Can we please stop with the sob stories on reality TV?

It's time we go back to focusing on talent.


I remember being a kid and watching the first season of Australian Idol. It was exhilarating and showed a potential pathway to stardom for our undiscovered talent. From the auditions to the finale, we got to see ordinary people transform into household names and it gave hope to everyday Aussies with natural talent.

These days, it's just not the same. It feels like whoever can tell the most tear-jerking tale gets a positive edit that wins over the audience. I get it, showing the vulnerable side of contestants is good for ratings, and TV networks will do whatever it takes to beat their rivals, but can we please put a lid on the sob stories?

Woman crying watching TV
Can we put a lid on all the reality TV sob stories please? Photo: Getty

You know what I'm talking about. That softly spoken hopeful on The Voice walks on stage in absolute silence. We've just seen a five-minute story about his tough upbringing and learn he quit singing for seven years after his beloved pet turtle passed away. Being a performer has always been his dream, but the grief was too much so he had to walk away and get an office job. Now, with the encouragement of friends and family, he's decided to sing for the coaches in the hope his life will finally change. If he can get through, he'll know the hard times were worth it.


It's gotten to the point now where as soon as I see a background montage start, I roll my eyes and think about changing the channel. Will someone please bring out the violins? It's just so predictable. And let's not forget the producers' dream of seeing a judge or coach cry. If a contestant's story can get the tears rolling from a celebrity mentor, they've got their money shot.

Networks are constantly regurgitating this format for shows like MasterChef, The Block and My Kitchen Rules. And while these hard-done-by contestants are no doubt talented, it makes me wonder where those ordinary Aussies are who have the talent but not the troubled past to go with it? My heart goes out to the talented reality TV hopefuls who won't get a look-in because their life just isn't tragic enough.

As for the contestants who have legitimately had to overcome unfortunate events in their lives, why are producers probing them so hard for details? What if they have deep trauma or triggers? Can we give them some grace and stop milking their hardships for entertainment?

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