The reality of reality TV

Guest Post by Daniel Hogan

On the first day of my first TV job, Andrew Denton stepped on a blob of my phlegm and a silver haired man who was working on the score for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia accidentally saw my penis.

Let me explain.

I first entered TV Land in 2008 as a transcriber on Australian Idol. The job of a transcriber is to turn every audible sound emitted by an interviewee’s mouth into a transcript. 20,000 words in a day. I became well versed in the vernacular of the Australian reality TV contestant.

I guess it wasn’t my day I mean you could say it’s just one of those things like you know what they say about how much this means to me if I may I am half human half music.

So I began tapping away on my keyboard to the tune of Wes Carr’s life story when my bladder told me to go to the toilet. The building I worked in was an enormous, yellow thing with a bathroom so small it leaves me mystified to this very day. One urinal, two cubicles. One of those cubicles was atypical: it had a door with a handle (as opposed to a latch) and the toilet was in a small room. There was no gap above or below, just solid door. Maybe it was a storage space or a closet in a previous life.

I chose to conduct my business in the toilet closet as the other options were occupied. The door handle was busted and I couldn’t lock it. No problem, I thought, I’ll be quick. I heard the voices of two men entering the toilet, locked in a loud conversation about their work on Australia. With his head over his shoulder, continuing to talk to his colleague, a silver haired man barged into the toilet closet where I was and walked straight into me. I froze in the awkward silence. The man apologized and swiftly exited.

Later that day, a soggy autumn day, I was pushing a trolley full of garbage to a dumpster. The foul garbage smell got stuck to my tongue and, checking nobody was around, I spat on the ground. Not something I’m proud of, but hey, it happened. I emptied the trolley and on my way back I sighted Mr. Denton walking towards my phlegm. He trod right on it and continued walking. I wonder if he’s wearing those shoes today.

Fast-forward to 2009 and I landed a job as an Assistant Editor on MasterChef. At first, I honestly thought the show would be a dive. But maybe that’s because I spent countless underwhelming hours with footage of people tasting sauce and cutting onions.
As my time at MasterChef continued and the show gained momentum (and ratings), this seemingly bland, unexciting footage became an inescapable curiosity, a borderline obsession. I think the absurdity of it fascinated me. Here I was working fifty to sixty hours a week, night shift, dealing with images of food and dialogue about food.

Close-up of boiling water, cutaway of egg yolk, GEORGE, tastes and comments, good take, says something in Greek; MATT tastes and comments, delivering a three minute monologue on the taste of JULIE’s carrots, somebody give him a Logie.

And then someone did. Based on the very few times I met him and from what I’ve observed from behind the proverbial scenes, the larger than life and cartoonish Matt Preston is always monologuing. His recent stunt, smashing a contestant’s dish on the floor and proclaiming it as “disgustingly good” is a stroke of TV host/judging genius.

Here is a list of my favourite log notes from some of the shows I’ve worked on. I have omitted the names of personalities and replaced them with the word MacGuffin:

MacGuffin refers to bad weather as ‘dragon’s breath’.
A large tree walks past the window behind MacGuffin.
Derelict with no front teeth explains that the judges know nothing about dancing.
MacGuffin unsuccessfully decapitates fish and bursts into tears.
MacGuffin introduces challenge, take 14.
MacGuffin makes an egotistical comment about how he is going to beat everybody.
MacGuffin is asleep.
MacGuffin asks producers if they have ever been on TV.
MacGuffin takes cone outside.
MacGuffin delivers a series of tear-jerking moments, explaining her love for food.
MacGuffin removes stomach of fish before it kicks back to consciousness.
MacGuffin attempts to walk in high-heels.
Unbeknown to MacGuffin, there is smoke billowing from his oven.
Blatant cleavage shot of MacGuffin as she chops carrots.
The contestants look purple.
Model strikes pose and sheds a tear.

I’d like to leave you with a photograph I snapped at Fremantle Media HQ. The reality of reality TV:


Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year