To hear Scott Cam tell it, any old bloke could have been the guy standing up at the front of the room accepting the Gold Logie on Sunday night.
Alongside some of the other surprise wins on the night – Paul Fenech for Housos and Chris Lilley for Ja’mie Private School Girl – it was a strong indication that the online voting that has finally replaced the magazine clipping and SMS systems has shifted the popularly-voted awards into a broader sphere.
This was the Gold Logie that will be converted into a beer opener Cam promised, and metaphorically it couldn’t find a better use.
Cam represents the first reality television host – and the first carpenter – to take the honour.
Cam took out the award in the face of stiff competition that included last year’s winner Asher Keddie, serial nominee Carrie Bickmore, and network stablemate Andy Lee who was looking to get a bookend to match best friend and co-star Hamish Blake’s gold from 2012.
It was the affable reality show host who grabbed the gong, and his honest, down-to-earth speech wouldn’t have felt out of place at the end of season awards at his beloved Sydney Roosters rugby league team.
“I kissed Kylie Minogue, that’s pretty cool” he quipped as the room found its seats, with Cam going on to marvel at his sobriety at such a late stage in the evening.
While presenters have often grabbed the Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television – the likes of Bert Newton, Rove McManus, Graham Kennedy and Daryl Summers dominate the multiple winner lists – Cam represents the first reality television host, and the first carpenter, to take the honour.
Cam will rank a strong contender for back-to-back titles. He’s paid his dues to get to the top and shows no sign of moving on anytime soon.
It marks a new high-water mark for the reality genre in Australia. In 1992 Australia was part of the burgeoning reality television movement with Sylvania Waters and from turkey slapping scandals to MasterChef food trucks, we have embraced the phenomenon with fervour.
Long gone are the complaints about the lack of reality in reality television. As My Kitchen Rules tonight draws to a ratings-smashing conclusion only to be replaced in our hearts by The Voice, our reality shows have merged with our talent quests to provide soap operas with entirely scripted but also entirely real world villains.
The presenters dominate the gladiatorial colosseums and now rank with the biggest magazine cover stars as well. Cam joined MKR’s Manu Feildel in accepting awards last night, Sonia Kruger swapped Big Brother for the red carpet hosting duties, while Bickmore will hope her stint hosting So You Think You Can Dance this year will boost her chances of converting nomination into award next year.
Cam will rank a strong contender for back-to-back titles, however. He’s paid his dues to get to the top and shows no sign of moving on anytime soon.
At 18 he took an apprenticeship in the “carpentry game” in Sydney with his brother, learning the skills and work ethic of a chippy. “I’ve always loved working hard, that great feeling of being tired and dirty, hot and sweaty – then the inevitable cold beer at the end of the day,” he says.
Almost two decades later, it was that beer o’clock tradition that changed his life. Running his own business, married with three children, he still went to the pub after work.
In the last 15 years, Cam has been an ever present figure on Nine, his star rising over a decade in which the network had few genuine stars – and far less than their traditional ratings dominance – to boast about.
“This fella came up to me in the pub one arvo and says: ‘Do you want to do a screen test for a TV show we’re doing?’ Initially I thought he was joking and said ‘No, I’m right thanks mate!'”
It wasn’t just a case of a network exec choosing the first tradesman he stumbled across in the pub. The persistent producer Stuart Clark wanted Cam for Backyard Blitz and chased him, over several beers. “Fifteen years ago a fella named Stewie Clarke came to me in the pub,” Cam recalled in his speech. “He certainly has changed my life.”
Clark got him. Cam started on the show in 1999 splitting his week to spend two days on the show and four days on his business.
If Cam seems to sincerely believe in reality television it’s because it epitomises his own approach to being a television star. “The best thing I ever did was to be myself. No acting required. That’s what I did from day one.”
It worked. In the last 15 years, Cam has been an ever present figure on Nine, his star rising over a decade in which the network had few genuine stars – and far less than their traditional ratings dominance – to boast about. When the network revived The Block in 2010 after a six year hiatus, Cam was the obvious candidate to fill the host’s hard hat and workboots, previously worn by Jamie Durie. And Cam is considered by insiders to be a large ingredient in the huge success the format has become.
Cam shuns the plaudits, however, as he did in his speech on Sunday.
“I want to thank some early executive producers and producers that I worked with in the early days that put me in the right direction,” he said.
“As I said, I knew nothing about it – they pointed me in the right direction and taught me a fair bit about it. I need to thank the whole Block family,” Cam said, and it felt like he did, yet Cam is engaging and sincere in such a manner that it didn’t feel like a shopping list, at least not too much.
Even if you don’t like The Block or reality television, or even Cam as a style of presenter, it’s hard not to like the affable chippy whose wife, Ann, cried at the table as he got a little misty and won hearts as he joked that the shock of his win might have killed his mother.
The everyman champion said his Logie would “go down a treat on the bridge table at the bowl-o” on the weekend and his mother shouldn’t be surprised if she gets another to match it next year.