Where now so much of our entertainment feels orchestrated, reality television hasn’t always been so streamlined. From catchphrases to touchdowns and tantrums, here are some of the moments from the annals of Australian reality TV history that live in our heads memorable rent-free … sorted.
10. Big Brother (2006): ‘Game on molls’
It was 2006 when a then 20-year-old personal assistant and promo model named Anna Lind-Hansen became an overnight national treasure after uttering the now infamous catchphrase of “game on molls” on Big Brother.
Anna, who said her family would describe her as “a psycho bitch, a bimbo, a show pony, but deep down a great friend” in her house entry video, later admitted to forgetting she’d even made the comment: “I don ‘t even remember saying it. After I got evicted, everyone was yelling out ‘moll’ and I thought I had done something absolutely terrible.”
9. Australian Survivor (2019): family comes first…unless there’s snacks
Nothing says you miss your family and carbs quite like sobbing into a giant pile of popcorn. Such was the scene set by Australian Survivor contestant David Genat who, after existing on rice and beans for weeks, ruthlessly smashed a mound of popcorn during a reward challenge while simultaneously hunting for an immunity idol and watching a video message from his family. The self-proclaimed “Golden God” sadly had his torch snuffed soon after, but returned just one season later in 2020 for Australian Survivor: All Stars and ultimately took out the top spot, winning a cool $500,000.
8. The Bachelorette (2019): booting the King of Noosa
Legend has it you have to kiss a few frogs before finding your prince, but Bachelorette Angie Kent took another route when she booted the “King of Noosa” Jess Glasgow from the show in 2019.
Glasgow, who was a local councilor at the time, also faced disciplinary proceedings after being shown making “offensive” comments about women on the show and pretending to lick Kent. At one stage, when another contestant spoke about not trying to kiss Kent, Glasgow said: “I would have just grabbed that sweetie and laid one on her … I’ve kissed plenty of girls and they’ve turned their heads before. I’m used to it.”
Following his eviction, Glasgow apologized but refused to resign from his job. In 2020, he failed to win re-election and lost his council seat. In 2021 Glasgow was hit with a $4,000 fine from the councilor conduct tribunal over his behavior on the show, plus another $1,000 to reimburse the Noosa shire council for costs arising from the whole incident.
Glasgow told a local paper he’d appeal the fine and argued he was encouraged to behave in an extroverted way and that the show was heavily edited, saying “it’s not a real-life scenario, it is a managed TV performance.”
7. The Bachelor (2017): the chocolate bath
This moment lives rent-free in the minds of reality TV diehards. Viewers of The Bachelor were perplexed and a little bit nauseous in 2017 when “rope access technician” Richie Strahan enjoyed some close and personal bath time with Alex Nation. Incredibly though, producers chose to forgo the traditional hot water and Radox route and opted for rivers of melted chocolate instead. The moment was less picturesque fairytale, more food poisoning crime scene. Somehow, soaking in a giant vat resembling faecal matter managed to bring the two closer together, with Richie declaring his love for Alex during the finale. Sadly, the pair broke up a little over a year later.
6. Dancing with the Stars (2004): Pauline Hanson
What’s a politician to do after having their conviction quashed and leaving prison? Head to a nationally televised dancefloor, of course. After an 11-week stint in jail for an electoral fraud conviction that was overturned on appeal in late 2003, One Nation founder Pauline Hanson took part in the first season of Dancing with the Stars in 2004. She somewhat unexpectedly made it all the way to the finale, losing to Home & Away alum Bec Hewitt. The show’s most memorable moment came early on when hosts Daryl Somers and Sonia Kruger lead the audience in a round of applause to celebrate Hanson’s acquittal and release from prison.
5. Australian Idol (2003, 2005, 2006): weight a minute
One of the darker periods of reality television came in the early 2000s when Australian Idol judges Ian “Dicko” Dickson and Kyle Sandilands took it upon themselves to comment on young female contestants’ weight. It began in 2003, when Dicko told a then 21-year-old season one contesting Paulini Curuenavuli, “You should choose more appropriate clothes or shed some pounds.” Then in 2005, Sandilands told the 20-year-old Kate DeAraugo that she had “tuckshop lady arms”. The following year, he told the then 16-year-old Jessica Mauboy to “lose the jelly belly.”
