‘What Really Happens In Bali’: A Sleazy New Low For Aussie TV

Last night The Seven Network‘s What Really Happens In Bali pulled in a pretty damn impressive 1.6 million viewers, proving that if there’s anything Aussies love more than getting drunk and doing stupid shit in foreign countries, it’s the schadenfreude that comes with watching other Aussies getting drunk and doing stupid shit in foreign countries.

The show follows the worst of the worst exploits of Australian tourists in our nation’s favourite tourist destination. It’s bogans bumping uglies beside hotel pools, stumbling half-cut and sweaty through neon-lit nightclubs, and being rushed, bleeding, to hospital emergency rooms. In other words, it shows the truly seedy, destructive lengths that Aussies will go to for a good time.

“Teenagers like me are gonna destroy Bali,” says a young, heavily plastered gentlemen in the opening clip package, and you weep for our nation’s reputation overseas. The first episode attempts to even things out by presenting a few positive stories about Australians made good in Bali, but it’s pretty clear that shame and degradation are where it’s at.

After the initial thrill wears off, though, and you’ve had your fill of watching horrible people do horrible things, you find yourself asking whether a show like this is really, actually necessary. What Happens In Bali is presented documentary-style, with a lurid voice-over promising tragedy and disaster, and it thrives on those bad vibes. 
The show doesn’t just cross the line into exploitation – it drinks fishbowl cocktails with the line, does GHB with the line in a nightclub toilet, vomits all over the line’s shoes and gives the line’s fiance Darren a handjob in the back of a tuk tuk. For instance, take the tragic story of young Emma. Sunrise recapped it this morning. Go ahead and cop the shit-eating grins in the below video, if you dare. 

Early in the piece, the camera crew follows a group of young people who, after drinking all night and into the morning, decide to keep the party going with some cliff jumping. They’re all “WHOOs” and “YEAHs” as they leave Kuta in a rickety bus, but the voice-over lady ominously promises that, “if something goes wrong, they’ll be a long way from help.” 

“You could easily end up with broken bones, a compressed spine or concussion,” the scolding voice-over lady continues as the nervous throng fronts up to the four-storey cliff face, cheekily adding that some still have “a few Bintangs” inside them. At this point, she may as well be saying “carn, let’s watch these dickheads jump to their almost certain doom and have a good laugh.”

Predictably, things go wrong. 26-year-old Emma, from Melbourne, steps up reluctantly to take a jump, and when she hits the water, she injures her back badly. The camera lingers on her friends worried faces as we’re gleefully told that Emma has lost the feeling in her legs, and that even worse, the current is pulling her rescuers in the wrong direction as they try and swim her back to shore.

The way the scene is shot and edited has a predatory tone, and it becomes increasingly clear that the show is reveling in the personal tragedy that’s unfolding. As if there was any doubt that What Happens In Bali is exploiting events, Emma’s fall ends on a cliffhanger, and waits until much later in the episode to reveal the outcome.
The Seven Network’s head of factual programming, Dan Meenan, defended What Happens In Bali in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last week, telling them that while the show was never intended to show the “ugly” side of Aussies overseas, “the worst thing you can do with anything on television is to bore people.”

He then added that What Happens In Bali would not show anyone actually dying, as that would “turn-off some viewers to a point where they would never watch the show again.” So, y’know, this is definitely a dude with his priorities in place. I guess this means we’re safe, at least until next year when Seven debuts Dumbshits Dying In Bali.

Image via Yahoo 7