Reality television was a clear winner at the announcement of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award nominations on Monday, and for the Academy it's a sign that both reality television and AACTA have grown up.
That's the verdict AACTA board member Sigrid Thornton drew from the nominations in which reality TV not only got its own category for the first time, but also got a seat at the big table, with a nomination for best direction going to The Amazing Race Australia.
That nomination sees episode one of the show, which recently won an International Emmy Award, competing with more traditional dramas Beaconsfield, Howzat! Kerry Packer's War and Jack Irish: Bad Debts for one of the most coveted TV awards presented by AACTA.
“Reality TV is part of the landscape,” said Thornton. “Reality TV comes in all shapes and sizes. Some very interesting people have moved into that arena. There's been more experimentation, redefinition with reality television. That's what we want to see in every genre. I think that's a sign of maturity and I think it's healthy.”
While the announcement event split the focus evenly between TV and film, Thornton and AACTA chairman Alan Finney agreed that there was more breadth to be found in the small-screen titles read out.
“Television has been stronger in establishing its own identity,” said Finney, though he was quick to point out that this wasn't to the detriment of the film industry as “our television and film industries cross-pollinate.”
“I take this as a further consolidation of the maturation of the television industry,” said Thornton, who revealed that up until five years ago “we all felt television was dying on the vine. [Now] I personally believe Australian television is the best it has ever been.”
The emergence of Reality Television Series as a separate category, having previously seen entries split between the light entertainment and documentary categories, was a move AACTA made to ensure the still evolving awards remain relevant. In its first year, The Amazing Race Australia, MasterChef Australia, My Kitchen Rules and The Voice will vie for the title.
While there would seem to be some key titles missing such as The X Factor and The Block, AACTA chief executive Damian Trewhella pointed out that it was up to the networks to submit the shows in the first instance. “This is the first time we've run that category this year, so I think probably it's going to take a year or two before its properly established – what it is, why it is," he said. “Not everybody got their act together to get their entries in time. No doubt they will do so much more now that it gets going.”
The awards are committed to the reality category. “If the AFI and the AACTA awards don't reflect the reality of the industry and what the audience likes then they're out of touch,” said Finney. “They have to reflect what people are watching and they're watching reality shows.”