Back In The Ring To Take Another Swing

We’ve already explained where The Chaser got the name of their internet media award “The Schembri” – here, go take a look. Back? Okay, so in this week’s Age Green Guide Jim Schembri – who regularly reviews television there – handled the reviews for Wednesday October 26th. Wednesday, as we all know, is the day The Hamster Wheel airs, and sure enough, there was a review of The Hamster Wheel there. Only thing was, while every other show being reviewed for that Wednesday was reviewed by Schembri, The Hamster Wheel wasn’t. It was reviewed by Paul Kalina, and a nice warm positive review it was too. “More please”? Sure thing!

So what gives? Why didn’t Schembri get a chance to reply to The Chaser? Yeah, on the surface, it’s pretty obvious why: they didn’t want to stoop to playing The Chaser’s game. But who’s “they”? If you didn’t want Schembri to review The Hamster Wheel, why give him Wednesday as his review day? If you had to give him Wednesdays for whatever reason, why not just say “don’t review The Hamster Wheel” and let him do a full page of reviews as usual for The Green Guide? Why, in short, pointedly have him review shows on a Wednesday then get someone else in to review The Hamster Wheel unless you specifically wanted to highlight the fact that he’s not reviewing it?

[Perhaps he did write a review and it was edited out? Answers on the back of a postcard, please.]

This wouldn’t matter so much – though it must be a little awkward around the office for Schembri considering the supplement he works for gave a good review to a show that pointedly makes fun of him and his lack of credibility – if not for the fact that early in 2011 you couldn’t pick up The Age or The Green Guide without reading a glowing review of Laid, a show created and written by Marieke Hardy, former Green Guide columnist.

There’s no need to recap our seemingly endless whining on the topic – check out examples here, here and here. Suffice to say, it seems The Age and The Green Guide in particular have no problem whatsoever in taking a personal interest in a ABC show when it suits.  Seriously, one column was written by someone saying “Being a friend of Hardy’s…” without finishing that sentence with “… completely disqualifies me from writing about the quality of her show here”. So why is it okay to use the power of the press to help out one (former) employee, but seemingly not okay to use that same power to defend a (current) one?

Well for one, the Hardy coverage was positive; they were constantly talking up Laid across the board. But why does that make a difference to us, the readers? The Green Guide’s review pages were hopelessly compromised when they constantly praised a series made by a former staffer – it’s difficult to see how they’d be any more biased if they now attacked someone who was taking a swing at a current staffer.

It could be that they don’t want to draw any more attention to it – not that a small review in the Green Guide is in anyway comparable to coverage in a high-rating national television program. It could be that they don’t want to give The Chaser any more ammunition, but what ammunition could they possibly give considering Schembri’s name is already a punchline to an (obscure) joke about shoddy on-line media? Who’s to say Schembri – who’s described himself as “a long time Chaser fan” in the past – wouldn’t have given The Hamster Wheel a positive review? Maybe he enjoys being in on the fun?

Or perhaps they just wish the whole thing would go away. It’s hardly as if the actual story behind Schembri’s on-line antics showers him or The Age in glory. And with The Schembri award quietly dropped from this weeks Hamster Wheel (our guess is that it was crowded out by royal gags – though legal pressure from Schembri can’t be completely ruled out) perhaps they’ll get their wish.

What all this does serve to do is highlight the intertwined nature of television and the people who write about it in this country, and how that makes getting solid, unbiased coverage of television increasingly difficult to find in the mainstream press (hey, don’t expect it here either). Oh, and it also highlights how tough it must be being Jim Schembri around The Age:

The Hamster Wheel is one of [The Chasers] best outings yet” – The Green Guide.

“[The Chaser’s] satiric takedowns are excellent” – The Green Guide

The Schembri winner in episode 2 of The Hamster Wheel: a story about someone farting on live television.

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