TV's hits and misses in 2016: MasterChef, Eurovision and Please Like Me

Bachelor Richie Strahan sparked fan fury, Kourtney Kardashian stayed silent and Q&A weighed in on Shakespeare

Most ostentatious egg: the MasterChef finale

It was one of those made-for-TV talking points: Heston Blumenthal’s “verjus in egg”. This year’s MasterChef finalists had five-and-a-half hours in which to make the intricate dessert, described here by Blumenthal’s executive chef: “Really, really technical work with chocolate tempering at least twice in terms of making the shell and … the secondary panna cotta … a fluid gel with Gellan gum that was for the runny yolk”. The recipe has 91 steps. Matt Sinclair’s split apart after he missed one and Elena Duggan was crowned the winner. Some 2.52m Australians tuned in. – EH

Our heart just breaks. #MasterChefAU

— #MasterChefAU (@masterchefau) July 26, 2016

Best ‘It’s that guy!’ series: Secret City

Secret City was a convincing-ish Canberra thriller involving (fictional) Australian and Chinese spies and a grand Australian cast.

There was Jim from Neighbours – sorry, Alan Dale – as the prime minister, Anna Torv as a political journalist and Daniel Wyllie, a good candidate to be Australia’s new favourite character actor, especially strong as a conflicted minister of defence, a few months after his impressive turn in a The Beautiful Lie. – WW

Dan Wyllie as Mal Paxton in political thriller Secret City
Dan Wyllie as Mal Paxton in political thriller Secret City. Photograph: Showcase

Most deeply buried lede: A Current Affair’s trip to Nauru

Where respectable journalists failed to secure visas to Nauru, A Current Affair miraculously triumphed this year. The tabloid TV show managed to file an exclusive report from the prison island – including interviews with government officials who claimed the refugees were lucky to be there.

When Four Corners managed to do some real journalism with The Forgotten Children a few months later, ACA did a second story slamming the ABC for not crediting its scoop. – AM

Classiest commentator: Bruce McAvaney for the Olympics on Seven

There were some maddening choices of sports on the extra channels, when it really wouldn’t have hurt to show other countries winning medals. By the end they had no choice. But, at its peak, a legend of sport came through to remind us of his sheer class and to provide some golden TV moments. What … Usain Bolt? No, mate: Bruce McAvaney, the commentator.

As well as being a great race-caller, he dealt with issues such as Caster Semenya winning the 800m gold very deftly. Seemingly half an hour later – OK, three weeks – he was back doing the AFL finals. – WW

Most bungled child recovery effort: 60 Minutes

The attempt to snatch two Australian kids from a dangerous street in Beirut was so stupid even Channel Nine was shocked at the poor planning.

60 Minutes lost its most senior producer, millions of dollars and what credibility it had – and never got to air a single frame of the Sally Faulkner story. – AM

Most misjudged reality TV audience: the Bachelor/ette

The producers of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise in Australia ought to be applauded for managing to send their viewers into paroxysms of rage over the final outcome – not once but twice in a row.

First, Bachelor Richie Strahan had the temerity to choose a girl who didn’t happen to be the fan favourite. Then, a couple of months later, Bachelorette Georgia Love had the gall to do the same thing! Shock, horror, romance!



— dan debuf (@dandebuf) September 15, 2016

If the stars of the show are to be believed, the chemistry was overwhelming from the start and it was only tricksy editing that led the audience down the garden path. Tricksy editing? In reality TV? Never! – SC

Most accessible, highbrow thank-heavens-for-public-broadcasting moment: Q&A on Shakespeare

Q&A devoted its weekly forum to a Shakespeare special, loosely marking 400 years since his death. It was, in truth, the sort of thing that could have been awful. But anyone who watched a few minutes would have struggled not to stay for the rest: illuminating, somewhat old-fashioned public service broadcasting on at a viewer-friendly hour on the national broadcaster.

It featured great moments from John Bell, AC Grayling, Kylie Farmer, and Kate Mulvany – but most of all Germaine Greer being vividly, mesmerisingly challenging and entertaining and, in the end, they and the chair, Tony Jones, just let her run away with it.

Q&A: Germaine Greer discusses the role of race in Shakespeare’s work

“Four hundred years is not very long,” she said. “It’s a blink in the history of the world. And what actually happens in a Shakespeare play is you’re prevented from arriving at easy certainties. Everything you think you understand is challenged. So you have to recast your own ideas.” And so we all did, at least for an hour. – WW

Most revealing off-camera expression: Laura Tingle at the second leaders’ debate

This wasn’t captured on TV but it was caused by it: to some the most apposite election moment, captured by Mike Bowers, at the second leaders’ debate on the ABC at the National Press Club.

Laura Tingle watches the debate between the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, at the National Press Club
Laura Tingle watches the debate between the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, at the National Press Club. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

And Laura Tingle makes a living from this stuff. – WW

Saddest scene: Please Like Me, season four, episode five

I won’t spoil what happened, suffice to say we should have seen it coming. Josh Thomas and the directors dealt with this plot point in as sensitive, nuanced and complicated way as we’ve come to expect from the series – and the sight of Thomas curled up in a bed holding his dog and weeping, as the camera panned out above him, is one that I haven’t quite been able to shake.

