In July 2021, Narelda Jacobs wanted to create a new kind of talk show, one that hadn't been explored on commercial TV in Australia before. The proud Whadjuk Nyoongar woman wanted to not only champion the voices of Australian women but celebrate the voices that so often are under-represented.
"I had a kernel of an idea to create a platform for marginalised voices to speak openly on issues not often given the gravity they deserve on commercial TV," Narelda explained to 10 play.
"These voices are underrepresented on mainstream media but are no less critical to our national conversation. With the public demanding to see themselves on screen, it was time Australia offered a talkshow that was fresh, fierce and fearless while also being kind and compassionate."
As part of the 2022 Pilot Showcase, the Dinner Guest pilot will be free to stream and exclusive to 10 play, premiering July 4.
Working with her executive producer, Stamatia Maroupas, Narelda created Dinner Guest where she, alongside Melissa Leong and Dr Susan Carland, invite a guest out to dinner where the four exchange ideas and experiences.
"There's a bit more to Dinner Guest than a group of friends catching up over a meal," Narelda explained. "Embedded in the pilot is a nod to who we are and where we’ve come from.
"Everything about Dinner Guest is symbolic, from emulating the nostalgia of dining with loved ones, to eating food with cultural significance. Dinner Guest is all about connection, conversation and cultural immersion. The focus is on each other. No one ever addresses the camera, not even to introduce the program or the guest"
For the pilot, Narelda had "first dibs" on selecting their very first guest, picking RN Breakfast and ABC host Patricia Karvelas. To honour Patricia's Greek Heritage and her home of Melbourne, Narelda said Stamatia scouted the perfect Greek restaurant in Richmond, Salona, which was "eerily similar" to the vision board she had put together back in 2021.
"It had the perfect mix of amazing food, beautiful interiors and the warmth of family, being owned and run by three generations," Narelda said.
When it came to her co-hosts, Narelda said, "There was only ever one hosting team".
"I have long respected and admired Melissa Leong and Dr Susan Carland, who have so much to contribute to issues outside of their professional lives.
"Melissa and Susan were invested from the very first phone call. Their enthusiasm validated the idea. I will always remember the first time the three of us sat down for lunch along with Stamatia. The chemistry was electric.
"We laughed, cried and sang Happy Birthday! We have different lived experiences but a common humanity. There were many inspiring conversations in the months that followed to decide what we’d talk about for the pilot."
Highlighting the experiences and voices of marginalised women, Dinner Guest would be a one-of-a-kind series in Australia.
"Australians have so much to learn from each other, but only if we listen," Narelda added. "Dinner Guest is an invitation to eavesdrop on intimate and open conversations in the hope of understanding difference.
"The penny drops so many times in the pilot and Melissa, Susan, Patricia and I are happy for our lived experience to be your learning moment."
As for future guests, Narelda admitted that her wishlist is almost infinite.
"That is an unfair question but, okay if I have to name names! As a First Nations woman, I'd love to share a dinner table with Deborah Mailman, Tasma Walton, [and] Ash Barty.
"Between the three hosts, we will all be dining with people who are pushing the boundaries to create a better country for us all. I can't wait to see who Melissa and Susan invite to be their Dinner Guests."
Pilot Showcase premieres Monday, July 4. Free to stream exclusively on 10 play