Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Ridges' producer: 'There will be bits they don't like'

Yes, they're famous for being famous but how do you make a TV show out of those Ridges? Lydia Jenkin reports.

Jaime Ridge and Sally Ridge, stars of their own new reality show called 'The Ridges'. Photo / Supplied
Jaime Ridge and Sally Ridge, stars of their own new reality show called 'The Ridges'. Photo / Supplied

In the opening scene of new reality series The Ridges, Sally and 19-year-old daughter Jaime are lying about on a bed flicking through 20 years of women's magazines, laughing and joking at various outfits and haircuts. They've been living in the public eye for years.

But until now, they've mostly been famous for their connections to local sports stars (Sally's past partners include Matthew Ridge and Adam Parore, while Jaime has dated hockey player Dwayne Rowsell and Sonny Bill Williams), rather than for their own talents.

With their socialite profile, they've already had plenty of media spotlight - and suffered the public judgment that goes with it. But despite an inevitable backlash, they decided to let producer-director Natalie Malcon follow them for three months with a camera crew, and film their daily lives. The resulting six episodes of The Ridges may surprise audiences.

Malcon was behind well-received reality ballet dancer series The Secret Lives of Dancers. She didn't know much about her subjects before TV3's head of production John McDonald proposed the show to her, but after googling them she was intrigued.

"Before I committed, I went with John to meet them at their house. It was pretty chaotic as they were in the middle of packing up [to move house] but I instantly liked them. They were relaxed and funny and had a great dynamic between them."

With Sally having sold their family home and bought a large, run-down boarding house to renovate; and Jaime balancing university with her modelling work, plus training for a charity boxing match, the crew actually had a lot of different material to work with, rather than simply following the pair to long lunches and parties - though there is a fair bit of that too.

"Of course you never really know how they'll go until you put a camera in front of them - I knew Sally had TV experience but had no idea what Jaime would be like, and I can honestly say she is one of the most natural people in front of a camera I have ever worked with," Malcon says.

"What made me excited is she's naturally funny and has great comedic timing. That was not what I was expecting." Indeed Jaime - who's clearly no slouch, having finished school at 16, and studying for a double degree in law and commerce - has some pearlers.

Like laughing at her own disgust in finding a fetid clump of hair in the filthy bathroom of their "new" abode, or her hysterical screaming and giggling when they discover a mouse in the kitchen.

"I'm probably just being a princess, but I'm used to tidiness, and things being clean," she grimaces as she rubs in some hand-sanitiser, which she keeps handy at all times.

Sally surprised Malcon too.

"You build up a perception from magazines and gossip pages but she was totally different to what I imagined, very warm and vibrant and also very relaxed in front of the camera."

The pair both play up their silliness from time to time, but it's also clear they have a strong, caring bond. While Jaime might not want to get her hands dirty herself, she's very efficient at getting helpful males to come and lend a hand, and even pays out of her own pocket to "hire a hubby" for Sally for a couple of weeks of labour.

And though some might question Sally's motherly sensibilities for agreeing to a reality TV show, Jaime was old enough to make up her own mind, and Sally insisted her younger children be left out of the series.

She's actually admitted in recent interviews that her main reason for doing the show is financial, coupled with the fact she doesn't feel they've got anything to hide.

And that comes across in the show - while it's light-hearted, non-invasive reality TV, the pair aren't shy in front of the camera, and seem game to answer any questions that Malcon throws at them.

"We all had a lot of laughs making it, you can actually hear my crew laughing in some episodes. I also didn't expect to film Jaime Ridge having a colonic irrigation!"

Though Malcon is working with the same team that worked on The Secret Lives Of Dancers, and she admits there are similarities in style, it's been a different ride given the amount of public scrutiny the show faced before they'd even started shooting.

"We actually got 'papped' whilst shooting numerous times, that was very, very strange. And there was a poll online after we got papped on our very first shoot day and something like 85 per cent of people said they wouldn't watch it. I thought that was actually quite amusing considering we hadn't even ingested the footage into the edit suite."

The Ridges have only seen the pilot so far, but Malcon is reasonably confident they will enjoy the results, even though they've had to cut three months worth of footage into six episodes totalling 135 minutes.

"Sara Tetro (their agent) drove them to the pilot viewing and told them there was no way she would let them do it if it was bad, but she loved it and encouraged them to go for it.

"Of course there will be bits they don't like but they are pretty good at laughing at themselves so hopefully they enjoy it."

What: New reality show The Ridges
Where and when: TV3, Wednesday, 7.30pm


- NZ Herald

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