This post is a thought bubble that has sat unreleased on my computer since the end of 2016. I received the wonderful opportunity to present a PHAIWA Opinion Piece Seminar and these were my post-presentation musings. Thank you to PHAIWA for the opportunity, and thank you for the audience that sat through my presentation after Megan had finished.
Pitch us a concept for a reality TV show that promotes public health. That was my mission, should I choose to accept the opportunity to present at the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA (PHAIWA) Opinion Piece Seminar. I sat back in my study and considered the angles, the opportunities, the possibilities. This was going to be tough – while I had to bring humour, I also had to bring some research, some body, something worth hearing. I had to deliver something of substance. This was PHAIWA, not Comedy Central.
There are plenty of obvious places you could go with reality TV and health. I assumed I wasn’t being asked to present the obvious and set about some seriously immersive research. Now, we all like to pretend that we are above reality TV, far too cerebral for it all – but I can tell you, the night Nick got voted off Survivor, my head was spinning. Who cares if someone can make their cucumber gel set to delight Gazza, Georgie and the Cravat? We all do – we just don’t know it. I went deeper and deeper in to the reality TV whirlpool. Could the Kardashian’s sell public health to the masses?
Now, as I say – we all, to some degree pretend we are above reality TV. I think everyone who has watched TV has ended up watching Reality TV. There is a social aspect to it, a familiarity. It has been on our TV’s forever. Now someone out there is reading this, shaking their heads (possibly their fists) and declaring they hate the format and have never watched it.
This may be true – but even if you haven’t seen it, you’d have to be aware of it. Think back – ever heard of the Seven Up! series, a lesson in Reality TV longevity? Watched an episode of Candid Camera or Australia’s Funniest Home Videos? Heard of Sylvania Waters or This Is Your Life? There are many different formats and styles of Reality TV – it’s not all competitions, Kimye and Jersey Shore.
Now, you can hate on Reality TV as much as you want; what you can’t ignore is its power, popularity and sustained success. Sure, its launched a few modelling and singing careers – but what about politics? Two of our Senators, Derryn Hinch and Pauline Hanson have enjoyed successful spells on Dancing with the Stars – managing to show a different side of themselves, and arguably softening their images. Donald Trump, portrayed a powerful and successful businessman in The Apprentice.
Suddenly, the reality of The Donald, is that he is now the President and leader of the free world. Surely The Donald’s current political success is more tied to his TV profile than his business acumen. Surely. George Galloway (UK politician), took time out of parliament to take part in Celebrity Big Brother. Perhaps Josh Frydenberg, could be convinced to do likewise?
I was to present alongside Batchelor alumni, Megan. I wasn’t going to pretend that people were coming to listen to me. I was a side act to the big show. Megan was drawing the crowd – I was filler. Unperturbed, I threw myself in to my presentation. In the lead up, there was buzz about to content, the topic, (one of) the presenters. Everyone (except Mel Sweet) was hanging out to hear how we were going meld reality TV and public health; how we would fold them together in to a rich yet fluffy mousse to appease the Cravat. And Mel Stoneham.
The day came and it was time for my pitch. Armed with the best PowerPoint I could ever put together, I watched as Megan wowed the crowd, answered questions about Batchie and the show, and nailed her presentation in general. It was my time to present. I waited long enough to give anyone wanting to leave straight after Megan the chance to go and then got cracking.
I wanted my audience to think about ways to break down barriers between Public Health and lounge rooms. What is the point of having fantastic brains doing amazing things and providing astounding insights if there is no one to listen. My pitch was for a surreal observational documentary that was about people, watching people watching Public Health related programming. Yes, my show to pitch: a Gogglebox-esque Public Health extravaganza.
I learnt along the way that a show pitch needed a log line (thanks Google). My pitch was healthy for it and my pitch’s log line was: Gogglebox Health takes viewers into lounge rooms of everyday Australians and Public Health idols to watch their ideas, interpretations and criticisms of the nation’s best health shows, adverts and campaigns.
I wanted a show that controlled the content that was being delivered to people’s homes, but also delivered health messages in a way that ensured the message was getting through. I pitched the value of two steams – a stream of everyday stars, similar to the stars of the current shows, that provide general insights from the community, teaching points related to knowledge acquisition and criticism of our best (and worst) public health mass media. The second stream were new and old legends of public health – there to have a voice in the mainstream, the ability to connect with the audience and provide messages and teaching without lecturing, and without needing to be via a health-related press release.
I wanted us to give Australians what they didn’t know they already wanted – people sitting on their couches talking about Public health stuff! It would be low costs, yet high impact. Provide direct messaging opportunities. Be believable – but most importantly, relatable. It would give Public Health the chance to be famous, if only for 15 minutes.
My presentation was well received and left me feeling like I’d achieved the brief, nailed the presentation and not disgraced myself (my three pre-presentation goals). People were very kind, giving me a moment of their time to shake my hand, before trying to find Megan and hope the conversation swung to the Bachelor. Now, this was a pitch for PHAIWA and fundamentally a bit of fun – but what if we could harness the power of reality TV for Public Health?
Why can’t we go beyond medical drama style reality TV (RPH, Kings Cross ED, Keeping Australia Alive) and think about subtly delivering our message via the format? Is there space in our lives for a team of celebrities trying to get an under-funded health promotion project off the ground in the face of funding cuts and a budget freeze? Could we get our health department heads on an island somewhere, battling it out for an increased budget? Why not follow the day to day lives of those heroes slogging it out in the Population Health Blocks around the country? There are definitely some colourful characters in some of those office buildings that would provide enough drama for an exec to get excited. Let’s give it a go.
Come on Australia – it’s time for a change, a challenge, a couch and a message.