Reality TV in 2019

From explosive fights to strategic powerhouses to finding love and to finding heartache, 2019 was a big year for Reality TV, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the year that was for Australian Reality TV.

THE BEST… AND THE WORST

Reality TV encompasses a vast range of different formats and themes that captivate audiences all year round. From finding love to battling against foes to bickering exes to family affairs. Let’s look back on the year that was in Australian Reality TV.

MY KITCHEN RULES

Ibby & Romel cook in the finale as judge Pete quizzes them on their progress.
IMAGE: SEVEN NETWORK

A cooking show? Sometimes. My Kitchen Rules celebrated a 10th year and a 10th season, fit with 16 teams vying to cook the best food possible to eventually take out the 2019 title and $100,000 grand prize. But from the beginning, the cat fights at the table captured audiences most. The New South Wales home schooled brothers Josh & Austin brought fire to Group 1, unable to think twice before speaking and blatantly criticising other teams, not necessarily for their food, but for even the way they look. Front runners of the competition, Ibby & Romel, often were involved in the drama but at least they could put their money where their mouth was, often landing top-podium finishes in challenges, whereas Josh & Austin barely skated by to reach the quarter finals. In Group 2, even more in-fighting was served up for main course, as high achievers Veronica & Piper shocked the table with their comments about reaching a perfect score, and failing to deliver. Knife twirling and storm outs saw Victorian barmen Victor & G cop a lot of heat around the table, especially with suggestions of a sex scandal between Piper and Victor, critically panned by both viewers and competitors alike. Cooking wasn’t far from the forefront, at least not too far, as the show saw it’s first perfect scores from the judges in the Instant Restaurant round for mother and son duo, John & Lisa, before cricket mates Matt & Luke won the competition with a massive 92/100 score over Ibby & Romel’s 88/100. My Kitchen Rules returns with a brand new twist, all-star teams, and even more drama in 2020.

THE SUPER SWITCH

A reboot from the original series Seven Year Switch, The Super Switch brought six couples that swapped partners with another, in an effort to save their current relationship. It was a nice effort to try and revive the format that grabbed a fair amount of viewers back when the original format aired in 2016, but 2019 wasn’t the year for the switching couples. Over protective significant others, group therapy sessions, it was just forced drama on steroids. Even a punch up was in store between two men in the experiment, Ben and Tyler after one playfully ‘tickled’ the other’s girlfriend… in a couple switching show. Clearly trying to rival a show of a similar format (which we’ll no doubt get to), The Super Switch dropped to one night a week, the whole series ready to watch online, and just flopped in the ratings. If it returns in 2020, I’ll be shocked.

BACHELOR IN PARADISE

Richie and Alex discuss their breakup from a previous Bach season.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

Spoiler alert: none of these couples survived from the show for more than ten seconds, so was the second instalment of Bachelor in Paradise a success? First there was the reunion between Richie and Alex Nation, with the discussion about their mysterious break up a talking point for the pair, the other contestants, and social media alike. Of course, there was frequent partner swapping, inclusive of Alex going out on single dates with Brooke and Bill; we saw peculiar early exits for couples that weren’t bothered to stick around until the end; viewers were treated to the return of Davey, the exit of Davey, and the again return of Davey, only to be partnered back up with his flame from season one Flo, until they split anyway in the finale. A highly intense and exposing reunion show saw many of the ex-Bach alum bring their rivalries back out on screen, one more time (for the year anyway). Compared to the first season, it just appeared a little messy and fame-grabbing. Despite all contestants already vying for the ‘serious’ love of one single person in a mansion, they’re now given a plethora of options in a villa in Fiji. But none are able to seal the deal. The show DOES return in 2020, and perhaps it’ll rekindle some of the magic that we saw in the 2018 season. Bringing some Bach favourites might do just that.

LOVE ISLAND

Anna and Josh were crowned the winners of Love Island in 2019.
IMAGE: NINE NETWORK

Hot singles ready to mingle. Australia’s highest rating video-on-demand television show for 2019 came with another villa in Fiji. If you didn’t notice a trend, swapping was all the rage in these relationship shows, at least winners Anna and Josh stayed together (for the most part) right the way through. And even in 2019, we’re told that looks are where it matters when the first episode saw five men choose to couple up with a woman based on their bikini bod. Swimsuits were on display, steamy challenges were paramount, and the many conversations about which guy the new girl was into all came together for a moderately entertaining show. But with no real commitment, no real show structure, and so many couple changes that appear seamless overnight, Love Island solidified what it took to appear on a dating show, develop feelings for the next thing you see walking. The show’s so bad, it’s actually alright, especially in comparison to others. Here’s to 2020 and more catch up viewing a month and a half behind.

