In 2006, Australia was in the grips of a full blown turkey slap crisis. Two Big Brother contestants were accused of sexual assault and booted from the show, after Michael “John” Bric held down fellow contestant Camilla Severi while Michael “Ashley” Cox pulled down his pants and “slapped” Camilla with his junk.
The incident caused Big Brother Up Late to be canned for good, with then Prime Minister John Howard calling for the entire show to be cancelled.
But it had another, long-lasted effect on reality television in Australia: a stricter alcohol policy.
In 2018, Steph* (not her real name, for obvious reasons), a former Bachelor producer who worked on Tim Robards‘ season, told Fox FM that alcohol on set was strictly regulated.
“They usually threaten that someone could turn up on set at any time, but it’s loosely two drinks [an hour],” she said, stressing that Australian television is very different to its American counterparts.
But she also said it was the turkey slap incident that brought us here. “Do you remember years ago, Big Brother, that ‘hot dog’ incident or whatever it was?” she said. (To be fair, “turkey slap” is a ridiculous phrase.) “They changed all the rules [afterwards], so they weren’t allowed to get blind drunk.”
A former producer on Big Brother told PEDESTRIAN.TV that these alcohol restrictions were a bit of a headache on slower nights.
“The producers on slow nights often bitched that in the time before, we would have just thrown some tequila in there to see what happened,” he said, stressing that no music (because of the mics) and no alcohol often led to a pretty dull atmosphere. “Not letting contestants get too pissed was mentioned a lot.”
Producers provided alcohol to contestants via hatches (between housemates and crew) on set, alongside everything else they might need to give the contestants: medication, mic batteries, props, etc. Once alcohol was given to the contestants, there was no way to monitor who was drinking what, so it was pretty easy for one contestant to “ruin it” for the rest of them.
He pointed to a physically tiny, fairly young 2014 contestant “who would grab as much booze early on as she could, and get pissed off two drinks. We would then have to cut the whole house off. It meant the bigger guys – who wouldn’t even have registered on a breathalyser – couldn’t have any more. There was no way to stop her getting it.”
P.TV has also heard rumours of contestants on The Bachelor doing what they can to sneak as much alcohol as they could before being cut off by producers. Producers will apparently swap out alcohol – for example, vodka for water, or rum for tea – and contestants, trying to be sneaky, will start playing a game where the last person to taste water ‘wins’. Guess filming a reality show is suuuuuuper dull at times, hey.
That being said, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that the audience doesn’t see. Osher Günsberg recently assured Bachelor In Paradise viewers that contestants (who are never filmed eating) do get plenty of meal breaks.
There's plenty of meal breaks, and everyone eats – but if you've every watched Masterchef you'll know that watching people chew isn't excellent telly. https://t.co/39yu9JJxpT
— Osher Günsberg (@oshergunsberg) April 2, 2018
But if you have the dirt – or just want to correct the record on contestants drinking BTS on reality shows, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.