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Television: The Ten Best New Zealand Reality Stars of 2015

 2015 saw an unprecedented amount of reality television shows made and broadcast right here in good old New Zealand. From The Bachelor to The Block, X Factor to My Kitchen Rules, here are The Spinoff’s top ten reality stars of the year. Contributions by Alex Casey, Duncan Greive, Calum Henderson and Steve Braunias.

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10) Steve Broad (X Factor)

I remember thinking at some point in March that I wanted Steve Broad to win X Factor more than I wanted the Blackcaps to win the Cricket World Cup. I mean, I really really wanted to win the World Cup, but… Steve Broad! The guy was a battler. He’d already been on NZ Idol in 2005 and finished third – this was almost certainly his last roll of the dice. He was getting on, pushing 30. He came from Invercargill. He almost exclusively performed songs written by and for women, without switching the genders. He had a bad habit of forgetting the lyrics. The judges had it in for him. He was doomed. Steve Broad didn’t win X Factor, and the Blackcaps didn’t win the World Cup. Such is life. / CH

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9) Lily (Masterchef)

‘You ask too many questions!’ hissed the ridiculous Marco Pierre Cardin Bonaparte Sartre Rimbaud de Gaulle Cartier-Bresson White, at Lily on MasterChef. It was the patriarchy unsettled and made nervous by the brilliant, inquisitive Lily, almost certainly the show’s best and most inventive cook (it sure as shit wasn’t nice but dim Tim, who won and has never been heard of since) but who was eliminated early by those three drudges, weird Al, uptight Josh, and boring Mark. She was too clever for them. She was kind of kooky and talked like a robot but was never at a loss for amazing ideas. TV3 canned the series. Lily’s performance lives on. / SB

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8) Marty (The Block)

Rare for such an auxiliary figure to make a list like this, but 2015 will be remembered as the year Marty went from being the most famous builder on The Block to being the most famous builder in the whole bloody country. His mid-series Visa application denial was arguably the year’s most shocking immigration scandal. When he being kicked out of the country or whipping his shirt off to rescue a boring episode, he could be reliably found producing some of the finest wood craftsmanship and finishing you’ll ever see on a competitive renovation franchise, all while muttering unintelligibly in his harsh Scottish brogue. / CH

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7) Prabha (Come Dine With Me)

Fact: The least interesting person who appeared on Come Dine With Me was more entertaining than the best contestant on most of the year’s other local cookery shows. The show was a minor masterpiece, sharply written, endearingly narrated and, most of all, ingeniously cast. This slot could just have easily gone to any one of the 40 contestants, a group so impressive we power ranked the lot of them. But the cackling and hilarious Prabha gave us more of herself, inside and out, and thus stands here to commemorate the poor, defenceless Come Dine With Me – a great show thrown to the raging mob in the mad panic which followed the execution of Campbell Live.

Honourable mention: Eds and Khalid, a beautiful and weird friendship we hope continues to this day. / DG

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6) Katrina Dunlop (My Kitchen Rules)

It’s not so much what Katrina did on My Kitchen Rules NZ, but actually what she did years beforehand that makes her a worthy contender in the most coveted list of the year. A few weeks in, the papers became plastered with bold accusations of PORN HISTORY, with the likes of Bob McKroskie grapevining into the debate with terrible takes on what a woman should be expected to do with her body. I got angry and wrote about it, and Katrina herself was brave enough to speak out to Lizzie Marvelly of The Villainesse about her experience with cyber-bullying and slut-shaming in the wake of the story. Just goes to show that these types of tricky, necessary conversations can come from the most unsuspecting of places, even a cooking competition sponsored by Nando’s. / AC

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5) Brooke & Mitch (The Block)

Christchurch couple Brooke and Mitch announced themselves as bad news as early as the first week on The Block, when Brooke remarked with a hint of psychopathy that Sarah and Minanne were “asking to be punched in the face.” Their villain status was confirmed some weeks later when they strategically scored the other teams zeroes to claim a $2000 room judging prize. They may or may not have been pure evil, but the were easily the best contestants on the show. Every team should approach The Block as seriously and tactically as Brooke and Mitch – great reality TV villains and deserving winners. / CH

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4) Pam Corkery (Dancing With the Stars)

