Australian audiences’ tastes in lifestyle programming seem to change as often as the tide. At least that’s what the feedback from AustraliaSCAN, a report that measures cultural shifts and social values in the country, would suggest. David Chalke, AustraliaSCAN director and social analyst, says that four or five years ago, the mood had changed from an external lifestyle focus to a ‘home is the center of my universe’ mentality. Then came a brief spurt of personal makeover programming, but the trend towards casualization put an early kibosh on that. The declining interest in personal looks and attire led to demonstrating who you are to the world through your home and car, says Chalke. Later came the redemption-type shows, such as The Biggest Loser, which rose in popularity as everyone started talking about the obesity and diabetes epidemics. While a couple of those shows stayed around, for the most part they drifted away, he notes.
Today, despite Australia’s successful economy, the population is in an emotional downtime where it’s been bombarded with change on an industrial level, he furthers. ‘With the privatization of a whole series of things that used to be government monopolies – phone, gas – Australians have now got absolute reform fatigue. We’re just fed up with changes, and having to make unnecessary choices. And underpinning that is a sense that we’re absolutely overwhelmed with instructions and exhortations to be better people.’ Health tips that used to be mildly entertaining ‘have now become didactic and a threat to us,’ says Chalke. ‘So what we’re looking for in television programming at the moment is stuff that is humorous rather than serious. Stuff that is optimistic rather than apocalyptic or ‘If you don’t do this, your kids will die fat.’ We’re looking for a sense of reassurance, of comfort. But it may be an Australian phenomenon.’ Based on the input from the other lifestyle broadcasters interviewed, it doesn’t seem so.