Thursday, August 11, 2011

I smell a (ratings) rat

The good thing about Australia and New Zealand is they are basically the same country when it comes to tv shows, with free to air networks on both sides of the tasman, showing each other’s locally produced content.   

So back in 2003 I was swept up in the same “block” fever that hit Australians, following the fortunes of the couples as they fought to renovate the building and win, and the presentation skills of Jamie Durie.  I even followed with interest the legal fight between Ninox Television (creators of Dream Home in NZ) and Nine over copyright infringement.

Like others I followed Jamie from the block to backyard blitz, before he dropped off the Aus/NZ radar when his career took him to the USA, appearances on Oprah and shows on cable networks.
So now living in Australia it was with interest I started to watch Top Design, Jamie’s new offering on Nine, one which has been successfully used in America, on the Bravo Channel (although its original run was only two seasons 2007-2008).   

Interestingly enough Top Design runs on Nine immediately after The Block, and in competition with The Renovators on Ten, although The Renovators seems to be running into ratings issues.
Episode 3 (S01 E03 airing on July 27th) caused some controversy amongst social media pundits as it featured a challenge involving restoring/designing a chair and then creating a room with the chair as centrepiece.  This resembled a very similar challenge on The Renovators which aired two days prior on July 25th (S01 E02).  It was also this episode when Jamie announced that 3 “intruders” would join the remaining contestants on Top Design.

Episode 4 (S01 E04 airing August 3rd) introduced us to the 3 “intruders” Karl, Chris and Katrina.  Now Chris and Katrina seem to be genuine contestants but there was something about Karl and his attitude to the competition and fellow contestants that made him seem not so real.  Karl announced he was there to shake up the competition and wasn’t there to be a “Mr nice guy”  According to his bio Karl is a furniture maker.  In the two episodes Karl was involved in he fought and bickered with the contestants he was paired with and caused no end of pain for them.

Karl galvanised people with the general consensus on twitter (#TopDesign) that he was a nasty piece of work, with multiple people calling him a fake and questioning every part of his role on the show right down to even if Karl is his real name.

Now I too believe Karl wasn’t a real contestant but someone brought onto the show to shake things up and show the judges how the designers work under pressure and with difficult people.  This was confirmed in last night’s episode (S01 E05) where at elimination Jamie sprung a double elimination on the contestants.   

After eliminating Katrina, Jamie brought the double elimination into play and started talking to Lisa about her responsibility for the bad design that caused her team to come bottom and Katrina to be eliminated.  It was at this point that Karl jumped in and said that he wasn’t one to spill his guts on national television, but he had a close family member suffering a severe illness and he would rather sacrifice his place on the show to assist that person, than see Lisa be eliminated, as he felt she had more to offer.

Jamie was too quick with his responses which sounded to well-rehearsed and scripted to have been genuine and on-the-spot as it were.  Karl was then “eliminated” and Lisa kept her spot.
I believe this was a huge play to win ratings and audience share, as there were too many irregularities and for want of a better word holes, in the whole performance of Karl, and especially in the way the “double elimination” played out.

I am interested to hear your comments on this post, if you’re a Top Design fan, team Karl or team Robert, and if you think Nine stried to sneak a “ratings rat” into their show.

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