The television ratings war begins in earnest this weekend and, as ever, the collateral damage set to be wounded in the less-than-friendly fire, are the viewers.
Remember dear audience, you are not the clients, you are the beans, there to be counted, or cast aside, or swapped for cows, as the case may be.
Sunday night is proving to be one of the biggest nights in Australian television history, with the Sydney siege victims telling their stories on the Seven and Nine networks.
At the same time as those interviews go to air, fans of the new reality show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! will have to decide whether to skip the siege survivors and instead watch the first elimination of the contestants in the African jungle.
Later in the evening, House of Hancock airs on Nine, My Kitchen Rules’ resident evil pair Ash and Camilla have their first instant restaurant and Shark Tank premieres on Ten. Phew!
It’s a similar story on Monday night when The Block stars, like Dea and Darren Jolly, finally start work on the new season, which is again up against MKR.
Then you have to pick between Nine’s new mini-series Gallipoli and seeing Alan Jones on Q&A.
Here is a quickfire guide to what is on, and how to get the best out of the weekend for entertainment, pop culture currency and minimal frustration.
This is your catch-up day. Head to the various networks’ online catch-up services to binge watch the first week of MKR, The Block or Celebrity. With The Block you can even see into the future (see below). You would be best advised to watch the first episode of Winter, which started on Wednesday night (watch here) amid all the reality warfare.
First up on your menu is an entrée of siege coverage, with two options.
60 Minutes – The Siege Survivors
For this episode, the 60 Minutes team have signed up eight hostages from the Lindt Cafe siege to tell their stories. In their two-and-a-quarter hour special edition they promise tales of bravery, bonds and a “secret pregnancy”.
RECOMMENDATION: MORE THAN TWO HOURS OF POWERFUL BUT HEAVY MATERIAL
Inside The Siege, The Untold Story
In a boldly branded “unique” documentary which will cover the same topic at the same time, Seven will interweave the tales of an unmentioned number of survivors with the genuinely unique footage they filmed from their cameras across Martin Place. Seven only have 90 minutes to fill. In all likelihood, the footage should make Seven’s the more enlightening offering.
RECOMMENDATION: EXERCISE CAUTION AT A FAMILY HOUR
There is also a non-violent (but certainly not vegetarian – more vulgarian) option:
I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!
After a week it is abundantly clear that each episode of I’m A Celebrity is near identical to the last. This episode at least promises the first elimination before we get more discussion of snot or toilets or snoring. It also lasts an hour and a half.
RECOMMENDATION: TAKE A NIGHT OFF AFRICA, LOOK TOWARDS HOME
Three very different offerings to tempt viewers later in the evening.
Ten’s second new show of the year is another format borrowed from overseas. This sees inventors and entrepreneurs pitch a panel of industry big wigs for venture capital. More exciting in reality than it can ever be on paper, the best option is probably to try this for 45 minutes before switching over to Nine.
RECOMMENDATION: TAKE A SMALL BITE
My Kitchen Rules
The producers’ choice for series villain Ash and Camilla have an hour and a half to put egg on their face in dramatic fashion. Try as the editors might they haven’t come across nearly as snobby or horrible as intended and in fact this is likely to be a middle-of-the-road effort that can be caught up on in five-minute online highlights.
RECOMMENDATION: TRY SOMETHING NEW FOR ONE NIGHT
House of Hancock
The perfect blend of great talent led by Sam Neill and Mandy McElhinney, a highly relevant topic in one of Australia’s mining dynasties and a real-life tale of high drama makes this the pick of the night. Like a car crash between three infinitely over-priced luxury cars this is shiny, impressive and impossible to look away from.
RECOMMENDATION: SUNDAY’S SIGNATURE DISH
The Block Triple Threat
Certainly based on the ratings, it may not be immediately obvious for much of the audience, but there’s one crucial thing to realise about Sunday night’s offering – it is a repeat of Friday night’s episode.
RECOMMENDATION: EAT UP ON FRIDAY, SKIP THE TWO-DAY-OLD LEFTOVERS
Grammy Awards Red Carpet
The musicians sing for their supper … sorry that should read superiority complexes.
RECOMMENDATION: A SLICE OF CRAZY FOR LUNCH
The Walking Dead
While far from an acquired taste, don’t try and start this massively popular undead western as the second half of season five starts. But do catch up.
RECOMMENDATION: A NO-BRAINER (HA!) FOR CONNOISSEURS
Any genre you like as long as it’s reality.
This is an entire episode dedicated to this season’s most relentlessly (even gratingly) upbeat pair as the buoyant Annie and Lloyd sing a happy tune in the kitchen, so best for anyone with a cynical bone to take another night off for fear of getting your grumpy pants in a twist.
RECOMMENDATION: ONLY FOR THOSE WITH THE SWEETEST TOOTH
The Block Triple Threat
This is the episode where the audience may want to come back as tonight is the first appearance of the three All-Stars teams: Dea and Darren, Matt and Kim and Bec and George. Essentially, The Block has almost started for real. (That said, it will be repeated on Tuesday at 2pm).
RECOMMENDATION: A GOOD TASTE TEST
I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!
This is not a repeat. It may be hard to tell.
RECOMMENDATION: GENERIC OFFERING
There may be someone left in Australia who doesn’t know about Nine’s Gallipoli drama series, but they also don’t own a television or have access to electricity. The first episode charts the first day of the campaign in Turkey. Cast is excellent. More importantly, the producers are too, coming from Offspring and Puberty Blues showrunners John Edwards and Imogen Banks as well as Paper Planes and Balibo screen master Robert Connolly.
RECOMMENDATION: MUST AT LEAST BE SAMPLED
Mostly staying out of the way of the fight this weekend, Aunty could have the unexpected champ if we are near to a new Prime Minister by Monday night. Panel is Alan Jones, Jamie Briggs, Chris Bowen, Heather Ridout and Corinne Grant.
RECOMMENDATION: EXCELLENT IF ACCOMPANIED WITH MATCHING HEADLINES
A quick note for those who were caught off guard by this US drama’s Golden Globes wins. If you’re interested in the latest high-quality drama, it starts on Tuesday.
On Wednesday (The LifeStyle Channel) and Thursday (Ten) we start watching other people consuming the menu above. It may be enough to send you on a diet.