War On Everything

While there are many reasons why Sal and I moved over to this supposedly sunny side of the world, we certainly didn’t do it for the quality of Aussie telly. As we’re increasingly discovering during these long, dark, wintery nights, Australian TV is, for the most part, pretty rubbish.

Not that they can’t make decent shows over here–the first series of Underbelly, for example, is testament to what local talent can do given enough money and network support (and incidentally it looks like some gunmen were out on the mean streets of Ascot Vale–which is to all intents and purposes where we live–writing a new chapter in that particular grisly story yesterday afternoon…)

Sadly, quality original drama like that is somewhat thin on the ground. Hardly surprising in a country with such a small population, where even a wildly popular show on the commercial networks might be seen by just a million people. The advertising revenue clearly isn’t enough to sustain the big budgets we’ve been used to back home, and so the schedules are mostly filled instead with cheap, imported tat, usually from the US or the UK. Channel 9 might have been the network behind the aforementioned Underbelly, but the rest of the time it subsists on a diet of Two and a Half Men and Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire? Which is Not Good, of course.

This does mean, however, that every time a Boy with an Arse for his Face-esque documentary comes on one of the local channels, Sal and I get to play the fun game for all the family: “guess which UK terrestrial network produced this piece of rubbish” (and then we have to wait for the credits to find out). The day that I can no longer pick between Channel 5 and BBC 2 will truly be the day that I have finally lost touch with British popular culture…

It’s also interesting how some of the cheap local programming makes shows I wouldn’t normally go near back home look like TV masterpieces. So poor an interviewer, for example, is Rove McManus, the host of the TFI Friday-meets-Jonathan Ross shambles that is Rove, Channel 10’s Sunday night talkshow, that when we stumbled across The Graham Norton Show–something I haven’t watched since I was at uni–one evening the other week, it suddenly seemed as if our Graham had become the world’s greatest presenter and interviewer. Oh dear Australia: what have you done to me?

The one beacon of light is the government-run ABC, who do some great news, current affairs, and comedy, despite having no licence fee and consequentially a minuscule budget. This year we’ve already enjoyed The Gruen Transfer, a discussion show about advertising, the hilarious Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure, the dependable music quiz show Spicks and Specks, The Hollowman, a sort of Australian Thick of It, and most recently The Chaser’s War On Everything, a satirical comedy show that returned a couple of weeks ago only to be yanked off the air following our very own local Sachs-gate affair–this time it was over an ill-judged sketch depicting the “Make A Realistic Wish” foundation (“why bother spending money on terminally ill kids when they’re only going to die anyway…”) Which is a shame–the sketch itself wasn’t particularly funny, but as someone who actually watched the show when it was broadcast (unlike, I suspect, most of the outraged voices in the media…) I don’t think it was worthy of the outrage it sparked. Even Kevin Rudd weighed in on the debate–admitting at the same time that he hadn’t actually seen it. I can’t help thinking that he might have better things to do, though, like, um running the country…

Still, all of this makes me realise–as if I didn’t already know it–just how good the BBC is. People of the UK: next time someone in the Daily Mail is complaining about “TV Fakery” or using some other hypocritical stick to beat Auntie with, tell them where to go from me, OK? Thanks…