How to build the perfect format show: from Naked Attraction to Gogglebox

Gogglebox? Dragon's Den? Naked Attraction? What kind of loon thinks of these things? His name is Tim Harcourt and he revealed himself in a session at AIDC.

Formats are the Holy Grail of non-fiction television. They have none of the solemnity of factual or docs, but they cut to the raw heart of the human soul in every possible form of extremity. They are funny, and revealing, and they make us squirm or gasp, and we always know that the characters ultimately brought it on themselves. 

Get one right and it can be a decade earner, and spread around the world. Gogglebox is in thirty countries from Australia to Slovenia, Belgium to Mongolia. Australian producers seethe over the fact that domestic broadcasters will pay the license fees for overseas shows, and bring outside executives in to rebuild them from their series bibles, but they won’t take a punt on a local version. 

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David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.

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