By Alana Schetzer
Australian TV viewers are having a love affair with love affairs.
Once considered the poor cousin of the reality TV family, relationships are now the shining star of a host of shows that have gripped Australians’ attention.
There’s plenty that’s unreal about these shows — the nightly cocktail parties, dramatic dates involving helicopters and relationship boot camps on private islands. But wipe away the extravagance and grandeur and the what’s left is something highly relatable and universal: love, friendship and companionship.
Relationships are an ideal story arc for reality TV. Most relationships are full of ups and downs and the consequences can be life-changing. Each end of the tale is dramatic — new romance is full of thrills and surprises, while the end of a relationship can be consumed by bitterness, anger and jealousy — all ingredients that make up television dramas.
A banquet of romance
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to what sort of relationship drama viewers want to consume: Channel 10 have The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, in which two dozen singles compete for the love and attention of just one person; Channel Seven has Seven Year Switch, a “social experiment” where troubled couples swap partners to “test” their relationship and discover if it’s worth saving, and the self-explanatory First Date, where the most controversial aspect is the illusion that people are actually paying for their meal.
Over on Channel Nine, viewers have been subjected to Married at First Sight, Last Resort and the veteran of the lot, Farmer Wants a Wife.