I didn't spend all my time in Oz drinking coffee and going to footy games: I also went to the theater (more on that on my NY Post blog) and caught some TV. Some random thoughts on the latter experience.
After watching most of the audition week of the local X Factor (already a hit in the UK, US version coming soon), I can only say that I'm now so hooked that I'm going to follow the proceedings online to see if my favorites (see below) make it through. The four judges are singer Natalie Imbruglia, former Australian Idol judge Kyle Sandilands (trying waaaay too hard to emulate Simon Cowell), baby-faced Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian and former Boyzone member Ronan Keating. Most striking was the candidates' sweetness and naivete — several looked almost paralyzed by shyness. This was in stark contrast to the way many American contestants show up with outsize egos and an often-lengthy history of performing.
In addition, there's four categories of candidates: groups, under 25 males, under 25 females and anybody over 25 — OMG, fogies with, like, wrinkles! This opens up the competition to seasoned people with real histories behind them. I was particularly taken, for instance, with 40-year-old Tony from Perth. His audition performance of "Proud Mary" was the epitome of rugged manliness. Also impressive was 20-year-old apprentice hairdresser Sally, with a dignified cover of Xtina's Hurt."
Another big difference: openly gay candidates (yay, Hayley). Cute.
Another TV favorite was a reality show called The Farmer Wants a Wife, which follows six country folk in various Australian states as they look for a suitable mate. Highlight of the one episode I caught was when the date between cattle farmer Charlie and equine dentist Christy was cut short after she was bitten by a redback spider and had to be taken to the emergency room. (Perhaps this is what inspired me to purchase a pair of Redback boots later on.) Note that the title is deceiving since the farmers include Becky, a woman from South Australia looking for a husband. She seemed to hit it off with an explosives technician from the Northern Territory.
Finally, homegrown pride is very important in the Australian film and TV industry. Every time an American flick starred a local, the trailer or promo blared "featuring Australia's so-and-so." A commercial for new Oz series Cops L.A.C. boasted "with a great Aussie cast!"