You don't need pay TV: best Aussie reality shows on free-to-air

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With so many great Aussie shows on free-to-air TV, it's hard to see why people are still paying for Foxtel and Austar -- especially when pay TV has just as many ad breaks.

Many of Australia's best local productions offer the same quality as programs commissioned by subscription television networks, and often enjoy greater success due to their broader audience.

At TV.com, we've started looking at the most-loved shows, by genre. We got things started with the best Aussie dramas on free-to-air TV, so now let's look at the best Aussie reality shows you don't have to pay to watch.

MasterChef Australia (TEN, 7:30pm weeknights)

Obviously, we had to start with TEN's juggernaut cooking program from the hugely popular MasterChef franchise. With almost 4 million viewers tuning into the season two finale in August 2010, it became Australia's third-highest ranking TV show of all time.

The show follows 24 Australians battling to reach the finals by cooking their butts off in the MasterChef kitchen. They compete in various cooking challenges presented by hosts Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston -- who will be joined by a fourth judge, Matt Moran, this coming season.

Some of the best moments of season two included watching the budding chefs create 2000 canapés for guests aboard the P&O; Pacific Jewel, and prepare food to serve business class passengers on a Qantas A380 Airbus. The show was capped off with a whirlwind trip to London and Paris. Thankfully, the second season even did away with the painful, cringe-worthy audition phase that almost every other reality show makes us sit through (we're talking to you, Idol).

The power and presence of this show is undeniable -- made evident when series-favourite Marion Grasby was featured on the cover of nearly every national women's magazine in Australia after her shock elimination last season. We can't wait to see what this year holds!

Beauty and the Geek Australia (Seven, on hiatus)

Channel Seven's surprise hit Beauty and the Geek Australia is shockingly loved by many. The combination of earnest geeks trying so very hard to be socially acceptable with the bevy of beauties unwittingly revealing their ignorance on all academic topics somehow manages to be completely charming. Its November 11 episode last year even managed to win the fierce Aussie ratings race, with almost 1.5 million viewers tuning in to watch the battle.

Seven is currently accepting applications for contestants for the show's third season. If you're overly beautiful or overly intelligent, why not give it a go? Even if you're of the opposite gender to the stereotypes.

The Amazing Race Australia (Seven, due in 2011)

Although it hasn't yet begun, we've got great expectations for the Australian version thanks to its hugely successful sibling The Amazing Race.

The series pits teams of two against each other in a race around the world. The teams are made up of people with some sort of personal association (flatmates, married couples, siblings, colleagues, father-and-son, cheerleaders, goths -- the usual), and they compete in challenges in each country, for instance, launching watermelons with a slingshot.

Seven has yet to announce the commencement date of The Amazing Race Australia, but we're excited nonetheless.

My Kitchen Rules (Seven, on hiatus)

It's good to see a show that doesn't have the Australia proviso tacked onto the end of it. Although, that doesn't stop it from being similar to other shows on the market. Another cooking show, My Kitchen Rules, is Channel Seven's answer to MasterChef Australia.

MKR features 12 teams of two, with two teams representing each Australian state (NSW, Vic, Qld, Tas, SA and WA -- NT and ACT are territories, not states, and apparently don't deserve representation). The teams take turns competing to transform their kitchens and dining rooms into a restaurant-esque setting for a night when the other contestants and judges attend to sample (and possibly heavily critique) their three-course meal.

Intelligently enough, Seven puts its amateur chef show on-air during MasterChef Australia's hiatus -- probably to avoid the competition it knows it can't win. But MKR does provide a great alternative in the off-season, even if some viewers do get a little over-enthusiastic.

Dancing with the Stars (Australia) (Seven, season 11 premieres in May)

Dancing with the Stars (Australia) sees various Aussie celebs paired with a professional dancer, engaging in a different kind of dance style each week. The judges have their say, the people vote via SMS ... and some poor sod gets voted out every week. With its glitz and glamour -- celebrities, hot dancers and sparkly, revealing costumes -- Dancing is extremely entertaining to watch.

This coming season's stars have been revealed to include Lara Bingle, Brynne Edelsten, Damien Leith and Dan Ewing. Two of the new stars ready to fiercely compete against each other are husband and wife Nathan and Haley Bracken. That should add a little more excitement to an already fun show!

It even has a good heart; the celebs dance to raise money for a charity of their choice.

The Block (Nine, on hiatus)

One of the only reality shows all about renovating, The Block involves four couples renovating and making over an apartment in a block of four, each vying to sell their apartment at auction for the highest price. Although it sounds fairly ordinary, never underestimate people's interest in DIY home improvement. Definitely worth a watch. The rumour is that next season will be filmed in Melbourne ... we hope it's true!

Australia's Got Talent (Seven, 7:30pm Tuesdays)

Australia's Got Talent is this generation's Australian Idol ... but better. It's not only singers who can enter, but also dancers, comedians, magicians, contortionists, Taekwondo troupes and the most bizarre sorts of performers -- like the man who played songs on a gum leaf. This huge variety makes things so much more interesting to watch than the standard Idol stuff.

Not only are the performances entertaining, it's also fun to watch the antics of the judges Dannii Minogue, Brian McFadden and Kyle Sandilands. The show was responsible for launching the now hugely successful Justice Crew, and for introducing us to so many different forms of entertainment.

Just missing out on a place in this list is Seven's other Idol-esque show, The X Factor (Australia), which will premiere its third season later this year.