When Dancing With the Stars was announced, I joked that Pam Corkery would be wheeled in to perform her signature move, ‘The Puffed-up Little Shit’. Luckily a disco-ball genie must have been listening to me, because several weeks later we were witnessing TV history as Pam Corkery did a rambunctious jig in a gold dress to ‘Hey Big Spender’. In the absurd, spray-tanned, sequinned world of DWTS, Pam became our representative in the competition. She didn’t have Shane Cameron’s meat hands or Teuila Blakely’s Storm outfit, but she did make a hell of a lot of good gags and shared some intriguing insights from the bonkers world of celebrity boogying. I’m not even mad I spent my life savings doing this. / AC

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3) Joe Irvine (X Factor)

He’s different, Joe. Feels more, sings harder, leaves nothing hidden. We met him as a shy, wooden guy who threw everything he had into the only rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ I’ve ever heard which seemed as committed as Freddie Mercury’s original. It was also a little frightening, and definitely empirically provable as bad singing. He got yessed through as a cute novelty.

Then something we’d happened. He relaxed enough to really sing, instead of bellowing, and revealed a sweet, affecting voice. That got him to Thailand, where he sang for his spot in the final 12. Upon hearing that he’d made it in, he stripped off his shirt and ran with a clumsy joy directly into the ocean.

That perfect moment should have been all we remembered of Joe Irvine. But it wasn’t. Instead he was forced to stand, agog, while Natalia Kills and Willy Moon erupted with a blind fury at him, all because he had the temerity to wear one of Willy Moon’s trademark suits. As Hayden Donnell noted at the time, he wasn’t the first to steal Moon’s look. The story went around the world, got the judges fired and eventually helped lose New Zealand its right to an X-Factor. At the centre of the storm Irvine remained, the same vulnerable yet brave guy I’d met a few weeks earlier. He fell out of the competition later, but for the high of his swim and the low of that extraordinary tantrum he will forever be remembered. / DG

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2) Chrystal Chenery (The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars)

She didn’t win. In fact, only very rarely did she appear to be remotely interested in winning. But Christchurch yoga teacher Chrystal Chenery was a defining public figure of the year in a number of ways. Cast as “the bitch” on our first season of The Bachelor, she both embraced the role and implicitly rejected it. Her magical line atop the Auckland Museum – “are you gonna open your mouth?” – gave a degree of sexual agency rare on a show like The Bachelor, and in her disinterest in the competition she felt like a disruptive, roguish presence.

TV3 recognised her undeniable charisma by casting her on the revived Dancing With the Stars. While she danced well, it was something done to her, rather than something she did, which grabbed our attention as a nation.

A particularly acrobatic lift gave a brief glimpse of her crotch, and radio host Dom Harvey, in a depressingly recurrent lapse of human decency, tweeted an image of it. This prompted an outpouring of disgust brilliantly summed up by our own Alex Casey. Chenery pointedly refused to accept his apology, a gesture which felt like the culmination of a rising feminist crescendo locally coming from a superficially unlikely source: heavily controlled reality TV, breaking its chains and running free. / DG

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1) Art and Matilda (The Bachelor)

I watched, power ranked and podcasted every single episode of The Bachelor NZ, and genuinely still couldn’t call who Art was going to pick in the final episode, despite Matilda’s dramatic arm break and horrifying encounter with a rogue koala turd. Like a lot of people, I was left unsure – it could all be a sham, a ruse, a dreaded “contract thing.” It was only when I was lucky enough to meet Art and Matilda in person that I was 100% in the presence of true love’s warm embrace. They swore, did very bad impressions, and teased each other. They both showed sides to themselves that must have been left on The Bachelor NZ cutting room floor in piles higher than the ceiling at The French Country House.

I am also proud to say that I was in the first 100 people to ‘Like’ Matilda and Art’s new joint Facebook page. These two are, without a doubt, the finest reality talent this country has produced this year. Or maybe ever. Surviving the reality wringer of The Bachelor NZ, a show that was up against a grumpy, arms-folded country tutt-tutting at its very premise, the pair have thrived in the post-Michael Hill glow. They’ve stood by each other metaphorically in times of racial tension, class wars and boxing matches, and literally one time when I saw them at the bakery. Needless to say, the bar for The Bachelor 2016 has been set very, very high for two souls to find love in such a hopeless place. / AC


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