• Cast and guests players of NITV's new game show Faboriginal (Noble Savage Pictures)Source: Noble Savage Pictures
What makes the humble game show one of the most-watched genres on TV?
Travis Akbar

24 Feb 2020 - 1:22 PM  UPDATED 24 Feb 2020 - 1:22 PM

Sitting in front of the tube with the family, shouting hopeful answers to Burgo’s Catchphrase or Sale of the Century, while slamming down rissoles and mash potato was one of Australia’s favourite past times in years gone by.

While it now seems like cooking shows and reality formats dominate the screens, quiz and game shows remain one of the most popular genres in the television schedule. In 2018, leading researchers found that games shows were the fifth most-watched TV genres in an average week, above comedy, documentary and even sport.

Why does Australia love a telly quiz?  

From Wheel of Fortune to Mastermind; the game shows themselves come and go, but their concept seems to continue to occupy prime television real estate — the early evening slot.

Ben Nguyen, SBS Channel Manager explains that with most games shows being typically inoffensive and undemanding, makes for an appealing programming lead-in to one of the biggest prizes (pun intended) in broadcast TV, the nightly news.   

“Most broadcasters rely on their news bulletin to drive much of their tune-in for the night and game shows are a comfortable way to ease into news reporting which may deal with some tougher subjects,” he says.

“They also appeal to older audiences, and when you consider the timeslot and that most working people are still on their commute home, that’s a large part of who you’re programming to.”

However, Nguyen says that there is much more to its popularity than simply where it can be placed in a TV guide.

“[Quiz/game shows] are pretty efficient to make in high volume —same set, same host, new contestants and new questions— and that if you get all the elements right, audiences are happy to watch them night after night,” he explains.

“Audiences have shown a willingness to invest in a show where you can play along at home and enjoy the rollercoaster of a contestant winning big or walking away with nothing.”

But of course, it’s the show itself that makes the big difference. These slots might belong to game shows, but if it doesn’t hit right, then it’s out with the old and in with the new.

“Big prizes have often been a drawcard —and something that public broadcasters are less likely to be in a position to give away,” Nguyen says.

Millionaire Hot Seat is a spinoff of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which traded off the prospect of a contestant leaving the studio $1 million richer.

Some shows like The Weakest Link have gone with a tough, almost mean host, but mostly the shows that work, seem to have an amiable presenter who’s happy to crack a joke and is keen for the contestants to win.”

Bringing his vibrant personality and popularity as TV's newest game show host, Murri comedian Steven Oliver is no doubt up for the challenge.


Introducing Faboriginal: a game show with a unique twist

Steven Oliver —one of the driving forces behind ABC’s popular Black Comedy— is a famous face on the rise. While he is best known for his comedy, Oliver, is also a fantastic poet, as proven at the 2015 NAIDOC Awards with a masterpiece rhyming slam.

He has now co-created and is hosting Faboriginal, Australia’s first Indigenous Game Show focusing on First Nations art. As the series presenter, he is charismatic, addressing the live audience with wit and cheeky humour. Hilarious, with erratic movements and an ability to effortlessly pull jokes from anywhere, Steven Oliver is no doubt in his element as a beloved game show host.

Faboriginal engages two teams in a battle of wits and knowledge of Indigenous art. The teams consist of two reoccurring leaders, actor, writer, director Elaine Crombie, and her opposition, ABC presenter and broadcaster, Daniel Browning.

Browning says he is in great company, working with some of the industry’s best.  

“I’m really the weakest link,” he laughs. “I’m not funny, I can’t sing and I can’t act. I’m a shrinking violet when you put me up against Steven and Elaine!

"I’m not funny, I can’t sing and I can’t act. I’m a shrinking violet when you put me up against Steven and Elaine!"

"Steven is not only one of the funniest men I know, but he’s also one of the smartest.

"I remember during filming we were in the make-up trailer and he was talking about quantum theory and cracking jokes at the same time. He can talk about anything —his brain is truly frightening.

"And Elaine Crombie can hold a room effortlessly. She’s so fun to be around. She cracks me up. She’s an awesomely talented woman - and she’s naturally funny. She cocks an eyebrow and I bust my guts laughing.”

Amongst the jokes and laughter, the subject matter is truly beautiful, with engaging stories of Indigenous art and the artists. And this is where the show's strength is —a dynamic entertainment program which can simultaneously reference colonisation and dispossession, passion and romance, and identity and culture, all the while speaking to all audiences in a fun and lively way.

For those who aren’t familiar with First Nations art and artists, admittedly the content may be hard to follow in terms of cracking a guess at home, but actually learning about our country's art makes for delightful and very interesting viewing.  

“What I love about the show is that it’s got a lot of heart. When it’s not funny, it’s deadly serious,” Browning explains.

“And it all goes back to something fundamental —we are an intensely visual people with an extraordinary visual culture, and it’s worth pointing to it.

"Artists have a particular status in our community —they tell us what’s going on, where to look. They deserve our recognition." 

"Artists have a particular status in our community —they tell us what’s going on, where to look. They deserve our recognition. Faboriginal genuinely tries to highlight the power of our stories and our image-making.

“I reckon Faboriginal is for everyone. It’s funny, clever, and highly original. Did I mention it’s all black? Seriously though, there’s nothing like it on Australian television.”

While Faboriginal follows the standard structure and format that make other quiz shows some of the most-watched content on Australian TV, however, the tone and theme of it, brings a totally new twist to this beloved television staple.


Faboriginal airs Thursdays, 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34). Binge all the episodes on SBS On Demand

Join the conversation #Faboriginal

Travis Akbar is a Wongatha man living on Peramangk country. He is a Film Critic and Freelance Writer. Follow Travis @TravAkbar