For the first time on Australian TV, 22 of the country’s biggest reality stars and sports personalities will compete against one another on Channel Ten’s highly-anticipated new show The Challenge Australia.
But for host Brihony Dawson, they had no idea who a majority of the contestants were before filming.
The sports commentator, who describes themselves as an “all-round entertainer” and a “little bit of a larrikin", spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle ahead of the show’s premiere on Monday night about the upcoming season, what fans can expect, and how it worked to their benefit that they didn’t know anything about the competitors.
“I didn’t really watch much reality TV before I went in, and I feel like that was a real advantage for me because I didn't have any preconceived ideas about who people were,” they explain.
“I’d heard of some people. I think Ciarran [Stott] especially because he's so striking, and Cyrell [Paule], and I happened to catch a little bit of Big Brother when Marley [Biyendolo] was on it… And of course, Emily Seebohm.
“I knew a little bit but not a lot, so it was really good just to get to know people for who they are. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone.”
While there’s plenty of history to catch up on amongst the cast, including former love affairs, feuds and rivalries from their previous reality TV stints, Brihony admits Channel Ten provided them with background knowledge.
“I got like a little cheat sheet on all of them and got to watch their audition videos and stuff like that,” they say.
“But in terms of like, knowing people's stories, I literally only found out a story the other day when a promo came on from The Challenge and it's like, ‘Imagine if you were in a house with the person who you were in a relationship with and the person he left you for’. And I was like, ‘What? Ciarran with Kiki [Morris]?!’.
“I didn't know everybody's full-on backstories, so I was just there sometimes a little bit oblivious to everything.”
‘It’s really addictive’
Brihony describes The Challenge as an amalgamation of every single reality TV show, most notably Survivor, Ninja Warrior and Big Brother.
“They’re all living in this one house - it’s a mansion and it looks amazing - and the challenges are massive,” they tease. “So it's that big Survivor-type challenge, but you need the skill of a Ninja Warrior.
“There are challenges, there are eliminations, and people are going to work hard to stay in the game, that’s for sure. It’s really addictive.”
Compared to the US version of the franchise, which has aired 38 seasons since premiering in 1998, Brihony says that the Australian series will have a stronger focus on the reality TV element of the game.
“We focus more on people's storylines and that kind of stuff,” they add. “It is ‘The Challenge’, but there's so much more behind it. And I think because we're starting fresh, we've got greater opportunities to tell more people stories, and I think that's what we do really well.
“The people who are on it, especially the reality people, you're going to see them in a way that you've never seen them before and I cannot wait.”
‘I burst into tears’
Speaking about the “spicy drama” amongst the cast, Brihony teases plenty of personality clashes and explosive fights.
“The challenges challenge every single aspect of you,” they explain. “It really puts them in situations that they haven't been in before, and that brings out a lot of other things. And then they had to go back into a house and sit there.
“They have to get along because it’s not about getting a rose anymore. There's cash money! Alliances have to be formed and you have to get a team and it's a huge, huge social game you have to play. A lot of people struggled with it, and then other people were excellent.
“There were a few times things happened while I was at the house and I went to stick up for someone or say something, and I was like, ‘No Brihony, step back. Let them do the storytelling. You are here to facilitate’. But also, I’m going to come for you after.”
Brihony went on to reveal that they had quite a strong emotional reaction when watching the first episode.
“We filmed it back in August and when I got the first cut of the show, I burst into tears. I was like, oh my god, it's good. It's so good,” they remark.
“It's a great show and I think people are going to love it and get addicted to it.”
The Challenge Australia premieres 7:30pm Monday on Channel 10 and 10 Play
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