Image by Douglas Gray

What is it about the underdog? The little mutt with the sweet brown eyes staring up at you, begging for a moment in the sun? That elusive spotlight where all those mean large gruff slobbering dogs have hogged for so long. “Give the little fella a turn”, we say. A crowd gathers. Clapping begins, slowly at first then increases to a loud, fast paced demand. “GIVE THE LITTLE FELLA A TURN!”

The great thing about reality tv is that you can root for your favourite and if they don’t win, it’s no skin off your nose. You simply change the channel and choose a new favourite. No one likes to fail or even likes to witness failure. I’m talking about mistakes or temper tantrums or flat out bad behaviour. Yep, I’m watching Masterchef Australia tonight and it looks as though the girls are in for a big flop.

Forgetting ingredients, flustering about, staring down the camera, begging, pleading for the fast forward button. It’s so hard to watch cos this is real life. These people are almost living the dream… almost. But if they can’t serve the food they’re looking down the barrel of the firing gun and no one likes that… no one. So you sit there, fingers splayed against your face, hoping that the ad was wrong. Perhaps it’s not all that bad!

I am going for the girl team tonight. The fellas neh, they’ll cope. Gotta go for the ‘sisters’! In the end it’s just another ‘sport’ to consume. Another game, another team to back. If this was a footy game, we’d be yelling at the tv (as if they can hear us), “don’t forget the cinnamon!” or “the pan’s too hot, turn it down” or “Matt hates it, you’re done for!”  But as it is a food cooking comp it seems that the stakes aren’t as high, it’s not as exciting as watching someone score a try or a goal or a basket. It’s more of a slow build, an emotional (and here it comes) JOURNEY. There are no tears at the end of a footy game, just tired, sweaty, dejected looking dirty men with a beer on their mind.

For the contestant eliminated from reality tv, the rules are different. As the tension builds and people stare at each other, the music plays and the host counts down the seconds to when he can reveal who is going home, tears well in the eyes of those with heads on the chopping block. By the time the name is announced all eyes are awash with tears, some guilty some just plain sad. But this is a game of the heart, rather than the muscle. Cos the muscle kind still get paid, win or lose, but the Masterchef contestant has to say goodbye to their dreams, their 15 minutes and their mentors. Tough gig.

Ah it’s all fun and games, til someone cries. Then there are hugs and a bit of tough love, off they walk with their heads held high and their dream still alive. With reality tv o’clock drawing to a close, you exhale as the credits roll, knowing that you will be going down the same path next year and the year after until you are all worn out with anxiety and empathy for these poor sods who look at you with those puppy dog eyes, begging, hoping that this year will be theirs.