Looking for love? Want to prove your DIY or ­kitchen supremacy? Or have you always fancied a break from real life on a tropical island, pitting your ­survival instincts against a bunch of strangers?

Or do you just want to be famous?

Each week, thousands of ­Kiwis turn on the small screen for a dose of home-made and international reality TV. And more Kiwis than ever want to take part - tens of ­thousands of would-be Kiwi ­contestants are lining up for a shot at fame in the 2018 local season.

TVNZ has confirmed seven ­locally based or New Zealand ­versions of reality shows for 2018. They include a second series of Survivor NZ, with prize ­money up from $100,000 to $250,000, already ­attracting more than 5000 ­applications.

Survivor NZ.
Survivor NZ.

And more than 2000 people have applied to be on Heartbreak Island, a unique format that will appeal to fans of UK hit Love Island, a show that ­British media have warned will "take over your life". Twenty singles will be sent off to a tropical island resort to find love. And ­presumably heartbreak. ­Applications close this week.

MediaWorks has not released its full schedule for 2018, but asked about its reality show line-up, ­Content Officer Andrew Szusterman says there will be "a mix of new and returning shows".

"We have some really compelling content planned for 2018."

A new series of top-rater The Block NZ is certain, as the casting call has gone out for the seventh series. More than 8000 (4000-plus prospective teams) lined up to be in the series this year.

New Three sensation Married at First Sight NZ had more than 4000 hoping for a shot at finding their perfect match. And there were said to be thousands showing interest in applying for season four of My Kitchen Rules NZ, even as season three is on air on TVNZ 2.

Reality TV might not be an easy ­experience for everyone - think of the Block stars who took a break from the show after social media bullying - but the negative aspects of overnight fame aren't proving a deterrent.

And that doesn't surprise Otago University media and communications lecturer Rosemary Overell, who says the long queues to take part in reality shows are reflective of society.

"The entertainment industry has always sold the fantasy of the Dream Come True with a little sacrifice - think of open auditions in classical Hollywood, shopping mall talent quests, radio call-ins," says Overell, who with a colleague is writing a paper for the university on reality TV and its relationship to older genres like documentaries.


"What I do think is noticeable is how this drive to publicly reveal oneself is commonplace throughout Western late capitalist society. Twitter and Facebook are full of #TMIs (too much information) and oversharing. It is normal to mediate one's whole life on social media - the endless check-ins at pubs and cafes, the shares of purchases and updates to relationship status.

The Block NZ 2017 contestants Julia Heaney and Alexandra Heaney.
The Block NZ 2017 contestants Julia Heaney and Alexandra Heaney.

"There is a drive more and more to share the intimate, too. The ­baring of oneself - literal or otherwise - is commonplace for most people, so to audition for a reality show is simply taking it - to use a reality show cliche - 'to a whole ­'nother level'."

The reasons ­that people give for wanting to enter reality shows varies, says TVNZ's Director of ­Content, Cate Slater.

"Heartbreak Island and First Dates are shows about everyday people looking for love - no matter how ordinary or ­extraordinary - and those ­resonate ­strongly with people. Finding love is a ­relatable and emotional subject for everyone," Slater says.

"Then for upcoming series like Project Runway, the series could kick-start the career of an upcoming New Zealand designer, so you can understand someone's motivations for wanting to take part there."

There is no one true answer to why people want to be on reality shows, Szusterman says.
"In the case of Married at First Sight, it was because they wanted an ­opportunity to meet someone they could have a future with. For The Block NZ, they wanted to achieve a goal and hopefully make some money at the same time.

Pete Evans and Manu Feildel are the judges for the newest season of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand.
Pete Evans and Manu Feildel are the judges for the newest season of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand.

"There are always people that come into these shows for fame and fortune, it's no different than some actors, politicians or lawyers."

New Zealand TV viewers are attracted to reality shows, Szusterman says, because audiences like to watch good content in general, "be it scripted or unscripted".

"Reality plays a big part of the equation and it has for some time now. MTV pioneered the reality space with The Real World in 1992 and everyone has been following suit since. It isn't a new phenomenon - it's a network staple alongside drama, comedy, news, sport and documentaries."

