Watching other people watch television isn’t exactly the best pitch for a television show, but Gogglebox Australia is proving to be a viewer favourite.
Inspired by the original British series Gogglebox, which draws an impressive four million viewers each week, Channel 10 partnered with pay TV giant Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel to bring Gogglebox to Australia in 2015.
Now in its third season, Gogglebox Australia airs on Wednesdays on Lifestyle, and 24 hours later on Channel 10. It’s not a complicated show by any measure – it’s just other people sitting on their couches watching the shows the rest of Australia watches during the week. Programs like Masterchef, Kebab Kings and even Game of Thrones appear, with the Gogglebox cast watching and commenting throughout the episode. All the while the rest of Australia gets a couple minutes of footage from each show featured throughout the episode.
It’s almost like watching a trailer for a show you’ve never seen before. Never bothered to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Don’t worry; the Gogglebox cast has put in the hard work for you. Want to hear just how bad Seven Year Switch was? Tune in for the verdict from the cast.
While this is a reality show, and the segments are obviously edited so only the funniest moments go to air, the cast members are all authentic and completely different from the type of crowd you would see Big Brother. There’s art dealers Mick & Di, who’ve been married for decades and probably sit on the most uncomfortable couch ever invented. Greek-Australian friends Anastasia & Faye are boisterous Collingwood supporters, housemates Vivian & Zina are huge Game of Thrones fans, and couple Wayne & Tom never watch television without some sort of alcohol in their hands.
The cast don’t watch television for free like the rest of us though; a Gogglebox spokesperson recently told news.com.au, “Each of the…households receives a fee for every time we shoot in their houses”. It sounds like a great way to make some extra money, especially since the show is enjoying higher ratings this year.
Gogglebox Australia was even nominated for, and ending up winning, a TV Week Logie for Best Factual Program. It was up against established institutions such as Australian Story, Bondi Vet, Bondi Rescue and Who Do You Think You Are. Cast member and physio student Symon said to his friend Adam, “There’s like proper programs against us, real stuff”. Watching the cast watch their program receive a Logie was great; they were celebrating in their lounge rooms, with their startled pets and each other. Adam probably gave the shortest acceptance speech of the night from his living room: “Thanks mum and dad, for inspiring me to sit on the couch and watch television”. Well said.
It’s certainly worth questioning whether or not the Logies are relevant to Australians these days, but people actually voted for Gogglebox over these other programs, so something is obviously working. There’s a definite appeal to seeing how other people go about a mundane thing such as watching television, especially when they are watching the programs everyone else in Australia tunes in to. Seeing the cast bagging Home & Away for its melodramatic plots, or laying into the deficiencies of My France with Manu is entertainment at its simplest. The show doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking, as Australia has probably already watched the featured shows each week, so all that’s required is a sense of humour. In a time where most of the country is streaming television shows or timeshifting their viewing, Gogglebox Australia is a real attempt to put the fun back into television.