When you become an expat you take your normal life and daily routines and drop them in a new location. You learn a lot about the way you live your life when you start recreating it somewhere else.
One of the things I’ve learnt is how much I watch TV, because the starkest, most obvious differences between my life here compared to back home in the UK relate to what is happening on the box. It’s not the weather or the Aussie lingo that constantly remind me I’m somewhere else, but the weird things that are happening everyday on the telly. Whilst I love many of the home-grown Aussie shows, there’s a lot about Aussie TV that leaves me baffled.
In the beginning I had no idea when one show ended and another begun. Credits rarely roll and instead an ad break is often inexplicably played 4 minutes before the show is due to end.
So for the first few weeks of living in Australia I missed the climax of every show I watched, having got up and wandered off when the ads crept in towards the end of the hour. Next week I would realise the error of my ways when I would check in to see the same show and have not a clue what was going, even though I distinctly remembered watching it.
I trained myself to keep watching and stay put even when I thought a show was over, asking my boyfriend repeatedly, “Is that it?” Except sometimes it really was and instead I mashed different Aussie dramas together in my unfamiliar head.
But I’ve started to get more used to the patterns now; I almost know what days of the week my favourite shows will be on. This took longer than anticipated, though, due to the really random start times. (Whoever heard of a show starting at 8.35?) It’s often a surprise what time The Block, Winners and Losers or The Bachelor may be shown. Sometimes 8.30, sometimes 8.40 – you just never know!
Scheduling in general is a mystery to me. Friday and Saturday nights are a televisual dirge in Australia. Big shows like The X Factor are on a Sunday and Monday, the equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing is on Tuesday, and I’m all at sea, not knowing what night to get a takeaway and wondering if its ok to crack out the wine at the start of the week. The latest season of Suits, which I used to binge on before we moved to a country without Netflix (*weeps*), suddenly appeared on our screen after 11pm one evening, with not so much of a warning. Can you believe they’ve put Harvey in such a graveyard slot?
But Aussie dramas are impressively gripping. Granted, the cast pool seems to be limited (is Asher Keddie/ the cast of Neighbours in everything?) but the plot lines and teasers have me hooked. From Offspring to Wonderland, House Husbands and Party Tricks; I’m watching them all.
There’s Aussie versions of all my favourite US and UK reality shows too. At one period we had The Voice, X Factor and The Voice Kids all showing in a row (perhaps a step too far even for my square eyes.)
The Aussie networks sure know how to do a dramatic trailer. Imagine a cinema-style, deep voiced, big up for Every.Single.Show. Sometimes they go a bit overboard. For weeks they ran an ad for Australia’s Border Security with the line “What’s Wrong With Mr Wong” (big red letters blasted across the screen) which had me taken aback (Twitter users called Channel 7 out for the use of racial stereotype, even the Daily Mail reported on it being tacky!) but god dammit I wanted to know!
Teasers for upcoming shows are also leaked in the middle of the news, so even when you are trying to be intellectual you end up wondering what’s happening on Big Brother.
Commercial adverts are simply dire. The more regional channel you find the worse they get. Think: corny adverts for mattresses and blinds that they’ve been running since the 80’s. The later you stay up the worse it is. One of my favourite worse adverts has to the men who play air guitar on an iPad whilst singing ‘I’m looking for someone other than my wife” to a tune ripped from the 70’s. (It’s here if you want to see it – at your own peril!)
And if I see one more infomercial for the Nutribullet I might barf.
The morning shows here are sneaky. They don’t have official ad breaks but instead run infomercials in the middle of the show, the same one over and over for weeks on end. In my innocence I originally didn’t realise what was happening ‘Gosh the presenters on this show really love this new support bra,’ thought I. 6 weeks later, I’m onto them.
The broadcast of news bulletins over here deserves a post all to itself (it’s the thing I discuss most with my expat friends in utter disbelief.) Most headlines are sensationalist and incredibly insular – I have to go online if I want to know what’s happening outside this island. But if I want to know about sportsmen being lewd, wild winds knocking down fences and numerous traffic incidents – the local news have well and truly got that covered.
But I’ll keep watching because I’m a telly addict who cannot be cured. I’m learning and laughing and enjoying a part of the expat experience that no one really prepares you for.
Are there any expats (or Aussies) who get where I’m coming from?