Dinner Guest Is Like No Other Panel Show Australia Has Seen & It’s Well Overdue

From Brooke Blurton becoming the first bisexual Indigenous Bachelorette to The Wiggles recruiting Tsehay Hawkins as a regular member, Australian television has recently made some strides in better representing diverse women.
But sadly, it's a group that still misses out on many on-screen opportunities, and in turn, women of colour (WOC) in particular miss out on watching relatable content that makes them feel seen and heard.
As part of Channel 10's 2022 pilot showcase, Narelda Jacobs, Melissa Leong and Susan Carland front a new show, Dinner Guest — a female-led talk show that strives to give diverse women a voice.
The concept is the brainchild of Studio 10 presenter and Whadjuk Noongar woman Jacobs, who reached out to Asian Australian MasterChef judge Leong, and Muslim academic Carland to create a pilot episode where they chat with a guest around a dinner table while drawing attention to shared lived experiences and elevating underrepresented voices.
Image courtesy of Channel 10
Melissa Leong, Susan Carland and Narelda Jacobs are the hosts of Dinner Guest
Gold Logie nominee Leong says that while the US and UK entertainment industries have a plethora of popular female chat shows, Australia is far behind. It's a gap Jacobs highlighted when she contacted her about the pitch.
"She said, 'Why is it that there's no chat show in Australia that's driven by women of colour, minorities or underrepresented voices and perspectives? Wouldn't it be amazing if we could create that and we could give a platform and amplification to the stories and perspectives that are just really sorely underrepresented in Australia?'," Leong tells Refinery29 Australia.
She's right. It's been 10 years since Channel 10 women's talk show, The Circle was axed, which was hosted by three white women and one woman of colour, Yumi Stynes. Since then, we've rarely seen an all-women's panel on TV, and when the Today Show was hosted by Deborah Knight and Georgie Gardner in 2019, where were the WOC? Earlier this year The Project announced two replacements for Carrie Bickmore, which again were two white women, Chrissie Swan and Georgie Tunny.
The Dinner Guest pilot episode released on July 4 was filmed at a Greek restaurant earlier this year with news and current affairs journalist, Patricia Karvelas as the guest. During the 30-minute ep, the four women speak about their own experiences ranging from coming out in conservative families, to growing up as a child of immigrants in a predominantly white suburb, to facing criticism after converting to Islam.
Leong speaks on the show about repressing parts of her identity and refusing to speak Cantonese growing up, and then later in life not speaking up about issues that may appear political because it's about playing the "long game" to survive as a woman of colour in a predominantly white industry. She and her co-hosts speak about finally being at a place where they feel comfortable using their platforms to take a stand and evoke change.
"Susan, Narelda and I had lunch with our executive producer Stamatia Maroupas and on some level, we've all succeeded in our respective fields, and we talked about the notion of quelling certain discussions that we'd like to have, or being less vocal than we should about certain interactions in the workplace or certain issues that are important to us," Leong explains.
Image courtesy of Channel 10
Narelda Jacobs, Susan Carland and Melissa Leong with guest Patricia Karvelas in the Dinner Guest pilot
"And we feel like it's a bit of a betrayal of who we are... but by the same token, the advantage is that we've gotten ahead and we now have an opportunity to speak and to be heard.
"I often joke with my Asian friends or just friends of colour that we have to play the long game. We have to play the long game if we want to be heard. If we want to really affect change, then we must be in it to win it."
The personal anecdotes and topical discussions on the show reflect true lived experiences of diverse Aussies that are so often swept under the rug and given limited airtime on TV. Talking about these will help others in similar positions, but Leong also wants to emphasise that this show will enrich the lives of all Australians, not just women from diverse communities.
"I'm interested to know what Australia thinks about it, because there will be a subset of Australia who thinks that something like this is exclusive to us. And that's not true," she says.
"I always echo that sentiment of inclusivity and representation does not come at the detriment of others. It helps us all to move forward and that's definitely the spirit in which the show was created.
"This is about singing loud and proud some perspectives that haven't been heard before, but in order to do that, we need everybody on that train."
Dinner Guest is one of six pilots in Channel 10's Pilot Showcase, including The Love Experiment, The Bush Blonde Vs The World starring Nikki Osbourne, Time To Die hosted by comedians Gen Fricker and Ben Russell, and Abbie Chats hosted by former Bachelor star Abbie Chatfield.
Dinner Guest and all of the above pilots are now available to stream on 10 Play.
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!     

More from TV