LEGO MASTERS

Host Hamish Blake and ‘The Brickman’ check out a Lego masterpiece.
IMAGE: NINE NETWORK

Hey, it was a surprising hit! And it’s not like it took dinner parties or constructed villains to do it! Just some good old Lego-building fun. Hamish Blake was a perfect host for this small first season, and the ‘Brickman’ Ryan McNaught was a refreshing judge with a kind heart. The new series pits teams of two against each other creating some Lego masterpieces from scratch, with challenges and eliminations left, right and centre. It was just a real feel-good show, and something some viewers may have been missing considering other Reality TV formats. In the end, best mates Henry & Cade beat work mates David & G and Uni childhood friends Jordan & Miller to win the $100, 000 grand prize. It’s certainly no surprise this show is back in 2020, and hopefully it sticks around for longer, maintaining some of the magic that was highlighted in the first season.

ZUMBO’S JUST DESSERTS

I don’t even know why this was back to be honest. It didn’t even do too well the first time, so a second round didn’t seem any more promising when nothing seemed to change from the first bout. Zumbo’s not a compelling host like most across these shows, and the format seemed to fall flat, again, on viewers. It wasn’t an entertaining show for the most part, but at least all the episodes were aired. I’ll be shocked if it comes back again.

I’M A CELEBRITY…GET ME OUT OF HERE

The final three of the 2019 season of I’m A Celeb: Richard, Yvie and Shane.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

Back for a fifth season that lasted just over a month, Channel 10 made the brave decision to take on the tennis by actually pitting the show against it instead of waiting for the season to be over, like the other two commercial networks. And, it worked. It didn’t beat the tennis, but it didn’t struggle either. The season was a good mix of celebrities too, including former Goggleboxers Angie and Yvie, politicians Jacqui Lambie and Sam Dastyari, gossip guru Richard Reid, former AFL player Shane Crawford, and journalist Natasha Exelby. Some new twists were tried out, like Immunity Challenges and Sunday Schoolies, and some emotional moments hit the camp like when Yvie gave a heartfelt speech about pulling out of the weigh in choosing not to celebrate the loss of weight as an achievement. This was a really good season that ultimately saw Richard Reid take the crown, and since it’s back on Jan 5, it’s everyone’s guess who the next king or queen of the jungle will be.

BRIDE & PREJUDICE

Families disapproving of someone wanting to marry the person they love, this show has a crazy concept in itself even began when it started in 2017. And despite surviving three seasons, Bride & Prejudice has run its course. The show wasn’t nearly as memorable as any other, and I think the format has just tired out from the previous instalments. The weddings happened, the mothers complained and came around. It just was the same old story, really. And certainly not the hit of 2019.

AUSTRALIAN SURVIVOR

Alliance members David, Janine and Abbey discuss strategy on the beach.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

One of the best Survivor editions internationally, this year’s season took OFF in 2019. Some incredible players and characters were introduced like David, Janine, John, Shaun, Harry and Pia, along with the return of fan favourite Luke. We saw some massive moves like the fake idol switch by David with Shaun, the massive idol play by Harry, the popcorn eating finding a clue on the floor with David, the incredible 2-1-1 vote by Luke at the final five, the big double idol play by Luke and David, basically anything with David. There were a couple of editing flaws like repetitive confessionals and the almost complete silence of Sam. But the season was still strong and ultimately crowned actress Pia Miranda as the Sole Survivor in a 9-0 vote, making her the first woman to unanimously win the game worldwide. The season surely solidified that the show has a strong future, especially if casting sticks to great characters and a good bunch of strong game players. There’s two seasons next year, and if you’re not already watching this show get on it, the genuine gameplay is to die for.

MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT

Newlyweds Bronson and Ines pose for a wedding photo after their ‘marriage’.
IMAGE: NINE NETWORK

Ah yes, the monster show of 2019. Over a million viewers every night. What was so crazy about Married At First Sight? The drama was so dramatic, it was addicting. Everyone was watching. Some really strong characters, dynamics and drama kept this show at the forefront of the media and television screen. I mean some found love, like Cam & Jules and Michael & Martha, but it was the great and complex personalities that really kept viewers hooked on the likes of Cyrell, Jessika, Bronson, Dan, Elizabeth, Ines and Sam. People really go nuts for a show that’s seemingly flawed in concept, as the season proved that two people couldn’t stick to each other despite being told otherwise by ‘experts’, with a new married couple especially created from an already existing two. How many cheating scandals were there again? Personally, the fanfare seems a little overrated for me, but it’s no doubt capturing viewers and was the biggest success for Reality TV in 2019. If the show can capitalise on the success of this year going forward, it’ll likely be a staple to the Australian Reality TV experience in the many years to come. I look forward to seeing the result, either way.

