you feeling as warm and fuzzy inside as it does me?

So, the only time concession card holders will ever be impacted by the increases that have just come into effect is if their snail mail absolutely, positively has to be there overnight (déjà vu?), which is when they – along with the rest of us – will have to fork out an extra 50c to secure a shorter delivery window.

It all sounds remarkably similar to the UK’s first and second class stamp system, except that our new arrangement – as with so much else in our increasingly bureaucratic nation – is less efficient and more convoluted.

The way I understand it, the new arrangement will work something like this: affixing a $1 stamp to your item will see it delivered to its destination within 6 business days – a frankly astonishing figure that presumably applies only to mail being delivered by an actual snail to a remote cattle station somewhere in the middle of the outback.

Adding another 50c stamp will secure the new so-called ‘priority’ service, but it will only reduce the delivery window to 1-4 business days – so perhaps delivered on horseback?

Clearly, then, in attempting to stem the flow from the organisation’s bottom line, Australia Post has elected not to cannibalise sales from its existing “Express Post” overnight delivery service, which effectively means we have now three tiers of postal options. More than before, maybe, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Still, for a change a Government agency has actually looked after those who can least afford to pay more for a service. A postmodern postal utopia, indeed.

Maybe there’s hope for upcoming generations of pensioners yet?