So The Gruen Transfer returned last night. We should have been paying attention, but we were too busy getting some actual laughs from this:
THE producer of hit series The Gruen Transfer, which returns to the ABC this week, has engaged lawyers over what appears to be another plagiarism case featuring a British broadcaster.
British government-owned TV broadcaster Channel Four has commissioned a pilot for The Mad Bad Ad Show, a panel show hosted by comedians Micky Flanagan and Mark Watson and with panellists from the advertising industry.
Media understands the producers of The Gruen Transfer, Zapruder’s Other Films’ Andrew Denton, Anita Jacoby and Jon Casimir, are extremely annoyed with the development, particularly as its format has been pitched at global TV markets and a pilot was made for BBC3 in 2009.
Because when we think of the advertising industry and all who sail in her, we certainly don’t think of a business packed to the rafters with thieving hacks happy to shamelessly rip off everything in sight – movies, television shows, actual sketches from sketch comedy shows – in order to make a buck while giving nothing but a raised finger back to the people who actually put in the hard work to come up with the original idea. Oh no no no no. Not advertising. They’re “creatives”. And make no mistake, adding panel discussion to an episode of The World’s Wackiest Commercials is a creative act. Just ask the Gruen panel.
Actually, while we’re here, one of the many reasons to loathe the growing Gruen stable of shows was once again underlined last night: it’s smug. It’s a show that congratulates you for being too smart to be sucked in by advertising. Ignore the fact that everyone knows advertising works best on people who aren’t wary of it – whether they don’t notice it or think it has no effect on them, it doesn’t matter – which kinda makes the entire show one big ad for advertising. And they say it doesn’t breach guidelines for advertising on the ABC.
Here’s another fun fact: if you’re focusing on the creative side of things – if you’re making a show that supposedly discusses the creative side of advertising alongside how it works – then advertising not only isn’t special, it’s a collection of third-rate knock-offs. Why not talk about short films, or music videos, or movie trailers? They’re at least as creative and interesting as advertising. And they’re not always desperately trying to sell us crap.
Some ads are interesting or funny: a once a year special pretty much takes care of those. Gruen is a show that sets out to praise and elevate an industry roughly equivalent to door-to-door salespeople and Indian call-centers that ring your house at dinner time. If you’re looking to create actual comedy out of such a business, you hire actual comedians and people outside the business to mock and ridicule these annoying, pointless wastes of our time and other people’s money. If you’re looking for real insight into how it works, you hire academics and other concerned outsiders whose job it is to not only figure out how advertising works, but to explain why advertising itself is at best a mixed blessing and at worst a corrupting force that reduces all human interaction down to the level of “givvus a buck”.
As for what you don’t do… well, you don’t bring on board a bunch of back-slapping glad-handers who go out of their way to ensure the solution to every single problem raised on the show is “spend more money on advertising”. Unless you want a hit ABC show, of course.
I had the misfortune of leaving the TV on waiting for Judith Lucy to come on last night, and gee, I’d forgotten why I hate such a bunch of smug pricks promoting their own industry with big backslaps all around. The answer to everything, of course, is more advertising.
It also sounded like they had the nitrous-fueled audience of Phoniest Home Videos in as well, with the amount of pushbutton stock laughter going on
Smug is the word, and your worlds-wackiest-commercials-with-a-panel-discussion line pretty much sums up the format. I tried to sit through a couple of episodes of the first season as I expected some real analysis, or maybe even some criticism, of advertising. Instead I got an hour of fluff and barely disguised positive PR for the advertising industry. They’ve effectively given a friendly face to a bunch of powerful media mercenaries who will obfuscate and lie about almost any issue, for anyone, if they stump up the required sacks of dollars.
Gruen’s justification in large part seems to be that, because advertising is everywhere, we should take a long, loving look at it. I look forward to Denton producing a show on dogshit for exactly the same reason.