Gonna Make Ya Sweat ‘Till Ya Bleed

What’s that you say? The Olympics is nothing but a massive marketing exercise thinly disguised as a sporting event? SAY WHAAAAAAAAAAAohfuckoff. Yes, once again the smug arseholes behind and in front of the camera at the Gruen sweatshop are back to tell us the fucking obvious – and just to warn you up front, this post is going to be a bit sweary because Gruen is just that kind of show. That is to say, fuckin’ shithouse.

Once upon a time, the Olympics meant great comedy like The Games. Then it meant a few decent laughs like The Dream. Now it means a bunch of advertising fat cats sitting around patting each other on the back at how much money their industry is making from the Olympics. So yeah, you probably could call us a little bitter. Though not nearly as bitter as we should be.

With Gruen‘s obsession with letting us know the tricks of the trade, here’s one they seem to have missed: you know you’re watching a shitty “comedy” show when not only do they have an audience laughing away to let you know it’s funny, they actually cut away to show you the audience laughing just in case hearing them laugh wasn’t enough to get you kaking your daks at home. And fuck, does Gruen love cutting away to a hysterically laughing / recoiling in mock horror audience.

Everything they have to say here is old news, because in the run up to the Olympics there’s no news to cover aside from “isn’t it crazieee the lengths the IOC will go to in their efforts to protect the Olympics brand? Huh? Huh?” So if you read a newspaper, watch the news or use the internet – you know, like everyone who’s the kind of person who’d watch a Gruen show does – you already know all this stuff. And the show actually admits that all these issues are already being covered by regular media. So why the fuck are we supposed to be watching this again?

Maybe it’s the insights into advertising? One of the Ad Hack panel members revealed that “There is this wonderful curve every four years where you know ad spends are going to go up… it’s great for business.” Clearly not the business of keeping viewers awake. Shit, can’t the smug advertising sods on the panel utter two sentences without smirking at how rich every single thing discussed on the show is going to make them? You just know Denton is itching to do a special on the mining industry just so he can have Gina Rinehart on the panel counting money in front of the audience.

This insufferable smugness wouldn’t be a problem if the show was funny. Yeah, you know where we’re going with this. When Wil Anderson says after they’ve played a quote from Sebastien Coe “I didn’t hear a word he said, he’s so dreamy”, it’s not a joke. It’s not anything. It’s just a line to justify Anderson’s presence. And when he describes the IOC’s refusal to allow advertising inside the stadium as “it’s like they’re a prostitute that won’t kiss on the lips”, it sounds like a good line until you actually think for a single second about what he’s just said, at which point it just feels kind of creepy. Here’s a clue why: Anderson makes it sound like having some kind of limit is a bad thing.

Actually, that’s pretty much the case with everything that happens on Gruen: it all seems to make sense right up until the second you actually pay attention to what’s being said. For example, towards the end of episode one Anderson out of nowhere looks into the camera and says  “Gruen Sweat: a little bit of decadence you can have every day” What does this mean? Sure, they are identifiable words in a seemingly grammatically correct order, but what does it actually mean? If it’s a parody of an advertising slogan, where’s the joke?

Even when they do make actual identifiable jokes they fuck it up: you know that Zoo Magazine cover where Australian Olympic shooter Lauryn Mark is standing there in her bathers holding a gun? You know, the one Mad as Hell made a “you can’t show swimmers with shooters, but you can show shooters in swimmers”  joke about last week? Yeah, Gruen made the same joke this week. Insert your own “but isn’t advertising all about repeating the same thing over and over and over” joke here. And again here.

They’re even repeating jokes within the fucking show. After showing a clip involving a swimmer spriuking some food or another, Anderson made some comment about the swimmer jumping into the pool directly after eating and drowning. Only less funny than that. Then during the panel discussion one of the Ad Hacks said “It’s kind of surprising the mum didn’t say wait twenty minutes before you go in”. Cue Anderson sneeringly saying “Uh, that’s kind of the joke I made before”. Cut to everyone in the studio laughing loudly at this hilarious blunder while everyone at home goes “what, we’re calling the dud sentences that clunk from Anderson’s mouth jokes now? And then telling them twice?”

[more importantly, considering the rapid-fire, way-too-obvious, mood-mangling editing that takes place throughout Gruen – and for that matter, Denton’s other show Randling, which was no-fucking-joke asking questions about paint chart colours this week – if they were worried about doubling up on jokes they could have easily cut it out. That’s right: Gruen is a show that actually thinks having people make the same joke twice is worth your time]

As for the non-hilarious content, it doesn’t take long for it to become clear that pretty much all the horrific excesses being mocked here are actually all the fault of the advertising industry. The major sponsors have to go flat out making people’s lives a living hell to prevent all the other companies that aren’t major sponsors from sneaking in and getting a free ride advertising their crap. Gruen‘s response to the mess advertising is making of people’s daily lives? “Isn’t that interesting”.

