Reality check for all you softies


News that a man has drowned during the filming of a Pakistani reality TV show only confirms what we’ve always suspected about the genre in New Zealand.

That is, our shows are pathetically soft and predictable, often offering a minimum of danger for the contestants and a diet of the mundane and immature for the viewers.

It’s about time someone spoke out about it because, frankly, it’s starting to become a national embarrassment.

People are being killed and maimed here on a weekly basis, yet hardly ever in the name of gratuitous ntertainment.

News agencies reported last week that 32-year-old Saad Khan drowned while attempting to swim across a Thai lake wearing a 7kg backpack as part of a challenge for the show.

His body was returned home to Karachi only a few months after a 53-woman died of a heart-attack during filming for a Bulgarian reality TV programme in the Philippines.

It makes you wonder about our folk, doesn’t it? It’s more than a decade after reality TV hit our screens and what have we got to show for it?

A near-death experience for Lana Coc-Kroft in Celebrity Treasure Island, a contestant receiving second and third degree burns during filming for Going Straight, and a couple of blokes nearly killed in a boating mishap during The Resort.

Hardly good enough, really. I mean, if it’s okay for Pakistan television (not exactly starved of explosive news stories at the moment) to spice things up for their viewers, you’d think it would be good enough for Kiwi producers.

Sometimes we’ve had to wait months for the next real-time disaster on the news, after all. Often there’s a full week between stories of genuine personal tragedy.

It’s just unacceptable in this day and age that we have to wait so long to witness other people’s misfortune, when reality TV contestants could so easily be taking up the slack.

But no. What do we get? Ordinary, non life-threatening stuff such as Beachcomber Cottage (Prime, Saturdays, 7.30pm), Island Wars (TV2, Sundays, 7.30pm), The World’s Strictest Parents (Prime, Wednesdays, 7.30pm) and Masterchef (TV1, weekdays, 4.55pm).

The time has come, surely, to demand some unadulterated mayhem in the shows screened here – at the very least the potential for loss of limb or for a suicide-inducing public humiliation.

It’s not as if it’s an infrequent occurrence. There’s been at least seven suicides or murders involving reality TV contestants over the past 13 years, not counting those who have accidentally died or have been killed during “competition”.

But, and here’s the embarassing bit – not one has been a Kiwi. You wonder when we’re going to wake up and smell the schadenfreude.