THE BLOCK

Tess & Luke on auction day, soon learning they are winners of The Block.
IMAGE: NINE NETWORK

A massive 15th season, The Block was back: bigger, badder, and better than ever. Still riding the wave of ratings success, a massive hotel was transformed into mansions by five reno teams. Talks of quitting, money exchange deals, emergency help levers, this season was not pulling the stops on an already monster project. At one point it looked like any team was at breaking point, and equally in good stead to take the whole thing home. In the end, in a big surprise to everyone, Queenslanders Tess & Luke won the season with a total haul of $730, 000 at the auctions. The remaining four teams all managed to reach over $380, 000 in profit. Not bad for a few months renovating a mansion.

HOUSE RULES

Pete & Courtney became the winners of the 2019 season of House Rules.
IMAGE: SEVEN NETWORK

The other rival renovating show with some success was House Rules. Six teams, six houses, six life changing renovations. One thing this show captures well are those amazing reactions to a home transformed. But drama was always present, because at the end of the day it was a competition and everyone had their eyes set on the grand prize. In the show’s first, the finale saw three teams battle it out for the winning position, but Victorian dance teachers Pete & Courtney were the victorious couple over brothers Tim & Mat and couple Lisa & Andy. The show also introduced a new judge, Jamie Durie, who meshed well with returning judges Laurence and Wendy. Next year, a big shake up sees Jamie take on the hosting duties with a co-host, and a new pair of judges to join Laurence in 2020.

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR

Karl’s back! And this year it wasn’t on Today. Despite such a success in 2017, the second season tanked. Viewership went down, and it couldn’t match the success of other shows at the time. A great concept, something I really liked too. But it didn’t work for viewers this time. So it’s sayonara, for now.

MASTERCHEF

Gary. Matt and George hosted their final season of Masterchef in 2019.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

It was the final season for longtime hosts and judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. But of course, that all came out after the season was shot and aired. So we were blissfully unaware of what would come for the beloved (at least two) team. Masterchef also maintained good ratings, good contestant dynamics that didn’t need massive dramatic outbursts to keep it alive, and a young restaurant manager from Victoria, Larissa Takchi become the winner of the season. Larissa outlasted 23 others who made it as official contestants on the season. Back with a new team of hosts in 2020, will Masterchef survive the hosting change? Only time will tell.

THE BACHELOR

Contestant Chelsie eventually won Matt’s season of The Bachelor in 2019.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

A 31 year-old astrophysicist courting 28 women. What could go wrong? Matt Agnew’s season of The Bachelor attracted a lot of media attention, and it often didn’t include Matt and his quest for love. There was Rachael trying to hook up with a production member as a fallback option if it didn’t work out with Matt. Some swearing/name calling scandal that actually seemed way more blown out of proportion it’s escaped my memory. Abbie’s strategic tactics and very touchy date on the beach with Matt late in the competition. It really brought some fire to a season that otherwise had a laid back and reserved bachelor representing the season. As it came down to Abbie and Chelsie McLeod, viewers were left stunned when editors pulled a fast one to trick them into thinking Abbie, the undeniable villain, was the winner. But no, Matt chose Chelsie who seemed perfect for her, only to break up three months after the show’s conclusion anyway. Ah, what a finish.

THE BACHELORETTE

Angie chose front runner Carlin as her winner for The Bachelorette 2019.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

A third Bachie series closed out the year, with Angie Kent making another return on a Reality show since her stint on I’m A Celeb. From the beginning, things got weird. Her brother was posing as a contestant, some odd politician from Queensland made some suggestively inappropriate comments, an intruder had a former connection to Angie (seemingly an unfair advantage), and the obsessed guy was creating drama wherever he could. One of Australia’s favourites, Ciarran Stott, had to leave unexpectedly after a death in the family, and quite possibly may have been the man at the end that won Angie’s heart. Nevertheless, the final two came down to the goofball Timm and Carlin, the literal classic Bach contestant you could think of. And classic beats fun. At least Angie and Carlin are still together, so we’re all hoping it joins the likes of Tim and Anna, and is the true endgame that the series has frequently shown 50/50 success rate.

THE AMAZING RACE

After surviving 12 legs, Tim & Rod were crowned The Amazing Race champions.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

Returning on a new network, and a new series, Beau Ryan took the show by hold as eleven diverse and eclectic teams raced around the world (Asia and Africa) to win $250k. There were some great teams and characters on show, including villains Sid & Ash and footy mates Tom & Tyler, who dominated the competition the whole time until their shocking elimination right before the final leg. There were some production mishaps, with odd U-turn timing decisions, task decisions, and hosting awkwardness. But in the end, married couple Tim & Rod took out the title after an under the radar game and strong performance throughout the season. Great job to the boys, and it’ll be interesting to see how The Amazing Race performs next year after a very fine first season of the revival.

