Expat Diaries: Thoughts on Aussie TV

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?

About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

23 thoughts on “Expat Diaries: Thoughts on Aussie TV”

  1. Haha, this is so good! Aussie TV really baffled me the whole time I was there. From those cringey local ads, to the dramatic ads for the reality shows, and the way they sometimes gave away the whole ending by repeatedly showing someone’s facial expression as the results were revealed- very strange stuff. 🙂
    I have a really long post written about the news over there, but I think it’s a bit too harsh to post. It’s both unbelievably comical, as in I couldn’t believe I was actually watching a real news show, and also very scary in the irresponsible way they report. I was there for the last election and it was as one-sided as you’d imagine a dictatorship would do the news!

    • I was so surprised at the way they give things away about upcoming episodes too – although I am clearly the target audience as I get sucked in every time!

      And I completely get where you are coming from with the news. I felt like I could go into a a whole rant about it but didn’t want to offend anyone, plus I am not really an expert on the subject. Just a bit surprised, as an outsider, to see what gets preference over global issues.

  2. Oh I can relate to this since coming back to Aus after three years. I actually don’t like Aussie TV anymore. My favourite Aussie shows (Good News Week, Secret Life of Us and some of the ABC comedy classics) aren’t on anymore and I just can’t get into the new ones. While I was away I knew exactly what was happening on Offspring because my Facebook feed went crazy every time it was on. And when Patrick died, oh geez!
    I didn’t really watch local TV in Canada but I did in the UK and I really liked it. Four in a Bed is hilarious and I prefer the UK versions of X-Factor and The Voice.
    My favourite things on Aussie TV are usually the BBC shows. Shaun the Sheep. Awesome.

    • Shaun the Sheep? Hahaha! I too prefer the UK versions of The Voice and X Factor, it seems very Americanised here and I’m not used to that.

      At least they show Suits. I am happy just with that!

  3. TV in Australia is rather rubbish and the commercial networks often treat their viewers with contempt. Your experience with showtimes that never go to schedule is a fine example of that – they don’t want viewers to channelflip. The commercial networks are also rather thrift so they love to repeat or create programming around infomercials. Often they need to be dragged kicking and screaming for any evolution in their service. To this day none of their primary channels broadcast in HD and they barely offer internet catch-up services.

    Over the years because of declining viewership the commercial networks’ news services have followed the lead of US networks. They have switched to sensationalism and shifted focus onto news-entertainment. To cut costs they source lead stories from tabloid newspapers and cut the number of reports to a minimum. They know that in this day and age people who want more level, fleshed out news go online or watch the public funded ABC for local or SBS for international.

    • This is a really interesting insight Ben – thanks. I wasn’t sure if my impressions were just because I had come from the UK or if people agreed with me in general. I never thought about the irregular scheduling as being a ploy to spot people channel hopping – it doesn’t really work in my case as I end up hopping over ever channel wondering where on earth the programme has gone!

  4. This is so much fun to read. I just got home (to America) 5 months ago after living in Australia for a year. I remember missing American TV a lot while I was there, but forgot about the specifics like the horrible commercials, sneaky infomercials, and never knowing when a show was over.

    Having said that though, I was hooked on The Block (wish there was a US version) and also enjoyed most of the British shows…I loved Eggheads!

    • I am OBSESSED with The Block. I’ve never watched a home reno/decoration show before in my life but somehow I can’t switch this one off. I’m surprised they don’t have the concept in the US/UK to be honest!

  5. You need to come to Bendigo and see the adds for cattle drench!! When I first moved here I was like wow what the hell is this?!

  6. This sounds really similar to the expat experience of watching TV in America! I was so confused when I moved there to study abroad and there were no international headlines on the news (after being used to BBC and Channel 4 news). The same thing happens with ad breaks about 5 minutes before the end of a TV show, I still don’t understand what the point in that is… Enjoying hearing about your ex-pat experiences 🙂

  7. How interesting! I’ve never been to Australia, but I find it really interesting to read about the differences you’ve noticed in TV over there. I’m from America but now I live in Germany and have traveled several times to the UK. One thing that shocked me in the UK was the little bit of commentary at the end of the show. For example, I was watching Law and Order in England once; the show ended and then as the credits started to roll this female voice popped in saying something like “WOW! I can’t believe so-and-so was the killer! I didn’t see that coming at all!” And I was like “what the heck!? Who is that?!!” lol I was very amused 😀

    • Haha I love that about UK TV. I have a friend who is an announcer for the BBC and they watch all the shows in advance and then film the links live, which I think is quite unique in this day and age!!

  8. My goodness this post is so funny and true! 🙂 I’ve been living in Australia for 8 years now and I have to say I’m Not hooked on TV at all. And Border Security’s”Whats wrong with Mr Wong” — it’s too bad to be true! With the font for “Mr Wong” in ketchup red and kungfu/chopstick font.
    That Ashley Madison ad – I can’t believe that’s being aired both on tv and the web! Ads about home stuff (furniture, cleaning, etc) all seem to come from the 80’s and 90’s. Pretty much the only ads who seem to have caught up with the times are for cars and mobile phone companies. Totally agree about news being insular – I have to rely on the web to really know what’s going on around the world. Last year, Channel 7 ran a Breaking News for almost 3 days straight about a woman who was bitten by a neighborhood dog. I go to SBS for world news, but even then it’s more like just brief highlights / reportage. Oh, and look out for all the cooking shows coming Jan – March 2015. They’re pretty big here too 😉

    • It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one having these reactions to Aussie TV! I’ve noticed the adverts ramping up for all the cooking shows in early 2015. The TV has been so dire over the holidays I’m actually looking forward to it!

  9. I’m living in Sydney at the moment and this was hilarious to read!! That damn Nutribullet!!!
    I’ve found myself only watching UK shows now, I was amazed by how many there were!

    • We’re doing the same thing. ABC has become my new best friend now as we get doses of the British humour from shows like QI.

      Still want one of those damn Nutribullets though – I’m a sucker for marketing!

  10. This is hilarious! Aussie TV is soooo bad but your write up is so spot on. It drives me mad how they play the same movie every week for weeks on end and the programming is all over the place. They play the trailer for The Voice at least 2 months before it actually airs and prime time shows like Revenge I can only imagine are played on a Saturday arvo on Channel 4? I am so glad I now have Foxtel which is making TV so much more bearable nowadays but I do miss the British docos which were actually interesting. I think it’s a shame TV really thinks Australian’s are stupid, like playing that Nutribullet crap for at least a year must actually be working as people are really buying into it. It’s amazing really!


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