Masterchef Australia is a television phenomenon in its domestic market. The previous two season finales were the most watched programmes of the year, and have entered the top ten of the most watched programmes on Australian television ever. The UK format has been tweaked as a nod to its Australian cousin, and Gordon Ramsey now leads an American version that is a derivation of the Oz rather than UK format. So what is it the Australians have?
It's easy to attack The X Factor. Popularity is sometimes distrusted. If millions watch something, then it can be characterised as a bandwagon. A runaway success will often attract snobbery too. Arts aficionados hold their noses, signalling their allegedly superior taste.
Geordie Shore is but the latest in a long line of televised regional case studies showing how crap the world is. As propagating cartoonish stereotypes for cynical commercial gain is worth mega bucks these days, small wonder MTV are milking their Newcastle cash cows for all they're worth by sending them to Magaluf.
It's not just the show creators but the participants themselves who have shaped the reality television genre. The stuff we call reality TV is now more accurately categorised as 'reality as we wish it was', replete with happy endings, edits and external validation.
It's not quite cold enough for snow and nor are turkeys running for cover, but I'm feeling festive. It happens at this point every year. At the point in August when summer STOPS and we board the magical, almost musical sleigh-ride that is The X Factor. Destination Christmas number one.
Raise a cheer for the return of Celebrity Big Brother. The nation needs an inconsequential, low rent guilty secret to divert it in a summer, which so far has been denied a traditional silly season.
Call it cinema verité, fly-on-the-wall documentary, or just plain old reality TV: programmes such as Big Brother, Survivor, The Apprentice and Tribe have been big business for television production companies for more than decade.
With the exception of Christmas, general elections and Eurovision, summer holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. And as is usually the case, there's nothing that underlines the "we are having a good time" vibe better than television. At one point, summer morning television was a big deal. But now, nobody seems arsed.
The new series of Dragons' Den began a few days before Duncan Bannatyne turned Twitter vigilante, offering £50k to anyone who could capture and mildly maim a mysterious Russian who'd threatened his daughter. After that, wondering whether a guy with a device to combat toilet splash-back would persuade the Dragons to invest didn't seem quite so dramatic.
Television programming often goes through phases of prevalence. At the minute, we seem to be going through an expert-people-sit-around-judging-other-people-with-a-view-to-mutual-financial-gain phase. But compared to David Dickinson, Four Rooms is Hitchcock.
2000 years on, the "circuses"remain an effective tool for keeping the hoi polloi suitably distracted. The scripts have remained much the same, although the current batch go as far as creating an illusory sense of democracy, with the democratic narrative of reality TV voting proving far more popular than that of any genuine leadership election.