CHANGING ROOMS

Look, it was cancelled after four episodes. What’s there to review? Australia didn’t like it. Some were left unaired. It flopped, big time. It was probably the biggest Reality disappointment of 2019, so congrats for trying, but the magic of the original clearly wasn’t there. Nor was there even an audience screaming for a Changing Rooms revival. Let’s leave it in 2019.

THE VOICE

Returning contestant Diana Rouvas was crowned The Voice winner in 2019.
IMAGE: NINE NETWORK

Boy George, Delta Goodrem, Kelly Rowland all returned for another season of the singing sensation show, this time with Guy Sebastian joining the panel. It did seem a little rushed, and repetitive. I guess that’s typical of a singing show, you can’t change too much. But there were some incredible voices that resounded the stage and through the audience. There were also a lot of previous contestants coming back for another try, and not just some blind audition failures, like people that went far, including former Australia’s Got Talent winner Jack Vidgen. You’ve already won mate. I think the show’s gone a bit of a downward spiral for a while, albeit slow. The live shows lasted for like three nights, unlike the weeks it used to run. It just seemed to tire out this season format wise, although ratings held up. I wasn’t a fan, I have to admit. So maybe 2020 will offer up something better, and the show won’t rely on the strong Blind Auditions round which seems to be the most fun aspect of the show anyway.

AUSTRALIA’S GOT TALENT

Judges Shane, Lucy, Nicole and Manu launched the 2019 AGT revival.
IMAGE: SEVEN NETWORK

Speaking of skill-based competition shows that didn’t seem all too exciting, Australia’s Got Talent returned to screens with a diverse mix of judges: Nicole Scherzinger, Shane Jacobson, Manu Feildel and Lucy Durack, with Ricki-Lee Coulter as host. Not a bad group, not a show stopping one either, I don’t think. There were some great surprises, especially Ricki-Lee, who’s not a judge, pressing the golden buzzer for Olina Loau. Because, you know, Ricki-Lee’s gotta have her two cents in as well. Olina was a great singer (although she didn’t win), but the judges should do the judging, and Ricki-Lee should stick to hosting, in my opinion. I mean, what’s stopping me jumping out of the audience and pressing the buzzer? It still counts, surely. That aside, the show, much like The Voice just seemed rushed. I mean, it went straight from auditions to semi’s. The guest judges were a nice touch, but there were like nine grand finalists (and one that didn’t even show up). Four alternate endings filmed, it just seemed messy. Pole dancer Kristy Sellars won, and that’s all to say really. It didn’t really captivate me, but it did well in the ratings so we’ll see how 2020 goes.

AUSTRALIAN NINJA WARRIOR

Once a monster Reality phenomenon in 2017, Ninja Warrior returned for season three once again with some of the magic from what made the show pretty cool in the first place. But no clear winner passed the final course, which didn’t make too many fans happy although a winner was still crowned. Some great athletes were represented on the show and I’ll always love when someone finally drops into the water. Maybe next year we’ll finally get someone who makes it to the end of the final course and is the clear winner, but given how much strength is required, I wouldn’t be surprised if not. Can Ninja Warrior hold on for a fourth season? Yes, most certainly. Will it be any different to the last three? Probably not.

THE MASKED SINGER

Host Osher Gunsberg with ‘Dragon’ and ‘Monster’ in the hit 2019 show.
IMAGE: NETWORK 10

One of the most surprising and greatest hits of 2019, The Masked Singer was fantastic! Viewers were hooked, trying to guess who was behind the mask each night and even I was surprised at how much I liked the show. Especially towards the end, where the singing was really great and it was hard to pick any winner from the great singing lineup. Sure, maybe the guess panellists seemed ‘dumb’ each week as to who was under the mask. With Lindsay Lohan not knowing anyone (quite comedic however), Dave Hughes guessing ANYONE, and Jackie O and Dannii Minogue really being the only people who could work anything out, it was funny reading the tweets who believe each singer was so obvious. Look guys, the power of the internet wasn’t gonna help the guessers sitting right there. Anyway, it was a great show. Great artists. And a great winner in Cody Simpson aka The Robot. What I’m hoping for season two, cryptic clues that keep me guessing post episode four. After that, almost everyone knew who was behind the mask. This was a great show in 2019, so I’m really hoping for similar success next year.


What show was your favourite in 2019? Did I miss any? Reality TV is the hot entertainment on our screens, and that isn’t gonna change anytime soon. Nevertheless, 2019 saw some big successes and some big flops. Here’s to more of the same in 2020!

Happy New Year!


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