The Other WTF

Just as Charles Firth’s WTF was finishing on GO!, a new WTF started on Melbourne’s Channel 31 – With Tim Ferguson. Described on its website as “a reactionary Live TV show” and “shock-jock radio with pictures”, With Tim Ferguson is a part comic/part serious look at politics, current affairs and culture.

Much of the show is taken up by Ferguson giving his views on various issues, views which are often nuanced and unconventional. He’s neither on the left or the right, he’s somewhere in between. Or possibly on a different political spectrum entirely. Either way, he’s clearly got a bee in his bonnet about The Greens, sometimes giving them more of a drubbing than the politicians who are currently in office (or might soon to be depending on the results of the Victorian State Election).

With a stick of broccoli in one hand (Greens…geddit?), Ferguson makes gags about pretentious, pashmina-wearing, inner city, Prius-driving Greens voters, and follows them up with some more serious analysis of The Greens’ policies. Roughly summarised, his view is this: The Greens want to fundamentally change our way of life and we don’t want that. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he’s at least spent some time thinking them through – it’s more the cliched gags about pashminas that let him down.

Another feature of the show is the weekly theme, a theme which sometimes seems designed to annoy as many in the audience as possible. In episode one it was “satisfied Indian students”, although their presence seemed unlikely to rile the average Channel 31 viewer. A better bet was probably the “young monarchists” in episode two. And in particular one of their number, university student Timothy Maddocks, who Ferguson interviewed.

The intereview with Maddocks is on YouTube, should you wish to watch it, but the basic deal is that Maddocks claimed to have become a monarchist because a person he thought was “a berk” was a republican and he “just decided to be contrary”. (Oh, and he happened to have conservative political views already, so it probably wasn’t much of a stretch.) To be fair to Maddocks, he seems intelligent and probably has a serious basis for his view, but none of that really came across in the interview, which was riddled with muddled points and crap gags, which Ferguson over-indulged. Indeed, Ferguson ended the interview with…

Great to have you here Timothy, and good luck – and if you see him shake his hand because he is actually a rebel, not the spliff-rolling beanie wearers.

…so clearly anyone who’s going against the tide is going to float Fergo’s boat.

Also on the show are three regular “thinkers”, stand-up and journalist Fiona Scott-Norman, film producer Alan Finney, and Strictly Speaking judge and former Labor speech writer Michael Gurr. Fiona Scott-Norman’s contribution each week is a short, stand-up style monologue on various topical issues. Her jokes are OK but her delivery is pretty awkward, and after six shows she’s showing no signs of improvement. Alan Finney’s segment involves him reading out a synopsis for a possible new Australian film. The synopsis’ are usually a satire on something topical, and pretty wordy – too wordy to make a good monologue, really, particularly the way Finney delivers them. As for Michael Gurr, each week he plays a put-upon character in a two-hander with Ferguson. These sketches are weak – more odd than funny – and Gurr’s a bit of a ham actor (not in a good way, sadly).

All up, With Tim Ferguson is a kinda disappointing programme. As interesting as Tim Ferguson’s views are, he’s too preoccupied with a desire to shit-stir, and his attempt to create a hybrid of comedy, variety, current affairs and political discussion has just resulted in a messy half-hour of community television. Most disappointing is the comedy, especially when you consider Ferguson’s past success in this area. If as much thought went into the comedy as has gone into the politics, With Tim Ferguson would be a much better show.

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