1 9 9 7 – 1 9 9 8 (Australia)
21 x 30 minute episodes
Based on a Canadian show (Course Destination Monde), the inventive Australian travel documentary game show Race Around the World was hosted by former Doug Anthony Allstars member Richard Fidler.
The competition involved eight entrants scattering across the world for 100 days, with the proviso that each person submit a four-minute short film once every 10 days.
The films were judged by a panel of industry experts, including film director David Caesar, TV host Tony Squires and actress Sigrid Thornton. A popular audience vote was also considered.
Olivia Rousset, from Perth, won the top prize in the first series, beating six other globetrotting young filmmakers for the trophy. Rousset scored high votes for such films as a look at the pressure to perform for men in the LA porn industry. She narrowly beat Kim Traill for the overall prize while other racers found their chances of victory cruelled by missing deadlines and battling technical or language problems.
The most famous of the first series’ racers did not even come close to winning the contest. Quirky 24-year-old John Safran from Melbourne (pictured below) won the public’s most popular vote for his series of increasingly bizarre films, which involved everything from Safran running naked through Jerusalem to putting a voodoo hex on an ex-girlfriend.
Safran’s idea of visiting Disneyland was to film himself breaking in through a hole in the fence and then placing new captions on photos within the Disney museum, pointing out the founder’s alleged neo-fascist sympathies.
Safran finished equal last when one of his documentary efforts, The 1997 Rio de Janeiro Confession Booth Championships, was banned by ABC executives, meaning he lost a potential 50 points for not having a broadcast-ready film.
In the banned film, Safran had entered a series of Brazilian confessionals with a hidden camera and told each priest he had kissed a boy.
He then multiplied the number of Hail Marys by Our Fathers to score each priest.
The ABC wasn’t happy, but Safran’s notoriety, for life beyond Race Around the World, was assured. As judge Tony Squires said of Safran, “He’s manipulative, he’s dangerous, but he’s good.”
Tony Wilson from Melbourne was the winner of the second series. Most of the racers from each series went on to careers in media and film-making.
Although garnering high ratings for its timeslot, Race Around the World was a considerable logistical and financial drain on the publicly funded ABC network. In 2000, the series was scaled down into a local version restricted to the Australian continent, entitled Race Around Oz.
A youth-oriented version titled Race Around the Corner was produced by ABC Children’s Unit with students (14–16 years of age) making low-budget local productions in the same style as Race Around the World.