Slater says local content resonates strongly with viewers.

"Kiwis want to see their own stories on screen. Big local reality series have brought large-scale ­audiences back to free-to-air TV."

My Kitchen Rules NZ was third on the Top 10 rating programmes for TVNZ 2 in its crucial 18-49 ­demographic for January-­September this year - behind 25th birthday documentary Shortland Street: Inside An Icon, and Shortland Street itself.

TVNZ OnDemand had been used to test and trial international ­formats of reality shows, Slater says. UK series Love Island ­attracted 3,743,797 video streams by ­viewers aged 13-plus this year to October - third behind Shortland Street (10,575,777) and Home and Away (4,410,872).

MKR contestants Heather and Mitch star on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand.
MKR contestants Heather and Mitch star on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand.

For MediaWorks, three of the Top 10 rating programmes on Three in its 25-54 demographic this year to October were reality shows.

The Block NZ was second, behind the Newshub Decision 17 Leaders Debate. Married at First Sight NZ was fifth and Grand Designs NZ came in at nine.

"The Block NZ had its best overall performance since 2013 this year, with ratings that were equivalent most nights to an All Blacks test in the com­mercially attractive 25-54 demographic - where Three centres itself," Szusterman says.

"The final episode looks like it will be the No 1 single TV ­programme this year, across all channels, in the 25-54 ­demographic. The season finale had a 15.6 rating and an ­average ­audience of over 300,000 ­viewers."

Although ratings have been huge for reality TV shows, there is persistent scepticism over how much of the drama is genuine and how much scripted.

Survivor NZ.
Survivor NZ.

"It really is a fallacy in this ­country that we script participants," Szusterman says. "It just doesn't happen, but it doesn't seem to matter how many times we say we don't - there are ­always people who believe that we do."

Slater says: "Generally the best reality formats use a combination of clever casting, challenges and a ticking clock to create an ­environment where the drama ­follows naturally - especially if there is a prize on the line.

"Cooking a meal is generally no big deal. But having to prepare something spectacular in front of expert judges and against the clock generates an enormous amount of tension, particularly if it is being televised.

"Obviously there are 'set' ­activities to follow in each episode, to stay true to the format - for ­example the Instant Restaurant episodes of MKR NZ, the format of Survivor NZ with Tribal ­Council and the challenges and so on. Hosts also have scripted pieces.

"Generally everything caught on camera is natural dialogue and said in real time by the contestants."

Casting for reality shows is a ­critical part of their success.

Social psychology expert Dr Pani Farvid, with ­relationship ­counsellor Tony Jones, ­selected the six couples on Married at First Sight NZ. The participants were "put through some rigorous ­psychological testing", says Farvid, a senior lecturer at AUT.

"We wanted to make sure they were authentic and here for the right reasons - that is, to find love and get married as part of an ­interesting social experiment."

Vicky admits she isn't attracted to Andrew and doesn't like him. Video / Three

When selecting the match-ups, she was interested in "their personality traits, their communication style, conflict resolution style, and attachment style. I was looking for similar values, as well as compatible traits - as well as room for the couples to grow."

Asked about the potential highs and lows of being on a reality show like Married at First Sight, Farvid says the highs are being part of an social experiment, meeting new people, and "the ­possibility of meeting the love of your life".

"The lows could be the ­challenges that the condensed ­relationship model might pose - that is, the ­participants are ­going through ­major relationship ­stages that typically take a few years, in seven weeks (marriage, ­honeymoon, cohabitation) - with ­cameras around."

Support is in place for contestants. "The network, production company and Tony and I took the participants' wellbeing ser­iously," Farvid says.

"There were multiple support mechanisms in place, including Tony and me being on call as well as us checking in with the participants regularly. There was a separate psychologist on call, too."

One couple who found love on a Kiwi reality show are Art Green, 29, the bachelor on season one of The Bachelor NZ, and the show's winner, ­Matilda Rice. They got engaged in ­September.

