It feels like people have been mad about Byron Baes for years. When was it announced? Last year? The year before? My timeline has been warped since March 2020, so honestly, I don’t know. Could I Google it? Sure, probably, if I cared.
But I don’t, or at least, I didn’t. For me, Byron Baes was just a thing that was happening — a thing amongst the thousands of other things that happen every day. People like to be mad about all these different things, and that outrage is in itself another thing that adds to the pile of things. It can get a tad exhausting, so unless it’s something truly worth worrying about, I tend to block it out.
People are mad about a show about influencers in Byron Bay. Cool, pass the salt.
But then, last week, everything changed. Or rather, one specific thing changed.
I – along with class-of-‘22 Pedestrians (lol yuck) Jim, Josie, Michael, and Soaliha – was told to pack my shit and get on a plane to Sydney (yuck) and report to a Bondi Airbnb so we could live our “wildest influencer dreams” (yuck) while watching all eight episodes of Byron Baes in a row (lmao).
I’m not exactly what you’d call a huge reality TV fan. A few exes and housemates have tried to get me to watch the odd show in the past, but it’s just not for me. So when we arrived at the Airbnb, I was excited about many things, but the show admittedly wasn’t one of them.
I’d never been to Bondi, so I was excited about that. I’ve never been rich, either, so I was excited about the fancy Airbnb with the picturesque view overlooking Bondi Beach, and most of all, I was excited to eat some free food.
But then episode one began, and we were slowly but surely sucked into a first-world drama tornado made up of a bunch of ‘inspirers’, influencers, musicians, designers and artists – all of which either called Byron Bay home, or were trying desperately to gain that honour.
The show follows the lives of influencer types whose livelihood depends on constantly presenting a manicured version of themselves online (like most of us basically do for free anyway). They attend glamorous parties, exhibitions, and other events, all while juggling the complex social dynamics of Byron’s ‘in-crowd’. The key point of conflict of the show is the arrival of two ‘outsiders’, Jade and Sarah, who attempt to make it with Byron’s cool kids.
About half an hour in, I felt something I’d never felt when watching reality TV – I was hooked. Okay, that was kind of a lie, I’ve felt that before circa early-2010s My Kitchen Rules era, but that’s another story for another day.
Back to the Baes. Was I just being sucked into the collective atmosphere of the room? Or was this show truly different?
As the episodes went by, we all grew further entwined with the hopes and dreams of these annoyingly beautiful people. Seriously, some of the people on this show are like aliens ripped straight out of Planet Perfect. I contemplated going home that night and starting a strict sit-ups routine, but that thought lasted about three minutes before I shoved another oreo into my mouth while gasping at some more petty schoolyard drama.
What had happened to me? Who had I become? I went to the bathroom at the end of episode five and felt like this meme:
Then I went on the perfect balcony overlooking the perfect waves crashing into the perfect Bondi Beach – perfect because it was cloudy and kind of wet so no one was there — and wondered what about the show had hooked me so.
Maybe it was the current state of the world — that in a way, this kind of reality TV was actually so far removed from reality that it was in itself an escape from reality — a reality that’s becoming so unstable and yet so tedious at the same time.
Or maybe this is just what happens when you get an interesting bunch of human beings, plop them in one of the planet’s most picturesque settings, and pump them full of hedonism while a skilled film crew captures every second?
Who knows? I don’t. All I know is that I genuinely had a good time.
I think PTV Head of Editorial, Josie, does a good job of summing it all up:
“Going into this marathon binge session of Byron Baes I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I like some reality TV but I’m quite choosy about which shows I’ll watch. I guess I’d say I’m high maintenance, but I think you’ve gotta be.”
“In the end, I was actually surprised at how much I shamefully enjoyed this show. It isn’t perfect, and some of the cast are deeply unlikeable. But I found myself rooting for some of the people and also just living for the drama — even though the drama was very dumb and low-stakes. It’s nice to escape [gestures] all of this by watching petty squabbles on TV that have nothing to do with you. And also by watching Elias‘ abs…”
Speaking of, Michael also had some thoughts:
“Oh Elias’ abs… my eight favourite characters.”