I’ve been watching TV for a long time, and I’ve seen all kinds of shows in my time. Dramas, comedies, documentaries, reality TV, soaps, telemovies, current affairs, sport and whatever that thing with Paul Vautin and Sam Newman was. I had fallen into the trap of thinking there was nothing new under the sun. But I hadn’t reckoned with 2020 and its infinite capacity to surprise and baffle.
Which brings us to the new show SAS Australia, recently announced as the new jewel in Channel Seven’s crown. It’s inspired by the British show SAS: Who Dares Wins, in which ordinary people undergo a gruelling training course akin to that inflicted on SAS trainees. In fact, the Aussie show will, like the UK version, star ex-SAS hardman Ant Middleton as the chief torturer of the hapless participants.
So far, so ho-hum, right? A reality show nicked from the Brits? They’re a dime a dozen, and the format is really just a slightly crueller version of The Biggest Loser, is it not?
Well, no. Because a huge Shyamalan-esque twist has been thrown into the SAS mix by Seven, and that is: the contestants in SAS Australia won’t be normal folk looking to test their limits, but famous – in a fairly loose sense – people, looking to test the proposition that they have no career prospects.
Yes, the cast list for the new show includes former rugby star and TV Bachelor Nick “The Honey Badger” Cummins, ex-iron woman and current cricket WAG Candice Warner, comedian Merrick Watts, “PR queen” and alleged human being Roxy Jacenko, and – most terrifyingly of all – Schapelle Corby.
That’s correct. Schapelle Corby. The one who languished for years in an Indonesian prison for the crime of drug smuggling – which I am ABSOLUTELY SURE she didn’t really commit, of course. Now it was a given that after her release Corby would find a way to parlay her notoriety into some kind of showbiz career that inexplicably does not breach proceeds-of-crime laws, but did anyone honestly think that it would be by training for the SAS?
There are TV shows that make you excited to see them. There are TV shows that make you angry that they exist. There are TV shows whose appeal you can understand, and TV shows whose appeal makes you sad. But rarely, if ever, has there been a TV show that can match SAS Australia for its capacity to make the reasonable viewer throw up their hands and say, “…OK. Fine. You win, universe.”
It’s just…what the hell is going on? Someone actually came up with this idea. Someone thought to themselves, “What if Schapelle Corby and the Honey Badger pretended to be in the SAS?” And that someone took that idea to someone else, and the someone else said, “What a great idea! Let’s spend millions of dollars on making this a reality, because a lot of people will want to watch it!”. And what really makes the stomach lurch is the fact that that someone else will probably turn out to be right. People will probably watch it, and they will enjoy it, and they will write serious tweets speculating on Roxy Jacenko’s odds of making it through a ten-mile run carrying a backpack full of rocks, and they will start hashtags supporting Schapelle Corby’s quest to become the mightiest fake-SAS-training-ex-drug-smuggler in the land. And we will see all this and we will carry on with our lives as if it is all completely normal.
And given this, do we have any chance of ever living in a normal, healthy, adult society? Can we live in a post-SAS Australia world and retain faith in the human race’s capacity to solve its most profound problems? Can we live in that world and even WANT the human race to solve its most profound problems?
None of these questions have easy answers. All we can know for sure is that SAS Australia is coming, and once it has, none of us will be the same.
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