So it took maybe ten minutes into 2018’s first episode of Gruen for someone to say “doing no advertising is silly” and fuck, how did that massive foot-shaped hole suddenly get in our television screen? And this was during a segment on the current banking royal commission, which – from our half-arsed reading of the news (thank god Have You Been Paying Attention is back May 14th) – is largely about just how bad aggressive selling of expensive, faulty, useless products to the general public is. Like advertising. You know advertising? That thing Gruen worships?
“I apologise for nothing” Wil Anderson said a few minutes later, and considering this is a show that takes clips out of context for cheap gags we’ve got nothing to apologise for either. That out-of-context-quote really sums up Gruen‘s approach: it’s a show that snuggles up tight to the beating heart of the worst excesses of capitalism and then tries to distract viewers by trying to throw every other aspect of capitalism under the bus. “Ha ha, we were only joking when we lauded corporations for treating you like idiots”.
This is a show that had an extended segment full of (not great) jokes about how shitty the banks are for selling people things they don’t need, then basically said “oh yeah, they’ve totally got to take out ads to manage this situation”. Far be it for us to tell a successful long-running ratings smash hit how to run their business, but this blog would be nothing but a lot of blank space if we didn’t: Gruen is not a show that should be tackling the banking royal commission in any way. Gruen is built on the idea that problems can be solved by image management; telling people who’ve been fucked over by the banks that the banks need to work on their image is the kind of thing only a really, really shitty show would do.
Of course, there’s a difference between advertising and marketing. They’re spelt differently for one thing. And while advertising is about selling people things, marketing is more about selling people a slightly less useful kind of thing. So when Gruen examines marketing, it’s not talking about people getting rich off selling useless junk to other people against their will, oh no. No. Nope. Not at all.
And as Gruen staggers into it’s, what, fifth decade?, it’s long since covered everything even remotely interesting about the business of advertising, because advertising is dull as fuck. So it waves its coke-clogged nose towards other, bigger social issues and views them through the totally different lens of marketing. But the job of marketing is to make problems go away (or at least, cover them up) by selling people an image you’ve created – and as Gruen as a show is pro-marketing (still waiting for anyone not working in advertising and marketing to appear on that panel), their take on social problems is “how can marketing solve these problems”. Let’s save you some time: it can’t.
Speaking of marketing, how about that opening of The Weekly where Charlie Pickering was standing up? And that new format where they put up a list of the topics they’ll be tackling so the excitement can build for upcoming jokes about “Coach Charged” and “Korean Buddies”? Though those Korean jokes were pretty much covered by everyone else close to a week ago. But this was a show that just showed a clip from breakfast television and figured adding “what an a-hole” at the end somehow made it prime time viewing; let’s not get too excited.
Remember when The Weekly used to get outraged about current affairs? Well, forget that: The Weekly is now a show that covers general issues like robotics and AI in a way that makes you wonder exactly why they bothered. Were there great jokes they had lined up? Was it a burning issue that had to be covered the first week back? Or was it just something one of the producers read a story about on Salon over the break and thought “we’ve got to warn everyone!” Because it was fucking pointless and we feel dumber for having watched it.
And then what – a segment on the history of GPS? Briggs would be turning in his grave if he was dead, which we’re not ruling out considering how little they gave him to do in the opening segment of this terrible show. Look, much as we dislike Gruen for all manner of reasons – even if you don’t give one single solitary shit about the “evils of capitalism”, as a panel show it’s kind of boring and Anderson’s interjections are pretty hit-and-miss – we respect it for having a point of view and sticking to it. It makes us feel something, even if that something is anger and disgust. It’s about something; it has a reason to exist.
The Weekly though, is now barely a show. The faux-outrage from Pickering that once gave it a semblance of life has faded away as all involved seem to have figured out going viral is no longer an option, but there’s nothing there to replace it. No real surprise there, as Pickering is a generic TV host first and not much else second, but as he’s on the air 70% of the time it is a problem that he’s become an empty suit with no distinguishing characteristics beyond a vague and completely unjustified smugness.
Well, it’s not a problem for Tom Gleeson and Kitty Flanagan, both of whom come out looking good next to Mr Nobody. Flanagan is still easily the funniest thing about this show, simply because she knows how to be funny; Gleeson, who mostly knows how to act like an annoying jerk and let context make people think he’s joking, at least has an act. And when Briggs returns in week, uh, seven(?) he’ll be a stand out too, because he actually has a personality that comes across on air.
Despite what the ABC promotions department seems to think, The Weekly team is not a tightly knit comedy family we love seeing back on air. If Mad as Hell can chop and change supporting cast members over the years, why can’t The Weekly get some new faces on? A lot of new faces? Like a whole new cast? And a new approach to comedy that involves trying to be funny? And a new title? And just be literally any other comedy show the ABC has on offer? Because we’d rather watch anything than this faintly moaning see-through ghostly fart of a show.