The Diary: The reality behind reality TV

Sally Ridge and daughter Jaime are understood to be receiving $4000 each per episode of The Ridges. Photo / Getty Images
Sally Ridge and daughter Jaime are understood to be receiving $4000 each per episode of The Ridges. Photo / Getty Images

Celebrity taking the place of substance as TV3 takes escapism a Ridge too far.

Sally Ridge's six-part, 30-minute fly-on-the-wall series goes to air next month.

The Ridges will screen on TV3. Sally, and daughter Jaime, are understood to be receiving $4000 each per episode.

That is not a lot of loot compared to what TV3 plans to make in sponsorship and advertising. The network was quick to spot a lucrative opportunity at the outset.

Ridge has been the object of backlash and tease across social media sites, but savvy MediaWorks executives decided to turn shame into fame - and spawned an eponymous reality television show to produce in-house.

But will laying bare the depths of the insouciant Ridge's inner vacuum be a ratings winner?

TV3 hopes so, though the public has so far scoffed.

Besides a commitment to baggy pants and a perma-tan, what had Ridge achieved to earn celebrity kudos - and the attention of television producers and a media network? Wasn't overexposure in the gossip mags reward enough?

Like Paris Hilton - the celebrated author of the indolent catchphrase "that's hot" - Ridge has TV executives counting on the fact we don't have to like her, we just have to watch her. They predict that we'll tune in in droves.

But critics argue that the escapist fluff of reality television shows, such as The GC and The Ridges, shows how celebrity is too easily attainable in New Zealand and valued above good-quality local production.

The corpse of TVNZ 7 was barely cold when its ex-proprietor announced that the award-winning current affairs show Sunday would be (temporarily) truncated to make way for New Zealand's Got Talent. Evidently the ample endowments of celebrity judge Rachel Hunter will rock our socks more.

Yet in these bleak economic times, it's not talent but publicity that the company needs to attract advertisers. NZGT - which will parade the untalented before the cameras to be ridiculed for our amusement - is expected to generate viewers and headlines, and with those come corporate advertising dollars.

The formula appears simple: create celebrity and activate revenue streams. We have morphed from an economy of production into an economy of consumption.

The Shopping Channel knows this only too well. Chief executive Alistair Duff is using celebrity faces to help flog his products.

Rumour has it Ridge the Elder and April Ieremia will be guest presenters on the network, proving celebrity is a lucrative business for an industry leveraging off the quite rich and kind of famous.

POLLIES TO TACKLE FOURTH ESTATE

It is being dubbed the unofficial curtain-raiser for this weekend's first Bledisloe test, but most of the rugby players participating are a long way from professional.

A rugby game between the media and MPs will take place on Saturday at Orakei Domain on Tamaki Drive.

Organiser and player Julian Wilcox, from Maori Television, told The Diary he approached MP Michael Woodhouse to rouse a members' team.

Richie Guy, former manager of the 1987 World Cup-winning All Blacks, will coach the MPs' team, which includes Alfred Ngaro, Cam Calder, Damien O'Connor, Chester Borrows and Brendan Horan.

They have a tough feat going up against a media team which includes former All Black Glen Osborne.

Lachlan Forsyth, John Tamihere, James Coleman, Scotty Morrison, Matthew Hooton, Jeff McTainsh and The GC producer Bailey Mackey are also on the squad.

All Black legend Buck Shelford has been approached to offer advice.

There's no word on who will bring oranges on at half-time, but organisers are hoping Sky TV's Melodie Robinson will referee and Auckland-based MPs Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern will lead a cheerleading troupe.

Donations will be given to the St John Ambulance.

Of course, if MC duties are needed, organisers need not go further than Cabinet minister Paula Bennett and TV3 star Duncan Garner, who offered their services for free at an Eden Park fundraiser on Friday.

The quick wits took pot-shots at each other, to the audience's delight. "Duncan is my bitch right now," purred the MP for Waitakere like a whip-brandishing madam, prompting the political editor to lash back with retorts too explicit to repeat in these pages.

Interestingly, Winston Peters - one of a handful of MPs present - didn't even raise a flush. Evidently he's heard worse in Parliament.

- NZ Herald

Rachel Glucina is New Zealand’s reigning gossip queen, notorious for breaking celebrity scoops and dishing dirt on the country’s best known personalities. She’s feared. She’s loathed. She’s courted by anyone with skeletons in their closet. Rachel knows where the bodies are buried. Mick Jagger wined and dined her. Mike McRoberts devoted a chapter to her in his memoirs. And John Key has her on speed dial.

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