Are You Keeping up with the Ridges?


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Have you kept up with The Ridges? No? Well you soon will, because Sally and Jamie Ridge are about to become the stars of New Zealand’s adaptation of the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” format.

How do I know this? Full disclosure, I am in fact a New Zealander and over spring break I spent some time catching up with the pressing issues that face my country, one being that “Keeping up with the Ridges,” is going into production.

Who exactly are The Ridges, you may be asking? Allow your Daily Cal New Zealand entertainment correspondent to give you a quick primer on who are sure to become the hottest stars on the reality TV circuit.

Like any New Zealand celebrity who is not a three-foot tall, hairy-footed fairytale creature, Sally and her daughter Jamie Ridge, earned (I use the term oh so loosely) their fame through Rugby, our national sport. For those not in the know, Ruby is the game you would get if you halved the amount of padding, rules and spectators of American Football, and paid the players in amphetamines.

Sally Ridge is famous for marrying a sort-of famous rugby player, Matthew Ridge. Following an unremarkable sporting career, Matthew Ridge supplemented his fame through a mixture or bad television appearances, poor investments, and generally making a nuisance of himself whenever a camera was pointed in his direction. Sally, sadly had to stand by his side, raising Jamie, their daughter. Eventually Sally Ridge left Matthew for cricketer Adam Parore. Cricket, for those who are unfamiliar, is a game that lasts for five days and still often ends in a draw.

Jamie Ridge, exploded onto the New Zealand social scene (yes, we have a ‘scene’) at the tender age of 18 when she was spotted around town with another rugby player, the rather ostentatiously named Sonny Bill Williams. Williams, or SBW as he is more commonly referred to, perfectly represents the sort of excess the “Keeping up with” format is famous for. SBW, not content with spending his entire professional life in free sports jerseys with his name written on the back, actually went so far as to tattoo his surname across his shoulder blades, a needless display of excess that serves no practical purpose other than reminding the somewhat dim SBW of his surname when he is in the shower.

With any luck, the New Zealand version will take the format to new highs (or lows) by developing the ideas that make the American Kardashians so interesting. The Ridges, for instance, seem even less deserving of their fame than the Kardashians. While Matthew Ridge is a so-so rugby player and a public douche bag, Robert Kardashian pulled off the somewhat awesome feat of gaining the acquittal of one of America’s most obviously guilty criminals, O.J. Simpson. The Ridges even outdo the Kardashians when it comes to awkward excess. While the Kardashians’ ridiculous get ups seem perfectly ordinary in the absurd world of Beverly Hills spray tans, when the Ridges wander round the positively arctic cities of New Zealand they have the rather ungainly appearance of two oompa loompas trapped on an iceberg. The Ridge family seems determined to beat America at its own game.

Perhaps the only thing reassuring about “Keeping up with the Ridges” is that it shows America needn’t feel alone as the world’s epicenter of bad reality television. It’s lonely at the top. After “Keeping up with the Ridges” airs, what’s there to stop a “Real Housewives of Rimuera,” or Willie Apiata: Bounty Hunter,” “New Zealand’s Most Wanted,” “Kiwi Cops,” “Temptation South Island,” “The New Zealand Apprentice,” “So You Think You Can Haka?” Or “Hell’s Hangi,” Oh yes, New Zealand, we’re in for a good decade of tele! And don’t for a second feel sorry for us. Don’t even begin to think of us as the hapless victims of American cultural imperialism. In 1999, Popstars,” a little known reality TV show produced a Spice Girls-style girl band out of nationwide audition process. From New Zealand, the show spread around the world including the UK, where Simon Fuller adapted it into thePop Idol” format, from which America gets its top ratingAmerican Idol.” Yes America, you can blame us for that. You might have invented the A-Bomb, twinkies, Hollywood and Coca-Cola, but we invented “Idol,” that season after season delights in crushing egos, destroying talent and eroding the national intelligence.

What can we take from “Keeping up with the Ridges?” For me it’s that our popular cultures are all trapped in the same sinking ship. If you don’t quite buy that, at least you learned a bit about New Zealand celebrity culture before the show inevitably makes it to some graveyard slot in the States sometime next year. Enjoy!