The lift in their ­profile has also boosted them ­professionally. Rice is a brand ­ambassador for Jockey, Colgate ­Optic White and Ford Focus; Green for Fitbit and Subaru.

Matilda Rice with New Zealand's first bachelor Art Green.
Matilda Rice with New Zealand's first bachelor Art Green.

They travel extensively, including to the US, Rarotonga, ­Australia, Fiji, and around New Zealand - their journeys and joint fitness challenges on display to the more than 220,000 followers they have between them on Instagram.

"We went into The Bachelor ­possibly a little bit naively," says Rice, 27.

"We didn't really realise that it would be as big of a deal as it was.

"It's really cool to be able to help charities and inspire other people with their health and fitness - all through using our time and our ­social media. It's just this whole new world that's really incredible ­­- the power that it has, so we ­consider ourselves extremely lucky."

Avi Duckor-Jones, who collected $100,000 as the winner of the first series of Survivor NZ, says the show has "afforded me the opportunity to continue to do the things I love without constantly worrying about money".

That included writing a play, ­continuing to work on a novel about an open water distance swimmer, and returning to Ghana - where he was now helping his ­former ­students at a school there.

"I directed Trinity Yard School for nine months, living on the ­isolated coast of Cape Three Points. Two years later I have returned to try to find all 19 of my students - who are now young adults aged 18-23 - and see how I can best support them.

"While here, I am working on a film project to tell their stories, and mine. It has been an intense and beautiful return."

Avi and the Mogoton tribe walking to camp in Episode 1 of Survivor New Zealand. Photo / Scott McAulay
Avi and the Mogoton tribe walking to camp in Episode 1 of Survivor New Zealand. Photo / Scott McAulay

The 33-year-old from Wellington spent 39 days in the Nicaraguan jungle filming the first New Zealand series of Survivor.

High points were "surprising myself in challenges, particularly the final challenge that I won", ­Duckor-Jones says.

"Low points were when I felt isolated and alone in the game, and the long empty days that seemed to drag on with no end in sight."

His advice to prospective ­reality TV contestants?

"Check in with your intentions and have ­realistic expectations. It's not always fun and the comedown is usually pretty rough.

"Don't take it too seriously. It will hopefully just be one of many ­chapters in your life."

Coming soon

My KitchenRules NZ Season 4

On TVNZ 2and OD (OnDem and)

Format: Teams of two homecooks battle it out in the kitchen

Prize: $100,000

Thousands of applications

Heartbreak Island
TVNZ 2and OD
Format: 20 singles in a tropical island resort try to find love
Prize: $100,000
2000 applications(applications close on Wednesday)

Project Runway NewZealand
TVNZ 2and OD
Format: Aspiring fashion designers create clothing for runway shows
Prize: To be confirmed

First Dates NZ S2
TVNZ 2and OD
Format: Strangers share a three-course meal while discreet cameras record the couple's date
More than 2000 applications

TVNZ 2and OD
Format: Super- fit Kiwi team sof three take on Australian rivals in impossible-to-complete-alone obstacle course
Prize: To be confirmed
Hundreds of applications

Survivor New Zealand S2
TVNZ 2and OD
Format: Split in to tribes , castaways spend up to 40 days marooned on an island competing in demanding challenges
Prize: $250,000
More than 5000 applications

TVNZ 1and OD
Format: Eight enthusiastic amateur designers are tasked with turning junk in to beautiful handcrafted artworks
Prize: To be confirmed
Hundreds of applications

And on the horizon

MediaWorks has yet to release its 2018 schedule but you could bet the house on a new season of The Block NZ. Bosses at Three will be keenly watching ratings for Married at First Sight before deciding on a second season. Grand Designs is likely to get the nod and the company promises "new and returning" reality TV.

If you're asking for your 15 minutes, you need to know
1 You are doing itfor the right reasons(you mustbe authentic)
2 You are resilient and truly up for a televised social experiment (it's an intense process) 3 You are not going to bail at the first sign of trouble(can you stick it out?)
4 You are self-aware and know what your strengths and weaknesses are
5 You have a good support network

Source: Dr Pani Farvid