For Those Feeling Old Before Their Time

There's more to this show than meets the eye, writes Liza Power.AT BEST it's a tedious party trick. You know the drill: part-way through your third glass of punch the stranger with whom you've been sharing relatively banal banter asks you how old you think he/she looks. You hazard a guess, subtract five years, mumble a verdict. Inevitably, the game is played in reverse, with both parties wondering between befuddled calculations whether the next conversation topic will be football or the weather.For the couples on Seven's new makeover show, 10 Years Younger in 10 Days, however, playing the age game is neither brief nor blessed with dim light and cheap rum. By contrast, it involves participants stepping inside a glass box in a very public place and subjecting themselves to the gaze of passers-by who are, in turn, invited to comment on their general appearance and guess their age.Their remarks, it's fair to say, are generally merciless. Where one female Queenslander is deemed a tired housewife who's "let herself go", her endearingly scruffy husband is nicknamed Hagrid after the bearded and beastly Harry Potter character. Both are pegged at 10 years over their real age. When ever-convivial host Sonia Kruger asks, "How did that make you feel?" the responses veer from halting to plain hurt.Kruger makes no apologies for this "gesture of tough love". She deems it a necessary catalyst for the show's premise, which is, as its title suggests, a lesson in how people might take 10 years off their appearance in less than a fortnight. Kruger, who had seen the US and UK incarnations of the series before Seven bought the concept, says it appealed to her for its "holistic" approach. "People are looking for more than a basic makeover show now. They've seen Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Trinny & Susannah, How to Look Good Naked and Extreme Makeover." 10 Days, she says, "takes the logical next step, which is to combine diet and exercise, beauty, styling, cosmetic treatments, dental work ... to try and achieve this goal of taking 10 years off their perceived age".For Kruger, the show's appeal largely stems from the genuine and down-to-earth nature of the couples selected to take part, many of whom were enlisted from Australia's regional centres. "A lot of people wrote in their applications that they wanted to (be on the show) because they felt old before their time. They'd sacrificed everything for their children. So this was 10 days when they got to focus wholly and solely on their own wellbeing."For those who find the makeover format relatively barbaric, feeding as it does off the notion that being beautiful - and forever young - is life's ultimate goal, that every aesthetically challenged soul is only a fistful of dollars and a few spells in a surgeon's chair away from looking like Kate Moss, Kruger makes no apologies. "We all want to see what's possible, there's an aspirational element."While she doesn't deny some steps are confronting, she insists even the smallest modifications to a person's appearance can have radical effects on their lives. "Some of the couples on the show hadn't been to the dentist for over 15 years because money was an issue and they simply couldn't afford it. But you fix someone's teeth and they actually start to smile again."Less likely to make some viewers smile are the show's forays into plastic surgery. While the aforementioned 30-something Queensland woman undergoes liposuction, Botox and eyelid lifts - procedures Kruger describes as "fairly minor, they're all done in day surgery under a local anaesthetic" - she's aware of the great divide between those who embrace cosmetic surgery and those who don't. "I think people's ideas about plastic surgery have really changed. The public are really interested in things like lunchtime lifts and quick-fix treatments, what's available and how much it costs. I would never say it's for everyone by any stretch, but I think it's great for people to have the choice."Cosmetic surgery is but one of many self-improvement methods on the 10 Days menu, which encompasses colonic irrigation, cleansing diets, exercise regimens, skin treatments and lessons in "style". One omission from the specialist line-up is a psychologist. This is a shame: the couples might benefit from a consultation with someone qualified to explain that a new face and wardrobe might not necessarily pave a gilded path to happiness.Even Kruger concedes the act of plucking couples from regional centres, dropping them into Sydney for a 10-day intensive of procedures and filming, then delivering them back home must be traumatic.Still, the fly-on-the-wall aspect of the show is for Kruger one of its greatest drawcards. "Viewers see these people being really brave and giving, and they really connect with it. It's a hard process ... you see someone after they've been sitting in a dental chair for four hours and they're feeling a bit sad and sorry for themselves. It can be quite tough for them, but I think that's what people who are watching the show really identify with. And then there's that great reveal moment and the looks on their faces - you can see they feel as if it's all been worth it."10 Years Younger in 10 days premieres Tuesday at 9.30pm on Seven.

For Those Feeling Old Before Their Time 1

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