TV Review: What Really Happens in Bali?

TV Review: What Really Happens in Bali?

Tabloid televsion takes on Bali

By Mark HadleyWednesday 28 May 2014TV and StreamingReading Time: 5 minutes

Wow. This show is amazing…if tabloid television is your benchmark for journalism.

Mark Haldey reviews 'What Really Happens in Bali'.

Comedienne turned TV presenter turned car insurance spokesperson Corrine Grant hosts a program that promises to reveal what’s really happening in Bali to a naturally shocked Australian viewing public. The Seven Network has been spruiking this ‘tell all’ since shortly after Schapelle Corby was released from Kerobokan Prison in February of this year. Sadly, this series has lived up to its promotion…

Grant takes us through one ‘Shock! Horror!’ story after another, ranging unimaginatively from cliff-jumping escapades gone wrong to mangling motorcycle accidents. The producers must have been wild with glee when one of the latter occurred right in front of the camera. Our narrator’s voice rings with sympathy, sure, but it doesn’t prevent the show from playing the graphic collision three times in the episode, more in following weeks, and turning that tragic moment into commercial. In a twist on the old saying, ‘If life gives someone else lemons, it’s a great opportunity to make lemonade.’ But it’s worth watching the program if only to pay close attention to the program’s own culpability.

Lizzy Love is a grandmother from Sydney who spends a lot of her time working with prisoners in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison, including death-row inmate Myuran Sukamaran of ‘The Bali 9’ fame. She’s helped him establish an artist’s program run there and is just returning from a visit when the accident occurs.

“But today Lizzy’s trip home is about to take a very different turn – and it happens right in front of our cameras…”

Watch the footage carefully, though, and you’ll see something quite revealing. The first shot shows Lizzy climbing on her bike and riding harmlessly out on to the edge of the road, ready to join the traffic. Then the shot is repeated, but this time from a different angle. The crew has clearly asked Lizzy to repeat the event so that they can do a tilt up from her rear wheel. It’s as she speeds off to complete this shot that she drives right into the path of an on-coming motorcyclist. I’m not suggesting the makers of What Really Happens In Bali caused the accident, or that it’s not illustrative of the problems with roads in Bali. But their attempt to set up the shot demonstrates effectively how TV can become the provocateur of the very problems it’s trying to chronicle.

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Other segments of the show underline this effect. The film crew follows a group of Australian girls out on a cliff-jumping excursion. On the way out Emma is telling the crew that she doesn’t feel comfortable with the idea, she’s likely to just sit on the rocks and watch. However when she gets there she decides to jump after all, and manages to fracture a vertebra in her spine. Emma works with disabled people in Australia and will say later that she doesn’t even know why she changed her mind about jumping. Could having a film crew there have played a role? They were certainly on hand to film every step of her agonizing journey to the hospital, though it seems helping her out of the water would have been too much interference in the story.

And what about Todd, Grant’s, “… self-confessed sex addict!”? He’s no sooner finished explaining the nickname he has for a person who manages intercourse three times in the same night, then he’s off to the clubs with the cameras in tow to see if he can achieve it that very night. What were the chances? And wearing a radio microphone – what luck! Of course Grant lets the viewer know she’s not that impressed with Todd but remains oblivious to the oxygen they’re giving his poor behaviour. Worse, Todd has only been living this way for four months but his full name has now been attached to a national special, so ‘sex addict’ is a moniker he’s going to have to put up with for a very long time. 

To be sure What Really Happens In Bali includes a really interesting vignette about an Aussie expat businessman who’s established an elephant sanctuary and interviews with paramedics and prisoners that underline some of the problems (no Balinese in episode one). But it’s pretty clear the show is all about the melodrama. It cuts from Lizzy at the hospital to Todd on the prowl and back to another waiting room to see how Emma is doing. By the end of the show her fractured vertebra has become the much more emotive “Broken back!” and there are enough “Brain injuries!”and “Spinal injuries!” to fill an episode of All Saints. There are even a few racial slurs like,

“In Bali, ‘A job half done is a job well done!’ so its hard for some locals to get used to Nigel’s quest for perfection.”

So what’s a Christian to say about a program like What Really Happens In Bali – I mean, apart from, “Don’t waste your time?” Possibly a reminder that sitting in judgment on others, however entertaining it might be, doesn’t give us a more secure seat with God. And if I fail to warn someone that their folly will harm them – particularly their spiritual foolishness – then I’m in danger of receiving the same judgment as the fool. No, better to admit my own foolishness, and look to God for wisdom I need.

Now, if you’d like to see what really good documentaries look like, tune into Trigger Point this Sunday…

Rating: M
Distributor: Seven Network

Release Date: Tuesdays, 8:40 PM