Winners and Losers: Why not bulk up the soap opera with murder and amnesia?
As far as Australian television is concerned, bigger is definitely better. Channel Nine News is now offering an hour-long bulletin at 6pm, Kerry Packer is a character in every historic mini-series and now The Biggest Loser is taking over the regional Victorian city of Ararat for its imminent new season.
Reality shows that fail are banished to the digital channels, while successful shows get more nights each week and a spinoff: go big or go home is the defining philosophy for local programmers. In that spirit, here's our (not altogether serious) take on how six familiar Australian productions can bulk up this year.
Today: The Nine Network's breakfast TV show is never going to reach its full potential until the shackles are taken off Karl Stefanovic and he's allowed to roam without hindrance through what should be a minimum five-hour broadcast. He can do impersonations, offer commentary, upstage guests, crack jokes - the man is a light entertainer trapped in a journalist's career.
If Nine ever launches another digital channel, it should just be a camera on Karl as he watches television at home and offers his thoughts regarding what's on, but until then, please just set him free.
Q&A: The problem with Q&A, apart from the fact that Christopher Pyne has been on almost 20 times, is that it's too polite. Political debate and sturdy discourse are one thing, but wouldn't you like to see guests delivering impassioned monologues punctuated by spit flecks before hitting each other with chairs? That's right, make Q&A the Australian arm of World Wrestling Entertainment, and place a ring in the middle of the studio. Tony Jones is a considered, erudite host, but he doesn't have the presence of Triple H, let alone the ability to deliver a diving double axe handle off the top rope.
The Block: At first, the contestants on Nine's renovation reality show did up individual houses, then last year they each got a floor or a former motel, so for 2014 you'd have to give each team at least a neighbourhood, if not an entire suburb, to make over.
Sure, they would need a few more tradies, but the rush to meet the weekly deadline would definitely be heightened if entire streets needed a last-minute paint job and it would be a real test of the judge's stamina to remain upbeat at the prospect of a few hundred hurriedly finished rooms. Bonus for the producers: unlimited marketing potential with advertisers' products.
Winners and Losers: The Seven Network's drama has been slowly morphing into a soap opera in the last few seasons, so why not just accentuate what is already happening and let it get its full Home and Away on?
The sooner Sophie murders her stalker and then desperately tries to cover it up, or Jenny discovers that her long-lost love has returned but he can't remember her because he suffered amnesia when he dropped an engagement ring intended for her and slipped on it and hit his head, the better.
MasterChef: The gradual shrinking of the one-time ratings phenomenon has been attributed to various factors, but surely one of its problems is that Australia is running low on great amateur chefs. So instead of trying to build up budding cooks, why not embrace the worst Australia's kitchens have to offer? Not only would the appalling dishes create car-crash television, but it would add a whole new dimension to the show, with the judges' health at risk. Imagine the ratings for a DisasterChef episode, where Matt Preston was taken to hospital with food poisoning, or Gary Mehigan keeled over mid-bite?
The Bolt Report: Columnist Andrew Bolt has made his Sunday-morning chat show a bastion for neo-conservatives, serving up ideologically motivated chatter via guests and commentary. But to grow the series, Bolt needs to put his beliefs into action, with opinion giving way to an actual outcome. So why not invade Cuba? The ABC's Insiders has never instigated regime change, and the concept of bringing free markets and liberty to the Marxist-Leninist state would be a ratings bonanza.