It’s not. It’s boring and unpleasant and excessive and hateful and all manner of other negative terms, which in the hands of an even halfway competent comedy team would be a gold mine. But Gruen isn’t about comedy. It’s not even about informing you about advertising; seriously folks, advertising likes to think it’s amazingly complex and subtle but after 50-plus episodes even a show as shit-fumblingly kak-handed as this one has pretty much covered it.

Gruen is all about selling you the idea that you’re too smart to be sucked in by advertising. Of course you’re too smart; you’re watching a show that lets you in on advertising’s secrets, aren’t you? No matter that the “secrets” being revealed are basically “advertising is everywhere”, which even non-Gruen viewers may have already picked up on. No matter that the show is basically a showcase for how awesome the advertising industry is – look, it’s even willing to poke fun at itself! No matter that it’s a proven fact that advertising works best on people who aren’t suspicious of it, and the easiest way to make people let down their guard around advertising is by making them think they’re too smart to be sucked in.

Here’s the real story: you’re not too smart and you are being sucked in. If the ABC board had the slightest respect for their charter this crap would be pulled off the air for violating the “no advertising” line because this is nothing but an ad for how great advertising is. As for those of us who think advertising is a soul-destroying cancer eating at what remains of the heart of the artistic impulse in our society and therefore deserves nothing but our scorn and contempt, we’ll be over here watching old episodes of World’s Wackiest Commercials. At least that shit was worth laughing at.

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  • Daniel G says:

    Regarding Wil saying “Gruen Sweat: a little bit of decadence you can have every day” (7th paragraph): it’s this fucking irritating thing Wil’s been doing ever since the Gruen shows began. He usually says at the end of each segment, “The Gruen Transfer: [insert some other product’s slogan here].” I think the example you cited was for Imperial Leather soap?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    So it’s off-handedly pointing out the stupidity of advertising slogans to an audience (ABC viewers) you’d assume aren’t intimately familiar with advertising slogans? Just when it seemed the show couldn’t get any more smug.

  • Billy C says:

    I’m thinking of starting a tumbler that logs all of the sexual references on Gruen. Anderson seems to have an ability to make anything about sex regardless of what he is talking about. The jokes are always incredibly lame. The Glasshouse was the same. For someone who is actually not a bad stand-up he really lets himself down on a weekly basis.

  • EvilCommieDictator says:

    On an ABC after program voice-over:
    “The advertising industry comes under scrutiny with the return of Gruen”

    The most limp lettuce like scrutiny by some of the most evil people in the planet, hosted by the most gormless smug puppet ever to wield a puppet human body under which espouses the destruction of the human race
    (haha. Yes, WIll Anderson’s hair)

  • Baudolino says:

    No human being could fail to be intimately familar with advertising slogans in our contemporary milieu. Gruen can be forgiven for what is a fairly basic bit of presumed knowledge.

    The mock-advertising slogans are tags at the end of each segment designed to segue in to the next portion of the show. Premise-wise there’s nothing wrong with the gambit of parodying advertising slogans – on CNNNN the Chaser made similar, albeit more successful, gags which mocked network news taglines (“CNNNN: We Report, You Believe”) – but I agree that nonetheless it doesn’t work on Gruen. Clumsy and not tonally consistent with the rest of the show is the way I would describe it. Structuring the joke as Daniel G mentioned – i.e. “The Gruen Transfer: [insert some other product’s slogan here]” – creates a problem because it erroneously implies that The Gruen Transfer is a satire of the advertising industry, when obviously it is not deriving its humour from satire, but from sardonic wit/whatever from panel members (allegedly). The lurch from the banter and panel discussion that dominates most of the show to a SCRIPTED IN CAPITAL LETTERS satirical advertising slogan always feels jarring, as if two different shows are being glued together.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Normally I’d agree that Gruen should be let off the hook with their appropriation of ad slogans as “fair enough” – but as you point out, it has nothing to do with the rest of the show or its approach to its “comedy”.

    In theory this kind of thing would work if they used “Gruen” as a fake generic product to show how advertising works – like the way (caution; ancient reference ahead) Australia; You’re Standing In It used “chunky custard” for a bunch of fake ads. But again, Gruen doesn’t do this.

    Basically, as it lurches from panel banter to laughing at ads to creating their own fake ads to advertising news the whole show seems to be thrown together by people who recognise the kinds of things a comedy show should have, but have no idea of why those things might (or might not) work.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Here’s an ad slogan Wil might want to remember: “Brylcreem: a little dab’ll do ya”

  • Andore Jr says:

    Wil Anderson oh christ what a smug, ‘how-did-i-get-here-look-on-my-face’ prick.
    Figurehead of choice for a whole generation of smug little smarmy hipsters who ‘can’t be sucked in to the machine, man’, because they’re on to you fat-cats.