Firstly, what the hell is this show?
I mean, there’s creating a new format for a show, then there’s just cooking up a giant mishmash of genres.
Coming in to the show, I imagined the show as being made up of long-form debates which drew upon various moral and ethical dilemmas… but that only turned out to be a small part of the show.
I was also hoping the show would adopt a serious edge to approaching these issues.
Instead, when I turned on, I saw people talking in a game-show/chat-show hybrid format featuring a whole range of issues.
So where can I start with the format? It was just awful, awful, awful.
First of all, there was the “Wrong-O-Meter”, which only managed to trivialise a whole range of issues by making little buttons out of them (Kennett’s Golliwogs, anyone?), while also giving the show a certain tacky cheapness which can only be passed off as kitschy on one show and one show only: Spicks and Specks.
And pardon me if I’m missing something, but isn’t one of the briefs of the show not to sit on the fence? And isn’t the “Wrong-O-Meter” asking for a specific shade of grey? Sorry, when does “A Bit Wrong” not constitute sitting on the fence?
Then there was the first “worm” (sorry to nitpick, but shouldn’t it be the first “Can”? Nevermind…), “Is it Offensive to Call Someone a Bogan?”. And while it may seem to be a decent-enough question, it’s hardly the most pressing question facing our nation, is it? And even if you take that as read, who even cares all that much about the word “bogan” to argue either way?
Guests were thrown question after question after question, drawing on all manner of topics from “relationships”, “sex” (there goes the “family friendly” appeal) and “gender” in the “Moral Minefield” segment.
Then there was another segment (I didn’t catch its name… because I didn’t care), but it involved a board and some words. In this case it was whether some young people terms were “Danger Danger” or “Fine by Me” when it came to kids’ activity online. But the problem was, the terms ranged from the bizarre in “Smut Mining” and “Brick Juicing” to the bleedingly obvious “Backdooring” and “Grooming”.
And after they were all sorted into their groups (not at all seriously, I might add- “Backdooring” was placed in “Fine by Me…”), the results were revealed by Dicko. But everyone had stopped caring long ago about the show, including the guests.
And speaking of the guests… what can you say, really? Yes, they were all probably crapping themselves before they came onto set, given that it’s a new show and all, but none of them said anything that was all that memorable, or anything that made the show in its first week.
Craig Reucassel was probably the best value, and was good when it came to the funny bits, but his instinct is to be funny all the time, not debate semi-serious issues. And he cracked some great gags, the type you’d expect to see on the Chaser’s War on Everything. And speaking of that show, I couldn’t help but think Ten would be better off just giving the Chaser their own show (surely they’d all be up for it now, especially since they’ve all appeared on commercial TV shows).
George McEncroe got the role of “only female guest” (if you exclude Meshel Laurie’s regular gig), and was OK- she’s intelligent but looked unsure of how to roll with the format. This was evident at the end of the show when Dicko asked what they’ve learned from the show… yet another pointless element to the show, not to mention a useless excercise- George offered up a weak line; “I wish I was being raised in Craig’s joint…”, then looked immediately at Aker for his answer- a classic sign that someone is uncomfortable.
Meshel Laurie, while not a “guest” as such, was one of the better parts of the show, and will hopefully get even better. However, she needs to have a better defined role- is she a co-host or a Wheel of Fortune letter girl?
But who knows what the guests were told before they walked on set- be funny, or be honest? Because we all know it’s pretty hard to do both, unless you’re as gifted a comedian as, say Louis CK, to draw on a particularly random example*.
And unfortunately for the two guest comedians, they ain’t no Louis CK, so the show’s shifting tone – or lack thereof- left them uncomfortable. This was also a problem that The 7PM Project encountered in its embryonic stages- comedians such as Dave Hughes were suddenly forced to pass serious opinions on serious topics on live TV- leaving Dave Hughes, and more significantly the viewer, squirming.
Unlike Good News Week, this show doesn’t afford comedians the liberty of being able to crack dick jokes every opportunity they can, so there’s no safety blanket.
So, for the sake of all involved, the show needs to settle on its tone.
I knew that “Aker” would be a problem, but I guess that it’s a compliment to say that he wasn’t the worst part of the show, nor was he worse than I thought he would be.
But then again, he was pretty damn shocking- not funny, but not at all eloquent and just bordering on pathetically earnest.
When he was presented with the term “Brick-juicing”.
He said; “(something indecipherable) juice a brick? I’m not gonna drink that shit!”
He also said “I’ve got two (daughters), that’s fine by me”… when he was presented with the term “backdooring”. First of all… WHAT?! Second of all… WHAT?!
I don’t know if there is any point picking it apart… because it’s just so, so wrong on so many levels, but why stop now? First of all, both of his daughters are under 18, so there’s that. Secondly, he’s saying that because they’re girls, that “backdooring” is OK? As in, it wouldn’t be permissible if they were male? As in… well, you know the rest.
Just. Get. Off. My. Screen.
OK, so that may be a little harsh. And when it came to the next segment it was clear that the show could be worthwile… but it was just executed so strangely. For example, Aker was asked about when he was bullied at school. And it allowed the guests to talk about the issue of teen suicide. However, when Aker opens up by saying suicide is “selfish”… it just made me cringe in all the wrong ways.
I mean, I get where he’s coming from, and I’m guessing this is the exact thing that Denton got him on the show for, and though I’m not a psychologist, I’m guessing the last thing someone who is being teased at school and being called negative words, the last thing they want to hear is that on top of all that, they’re “selfish” for contemplating something so horrible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong here!)
