Sport is a vital part of life in Australia.
Perhaps it’s our wide open spaces and dry climate that has led us to love being outdoors. And it means we indulge in a wide range of sports, from big league matches in the AFL and NRL, to the Noonamah Tavern Frog Races in the Northern Territory on Melbourne Cup Day each November.
If it moves and is athletic, Australians are into it.
So it’s not surprising that we have a huge number of television shows focused on sport, from serious analytical programs like AFL 360 to the ribald Footy Show on Channel Nine.
And in 2017 a new kind of show has been added to give viewers even more choice.
ABC TV’s Sideliners describes itself as “the serious sport show that doesn’t take sport too seriously”. And it’s a good description.
Before you wonder how there could be room for yet another sport show on our screens, it’s worth noting that this one really is different.
For a start, it puts women at the forefront of television sporting shows, being hosted by former Olympic champion swimmer and now sports commentator Nicole Livingstone, with her sidekick being sport-mad comedian Tegan Higginbotham. They are joined by a panel of athletes and comedians for interviews, sketches and chat.
The first episode of the season was dominated by women, with the only male on the six-person team being broadcaster Francis Leach. Subsequent shows featured more males, but it’s clear that Nicole and Tegan are running the show, and any males are purely there as members of a panel.
Sideliners is a hard show to pigeonhole. It mixes humour and sketch comedy with serious sporting discussion and analysis of all sports, with a recent example being a serious examination of the now-resolved Australian cricket dispute between players and management.
While Sideliners has copied the Street Talk element of The Footy Show, it’s done with class and humour, and never patronises or insults its subjects.
The show covers the whole gamut of the sporting arena, especially women’s sport and the contribution of volunteers to community sport, without which local sport just wouldn’t happen. It’s refreshing to see a sporting show that looks at real people like you and me, and not just the sporting stars.
What does come across in Sideliners is the good humour and positive nature of all the participants, reminding me of some lovely words from the Bible: “God’s love and kindness will shine upon us like the sun that rises in the sky” (Luke chapter 1, verse 78).
After watching an episode of Sideliners, you will have a smile on your face and the knowledge that you have just watched something that certainly reflects love (of sport) and kindness to people.