DeAraugo later revealed she underwent “full-body” liposuction after appearing on the show, while Curuenavuli has stated she believes “there’s no way anyone could do that today”. In 2016, Dicko told Curuenavuli his words had been “cruel”, adding: “I was trying to be nice at the time, can you believe, but I’m glad that you’ve gone on to do such great things.”
4. Big Brother (2004): ‘Free the refugees’
History was made in 2004 when Merlin Luck used his exit from the Big Brother house to protest the Australian government’s controversial refugee policy. During his eviction, which was being broadcast live across the nation, the 24-year-old tapped his mouth shut and held up a homemade sign that read “FREE TH REFUGEES” (an “E” had fallen off at some point).
While the moment is now legendary, Luck was initially booed by the audience as host Gretel Killeen scrambled to salvage the situation.
Luck continued to advocate for refugee rights following the show, and now works in the tech industry and is married with children. “Fair to say I’m well on my way to being a middle-aged corporate dad – in the best way possible,” he said in 2016.
3. The Bachelor (2018): when the bachelor thing no one
Among the most memorable moments from The Bachelor was the jaw-dropping finale of 2018, when footballer turned lothario Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins decided to ignore the entire premise of the show and stay single. During the finale, Cummins told the last two contestants, Sophie Tieman and Brittany Hockley, that he wasn’t ready to commit to a relationship. As Hockley put it following his noncommittal breakup, “What a giant waste of time that was.” But happily, Cummins recently announced he’s expecting his first child with his new partner later this year.
2. Australia’s Next Top Model (2010): And the winner is… not Kelsey
What initially seemed like your run-of-the-mill finale quickly became very awkward in 2010 when Australia’s Next Top Model host Sarah Murdoch said the wrong name.
Initially declaring Kelsey Martinovich as the winner, Murdoch was forced to backtrack moments later and tell the live audience she had delivered the wrong news and that the winner was, in fact, Amanda Ware. Clutching her earpiece and clipboard, Murdoch said: “I’m feeling a bit sick about this … Oh my god. I don’t know what to say … This was a complete accident. I’m so sorry, it’s Amanda.”
Murdoch blamed the error on a miscommunication. She departed as host and executive producer the following year.
1. Big Brother (2006): the (turkey) slap heard around the world
The Big Brother turkey slap is a moment which will live forever in reality TV infamy. In the early hours of 2006, contestants Michael “John” Bric and Michael “Ashley” Cox invited Camilla Severi into their bed. She hopped in, saying “you’re not going to turkey slap me are you?” and “you are, liars, I’ll hurt you if you do” – before Bric held her down and Cox rubbed his penis in her face.
“I’ve been turkey slapped!” Severi yelled to the other housemates.
Shortly after the incident, Severi described it as “just mucking around” to Big Brother, saying: “It was something that happened just in fun and I wasn’t offended as such, but I did think they took it a little bit too far . But we laughed it off, and as soon as I said ‘Enough’s enough’ it stopped.”
But the incident quickly became a national firestorm. Both men were almost immediately evicted from the house, with Cox insisting it was “just a practical joke” and Bric declaring they “only ever intended to have fun with Camilla”. Producers handed footage of the incident to Queensland police, who, after speaking with those involved, concluded that there was insufficient evidence for a criminal investigation. Prime Minister John Howard even called for Channel 10 to “get this stupid program off the air”. They didn’t, but the way the show was made changed forever.
The men later told Zoo Weekly (rest in peace) the moment had “ruined” their lives, with Bric saying he felt the show “used and abused them”. In 2020, Severi addressed the issue again, saying: “Sometimes when people ask me about it, I say, ‘Well, it’s really interesting this keeps following me around because I didn’t do it.’”