Keeping it real

Whether you're a reality TV junkie or prefer to switch off when anything involving cooking, singing or finding love appears on screen, there are plenty of reasons to tune into the ABC's new part-investigative, part-entertainment series, Reality Check - at least according to Tom Ballard.

The comedian and former Triple J breakfast host will present the new eight-part series, which seeks to "lift the lid" on the popular television genre that has become so cemented in modern pop culture.

"There's something for everyone, no matter how you feel about it," Ballard says by phone from Sydney.

"If you don't watch reality TV, we're probably the best show for you to watch because we're just going to show the best bits and then dissect them and let you know how it works.

"We're certainly not reality TV snobs; we're about celebrating them and laughing at them. Even if you love reality TV, you can't help but laugh at how ridiculous it can be.

"I was into Australian Idol when I was in high school, which was a huge deal for me. And I really love MasterChef and RuPaul's Drag Race, and Real Housewives; I just love rich women yelling catchphrases at each other."

Each week, Ballard will be joined by three industry insiders or experts - think former reality TV judges, ex-contestants and producers - who will dish the dirt on what really unfolds behind the scenes.

"We've already done a lot of workshops and a whole lot of research, talking to producers and people who work behind the scenes who we may not know but they're the ones responsible for these huge reality TV hits," Ballard says.

"We also draw from former judges and contestants as well, who will be popping up on the show every now and then, so we will be looking at this from different angles. Hopefully we'll get a lot of insight in to what it means to be a part of reality TV."

To ensure the weekly discussions are up-to-date with the plethora of reality TV series on air, Reality Check - co-produced by the ABC and Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder (CJZ), which is also behind The Checkout, Gruen Transfer and the controversial award-winning SBS series Go Back To Where You Came From - will be filmed the night before it goes to air.

Ballard says this gives them the opportunity to reflect on "the week that was" in reality TV.

"It's going to be pretty topical, so we're going to be shooting it on the Tuesday to air on the Wednesday night," Ballard says. "The first 10 minutes of the show will be 'what went down' in reality TV this week and we're going to be on hot on the pulse. I know it's been around for a really long time but it's still such a huge ratings winner."

The series will also venture beyond Australia's TV landscape to revisit some of the most noteworthy YouTube moments that have become embedded in reality TV history.

"We want to also look at the history and some incredible moments that have happened over the years and really pick them apart and find out how they work," Ballard explains.

"Like why was Susan Boyle's audition so crazy?

"It's all those kind of issues that reality TV has thrown up over the past 15 years at least that have been such a huge cultural phenomenon."

While he jokes "the money" was a key motivator to sign on as Reality Check's host, the biggest drawcards for Ballard were the freedom to be himself and the chance to delve into an area he's fiercely passionate about.

"I really love television," he says.

"I find it really interesting how it gets made so I love the idea of working with Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder, who I love. They have a record of making really smart, funny shows that explain how stuff works and it's unmatched I think.

"So the chance to do that on the ABC, be funny, write a lot of jokes while talking about TV, I love that stuff. I can't wait for it to get started."

Reality Check airs tomorrow at 9pm on the ABC.

The West Australian

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