The show has not been confirmed for a fifth season and I’m not entirely sure it needs one – but, if it gets a green light, I’ll keep watching. – SH

Greatest eye roll: Van Badham on Sunrise

Every woman feels it. Whether you first saw this eye roll on live television or have seen it only as a meme on the interwebs, it inspires a visceral reaction. You know instantly what’s going on: she’s been talked over, mansplained to, patronised.

It almost doesn’t matter that it was Mark Latham claiming that the gender pay gap isn’t real and that “left feminism” is essentially selfish; Van Badham’s eye roll on Sunrise became an instant global meme because every woman has done it, felt the need to do it or wishes she had eye roll action half as good to whip out on demand.

It earned Badham the hallowed title of one of the most admirable every day women of 2016 by New York Magazine. – GJ

Van Badham eye roll

Most awful interactions with a female sports journalist

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire might have won an Ernie for his horrific on-air quips inferring he’d pay good money to see AFL journalist Caroline Wilson drowned (for charity, of course) – but it’s possible that wasn’t even the worst moment for women working in sport in Australia in 2016.

It’s a shared prize therefore with West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle, whose harrowing “simple joke” during an interview with journalist Mel McLaughlin garnered a $10,000 fine and prompted significant discussion about what does or doesn’t constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. – RP

Eddie McGuire’s comments about ‘drowning’ journalist Caroline Wilson

Best child: this one, brought to you by SBS’s The Feed

The Feed on SBS has been pumping out some great segments this year, from a heartbreaking look at bullying to an investigation into Australia’s most homophobic town and a wonderful exploration of competitive dog grooming in Australia.

But this one – about a 12-year-old who spends all his spare time making teddybears for sick children, which was broadcast in October before being watched more than 35m times on Facebook – was one of the greatest. - SH

Most awkward silence: Kourtney Kardashian on Today Extra

Trust a Kardashian to know how to work the media. Kourtney Kardashian pulled the old “bad connection” trick when asked about her sister Kim’s robbery at gunpoint during an interview on Today Extra on 20 October. In response to presenter David Campbell’s question about Kim’s wellbeing, Kourtney sat and stared blankly at a fixed point off-camera, oblivious to the mounting awkwardness felt by Campbell and co-host Sonia Kruger.

She later returned to the show ready to “weigh in”, after having apparently been briefed. EH

.@KourtneyKardash weighs in on @kimKardashian's terrifying Paris ordeal. #9Today

— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) October 19, 2016

Most diverse advertisement: Australian lamb

It feels bizarre giving a shout-out to an advertisement for meat products but then nothing about 2016 has felt normal. After their last blockbuster TV spot, Operation Boomerang, came under fire for offending Indigenous Australians and vegans, Meat and Livestock Australia dished out a very tongue-in-cheek ad for lamb taking it all in the opposite direction.

What we were left with could in fact be the most diverse advertisement ever, crossing racial, cultural religious, ability, sexuality and gender divides to get more people ... eating baby sheep. Delicious. – SH

Best tourism video: The Kettering Incident

This grand showcase drama is what TV executives think posh TV ought to look like. Great cast: tick. Faint hint of the supernatural: tick. Satisfyingly complicated plot: tick. But was it actually – really, honestly, properly – any good?

Erm … it did not matter. It had wassername off of The Night Manager – Elizabeth Debicki! – and look at the scenery. The under threat trees, the sky, the mountains. The unpredictable ghostly weather. Must get to Tasmania. – WW

Most surprising gender politics: Offspring, season six

In episode 7 of Offspring’s sixth season, Martin (Lachy Hulme) misses his own buck’s night after he reveals to Nina (Asher Keddie) that he married for convenience upon arrival to Australia and never got around to getting divorced. Upon Nina’s urging, Martin faces his own anxiety about the mess he’s tangled around himself and goes to find his wife, Justine – only to discover that Justine is now Justin, and identifies as male.

The subsequent scene acknowledged the bureaucratic difficulties of trans identification in Australia and was delivered with characteristic warmth and acceptance. It was a sweet little subplot, all the more notable for being a marked rarity in Australian television. More like this, please. – SC

Best character: Roth in The Code

The Code is a terrific show. I became obsessed with the first season: the graphics, the landscape and, most strikingly, the complex relationships between the characters. And the second season did not disappoint. It’s not a new trick in telly to make us like the baddy but the character of Roth is a masterful creation and the development of his friendship with Jesse continues the show’s excellent grasp of the nuance in human relationships.

It was not only emotional to change your mind weekly about whether you loved or hated Roth but it was also hugely confronting to have to admit that good people do bad things, and vice versa. We would understand the world so much better if we ditched the idea of “good” and “evil” and this season of The Code helped us along that path. – GJ

Loudest “WE WAZ ROBBED”: Dami Im at Eurovision

She was perfect. We waz robbed. – SH


Elle Hunt, Will Woodward, Amanda Meade, Stephanie Convery, Steph Harmon, Gabrielle Jackson and Richard Parkin

The GuardianTramp

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