What we get wrong about reality TV
We've been socialised to believe nice is boring, especially when it comes to reality TV. Apparently, unless there's scheming and betrayal, it's not worth watching.
How did we get here? Aren't you sick of scheming and betrayal? Aren't you sick of gym-obsessed bros and Instagram wannabes saying awful things about each other when the microphones are on?
Even if everything is heightened and reality TV contestants are prodded by producers to be nasty, isn't it bad enough to know that there are people out there who are actively seeking to be portrayed in a way that shames if not themselves (presumably they can't be shamed) but their families?
There's something so misanthropy-inducing about watching these people versus the dramatic connivances of fictional characters on Veep, Succession or Secret City - at least those people speak in proper sentences thanks to the writers.
Look, this isn't really a diatribe about how these melodramatic reality TV shows distorts our perception of strangers to the point you start to wonder if universal suffrage really is a good idea.
We've all read 17 versions of that article. And universal suffrage is essential.
But for those of us disinclined to invite ghastly notoriety chasers into our homes, it's always worth remembering that nice doesn't equal boring. Nice can be entertaining - plus you have your faith in humanity restored, which is always an added welcome.
We are, of course, talking about the Great British Bake Off, which returns for its 11th season this week on Foxtel*. When it comes to reality TV competitions, there is nothing more therapeutic than GBBO.
Even empowering and celebratory series including MasterChef and Lego Masters induce stress with its cliffhanger ad breaks and uber tense score. Or those obstacle course shows where there's fire and so much screaming. Not GBBO, where low stake disasters such as runny icing and cracked pastry are still accompanied by jaunty tunes.
It's drama without bated breath but with plenty of emotional connections. The producers do an amazing job at building up each contestant as someone you actually want to see succeed.
There's something particularly wholesome and inspiring about this season of GBBO, which was filmed during the UK COVID lockdowns.
Instead of travelling back and forth between their homes and the set for each weekend's filming, this season the cast and crew were confined within their own quarantine bubble for six weeks, cut off from family and friends.
Their commitment to making this wonderful show (and their commitment to delectable cakes) makes you appreciate the series all the more - and clearly there's something to it because this season averaged 11 million viewers in the UK when it aired in late-2020.
Matt Lucas slipped in seamlessly as a new host, replacing Sandi Toksvig who went off to helm QI. Lucas' easy charm and unaggressive sense of humour added to the genial atmosphere of the tent.
Along with co-host Noel Fielding, judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, and a diverse group of contestants, GBBO proves once again it's an absolute gift to anyone looking for a reality TV fix that won't make them hate the world. And it's never boring.
Great British Bake Off season 11 is on Tuesdays at 8.30pm on Lifestyle Food - episode one is available to stream now on Foxtel On Demand and Foxtel Now
Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima
*Foxtel is majority owned by News Corp, publisher of news.com.au
Originally published as What we get wrong about reality TV