THE new year's return to ratings is the most competitive time of the year on our screens.
The commercial free-to-air networks bring out their big guns to establish an early dominance of the airwaves and our eyeballs.
Apparently the best way to do that is with reality TV. On Monday night Seven's reliable ratings juggernaut My Kitchen Rules will go head-to-head with Nine's expanded dating show Married At First Sight and the second episode of Ten's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!
Seven won last year's ratings race comfortably but after limping to the end of 2016 with flop Zumbo's Just Desserts and a lacklustre season of The X Factor the network needs MKR to deliver now more than ever.
According to the footage released so far, the show is sticking with its tried and true format of home-cooked food and big personalities. But eight seasons in, does MKR run the risk of viewers getting reality drama fatigue?
Co-host Manu Feildel doesn't think so.
"We always think maybe the next one is the last one but that doesn't seem to be the case. Each year we get better cooks," he tells NRM's The Guide.
"We have 18 teams this year and there's a little bit of everything. There are some loud ones, some very opinionated ones and some great, great cooking. We had some of the highest scores (ever) this year and also some of the worst."
Nine has invested a lot of time, money and resources into expanding its social experiment Married At First Sight to take on MKR. Twenty singles will walk down the aisle and, all going to plan, they will give their trial marriages a go for eight weeks.
After their honeymoons the couples will move into the same block of apartments in Sydney and attend weekly group dinners and commitment ceremonies with the show's matchmaking experts.
"The biggest difference in season four is the experts are now heavily involved and inserted into the experiment," psychologist John Aiken says.
"Viewers will really see the experts under pressure this time. We are having to explain ourselves ... all of them (ask why they were matched) and sometimes they don't like the answers."
Ten's spy-in-the-jungle seriesI'm A Celebrity, hosted by Julia Morris and Chris Brown, continues to gain momentum.
An unknown entity two years ago, the celebrity torture-fest has become a major talking point on social media and is now seen as an image overhaul for controversial personalities.
"They're all part of a process, which is to break and remake them," Brown says.
"We give them a chance to create a better version of themselves and that only happens by going through the hardship and having to really test their limits and confront their fears."
I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! debuts on Sunday at 7pm. My Kitchen Rules and Married At First Sight premiere on Monday at 7.30pm.
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