But even if the discussion about suicide was valid (and most of the time it is- the more we talk about such issues, the more we can understand it, usually), it was in stark contrast to most other aspects of the show.
Only a segment before, they were having a knee-slapping laff-fest over words such as “poke”. OHOHO, “poke” can also mean sex! See you after the break, where we’ll talk about bullying and suicide.
And now for the all-important host… Dicko. His autocue reading was not as wooden as, say, Andrew Bolt, but it wasn’t anywhere near natural enough to convince me he could carry this show past week one.
Then there were all manner of unnecessary parts, but where to start… again?
Throughout the show, the audience gave their opinion as to whether they agreed with the guests or not, making the guests seem like they were just debating for the approval of the audience. It also shifted the focus of the show from “What do you think about this issue- be honest, now” to “Does the rest of Australia agree with your opinion? You better hope they bloody do…”
Then there was a Chaser-style segment with Dan Ilic, who went out on the street armed with a clip-board and asked people if they wanted to monitor their child’s internet activity… or something to that effect. Presumably it was meant to prove some sort of point, but to me it just seemed to be an awkward effort to shoe-horn Ilic into the show. Why not just have him as one of the guests and cut out the segment altogether?
Many have also likened the “Can of Worms National Poll” graphics to Hungry Beast’s flashy graphics. I don’t really have a problem with that segment as such, but, as on Hungry Beast, it just seems to be a desperate, “show-boaty” time-filler.
At the end of the show, Dicko also has to crown, or award one of the guests with a shitty little medal (and not an ironically crappy one, like on Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, but a real, last-minute, “Hey, let’s make this show EVEN BETTER by saying someone debated better than other people!!” medal).
And it was indicative of the show’s bad start that it gave the award to “Aker”… and just for “opening up”- surely that’s the bare minimum for a show like this.
I know that it’s not the point of the show, but wouldn’t you find it far more interesting if the guests were asked “curly” questions which actually pertained to their own careers or lives?
For example, why not ask a question about gay footballers, and use it as an opportunity to grill Aker on why he has the views that he does. At least then there could be some interaction between the guests and some bloody debate. If they wanted to, they could even open it up to the broader theme of “coming out” in today’s society.
Why not ask Craig Reucassel about whether the Chaser’s APEC stunt was horribly dangerous, or a necessary prank to expose security flaws/hypocrisy/whatever they were trying to prove. Yes, it would be dredging up old news, but it would be a darn-sight more interesting that the inconsequential crap we were presented with tonight. And again, open that up as a broader topic; “Can jokes go too far?” “Is there a ‘line’ when it comes to comedy?” Hell, isn’t that the very thing they promised in the ads, what with the whole wearing a “Hitler outfit” to a party? Surely that would at least relate better to the Chaser’s style of comedy that anything else they asked tonight. I’m sure even Andrew Hansen dressed up as Hitler for a prank… So what they hell were the people behind this show thinking?
And isn’t that what Andrew Denton spent all of “Enough Rope” trying to tell us? “Everyone has a story?” This seems the exact antithesis to that; who cares what you’ve done in your life, just bloody open your mouth and blabber about “rasterbating”.
The show is in desperate trouble of becoming a massive flop. At the moment it’s all over the place, with an awkward host, squirming guests and shamefully irrelevant segments.
It also needs to sort out its focus – the worst thing a new show can be is cluttered and unsure of itself. To have a show range from dirty humour to the morbidly serious to game-show wackiness is just plain confusing to new viewers… which is everyone, at this stage. Maybe if the show goes on, they can branch out and try new segments, but for now, they need to narrow their focus and their aspirations.
But in saying all that, it’s got potential; let’s hope it can smarten up quickly…
What did you think of the show? Did you see it as just a fun show, or did you find it too chaotic to make head or tail of anything?
*Louis CK would just a perfect candidate for the show- controversial, yet intelligent and screamingly funny. He also cares about stuff– and believes in what he says. Does Australia even have one of those? Any suggestions?
Another month, another “Zapruder’s Other Films” program premieres.
In recent times, Andrew Denton and Anita Jacoby’s production company has churned out shows including Hungry Beast, AFP, The Gruen Transfer and Gruen Nation, all to varying degrees of success.
On the whole, there is a consensus that shows that they formulate are new and inventive, if nothing else. Before their respective premieres, they are also shrouded in secrecy, with man of the key talent kept under wraps, as well as the format, premise and general feel of the show.
This is one of the reasons why it is difficult to predict the success of the show. Their policy of secrecy is a double-edged sword, as obviously not knowing anything about the show builds up a sort of mystique, and of course builds the curiosity factor. It also encourages people to watch the show for the central premise, rather than fob it off after seeing a personality one dislikes on the promo (Dicko is nowhere to be seen on the talking-head promos, despite the fact that he is the host).
On the other hand, the vague “Australia, we need to talk” tagline is not quite explicit enough for some people to feel an urge to tune in.
The “talking heads” that appear to discuss various issues which touch on “porn”, religion and the internet. So its clear that we’re in line for some modern, frank discussion. Presumably there is a newfound market for this kind of discussion, what with these type of discussions being brought up frequently on Q and A.
Obviously the show wants “Australia” to start talking. It wants families to start these type of discussions in their own house. This will create further word-of-mouth between friends, etc. etc.
Whether the show is aiming to set the agenda on new issues or rather react to issues in the news is unknown.
So, what do we know we can expect?
Read on to find out…