The hugely popular British show about people watching telly is finally getting a New Zealand version. And Calum Henderson, for one, can’t wait.
Good news: TV’s not dead. There are still people out there who regularly sit down, in their living rooms, and just… watch it, sometimes for hours at a time. Now, some of those very people are going to be on TV themselves when Gogglebox NZ premieres on Three later in the year.
What’s it all about?
Gogglebox first aired in the UK a little over five years ago and quickly became one of the country’s most popular shows, despite sounding like a kind of stupid idea at first. Basically it’s a show where you watch other people slumped on their couches watching the previous week’s big TV moments, and they ways they react to them. It reflects us back to ourselves in a way that’s enjoyable in the same kind of primal way that babies enjoy watching other babies. Also, it makes you feel like you’ve watched a week’s worth of ‘must-watch’ telly when actually you were doing better things.
How do they make it?
They just pop a couple of cameras in the participants’ living rooms, mic them up and turn the telly on. (The cameras are controlled remotely from another part of the house to be as unobtrusive as possible.) In the UK they aim to film around eight hours of telly-watching per living room each week. If there’s ten living rooms, that’s 80 hours of footage to condense into an hour-long episode. So, a lot of the magic is in the editing.
Who goes on it?
Casting is the other important bit. Gogglebox is a bit like politics in that the people who want to do it the most are often the ones least suitable for the job. That’s why they don’t take applications or hold auditions – participants are usually scouted by or recommended to producers.
One of the UK version’s most famous participants, Scarlett Moffatt, shed some light on the casting process when she appeared on Celebrity First Dates. “They came to the house and showed us pictures of celebrities, and we had to talk about them,” she explained. “And for a good ten minutes I was talking about Uncle Ben – you know, the rice man. It was actually a picture of Nelson Mandela. I was chatting about his savoury rice and all that.”
Are they all completely daft?
One point of difference with Gogglebox is that it aims to represent a truly diverse cross-section of society, certainly compared to most other reality shows. So there was also, at one point, a Cambridge maths graduate and the Scottish Monopoly champion, for example. Everybody brings something a bit different to the table.
Will a New Zealand version really work?
We’re something the 15th country to get our own version of Gogglebox, so it seems to translate well. And the format is pretty versatile – there has also been a kids’ version (with the revolting title Sprogbox) and one where young people watch vloggers instead of boring TV. Australia made a news and current affairs spinoff called Common Sense, and the latest thing in the UK is a kind of Gogglebox / Taskmaster hybrid show called The Button. We’ve got some catching up to do.
Could the Kiwi participants ever be as entertaining as the UK ones?
Years of making shows like Come Dine With Me, Family Feud, The Block and so on should give MediaWorks a massive head start in unearthing weird and outgoing New Zealand talent. And this is one situation where our two degrees of separation might come in handy – everyone will know someone who’d be amazing on it. For a small country we also have a lot of strong regional stereotypes to fulfil – stuck up Auckland wankers, pretentious Wellington snobs, rough as guts Christchurch bogans and so on. It’ll be sweet.
Who will they be?
To fully adhere to the Gogglebox ethos of being as representative of society as possible, census figures suggest they’re going to need around three non-European households (at least one Māori); a couple of over-65s, and at least as many households with under-15s; no more than three or four from Auckland, a couple in the South Island and at least one from rural New Zealand. Maybe even rural South Islanders. God, imagine.
Will this produce New Zealand’s next celebrity layman or laywoman?
Almost certainly. At the very least we will get a special ‘Gogglebox stars’ edition of Family Feud out of it. The rules of the UK version prevent participants from appearing on any other shows while taking part, but a few have achieved minor fame after leaving the show. Scarlett Moffatt, the one who thought Nelson Mandela was Uncle Ben, appeared on (and won) I’m A Celebrity…, worked with Ant and Dec and released an exercise DVD.
What will they watch?
A bit of everything, but skewed towards more ‘talkable’ shows – Married at First Sight, for example, should be back by the time Gogglebox starts. It won’t just be limited to MediaWorks channels – they have confirmed participants will be watching shows from across all networks. Now is the time for Shortland Street writers to start coming up with the next Harry Warner Penisgate saga.
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