The Age of Infotainment and Reality TV: Scott Goodings

The Age of Infotainment and Reality TV: Scott Goodings

In this clip, Scott Goodings talks about the reality TV revolution in Australia in the early 2000s. In particular, Big Brother (2001–14, reintroduced in 2020) led to an influx of 'ordinary Australians' appearing on TV that were different to the people represented in local TV dramas.

The rise of home video technology was behind the ratings success of a new kind of program, Australia's Funniest Home Video Show, launched on Nine in 1990. The show combined viewers' video clips with sound effects and comedy voice-overs. However it was not without its antecedents, such as Candid Camera.

These technologies have also reduced the cost of professional news gathering and led to increased sourcing of footage from the public in the pre-smartphone and pre-social media 1990s, most famously in the Rodney King case in Los Angeles.

The 1990s also saw the start of the low-cost 'reality TV' phenomenon that dissolved the boundaries between game shows and documentaries. Reality TV productions involve using ordinary people, and in doing so the medium of television comes to play a direct role in contestants' lives. Notable local examples from the 1990s – before various talent and cooking competitions exploded the format in the 21st century – included Race Around the World (1997) and Going Home (1999).

Cheap and portable cameras were behind the success of the ABC's Race Around the World. The program followed a group of young filmmakers who were funded to travel the world and record 10 x four-minute documentaries using camcorders. Race Around the World introduced the viewing public to John Safran, who famously demonstrated his techniques for breaking into Disneyland and streaking through the streets of Jerusalem.

SBS was also experimenting with production technologies and drama and comedy formats in its 1999 program Going Home. The show was based on the interactions of evening commuters on Sydney's rail network, and their commentaries on the events of their day.

Scott Goodings is a self-confessed TV Freak and freelance television reviewer.