What is there left to say about the Gruen series of programs that we haven’t already groaned out while lying on the floor of a grimy pub toilet splattered in our own vomit? You all know the drill: we complain that they’re nothing but advertising for the very idea of advertising presented by a comedy knob fronting a panel largely comprised of sweaty advertising shills and soulless mercenaries that’s then edited into near-incoherency with a side serve of audience cutaways to convince you that somewhere someone remotely human found this crap funny. And then it rates its pants off.
Clearly they’re doing something right. The old adage about no-one ever going broke underestimating the intelligence of the average viewer comes to mind. Because Gruen in all it’s forms is truly shithouse television on every single level. It’s not informative, unless you find the news that advertising and promotion drives many big public events surprising – which, considering said big public events are literally covered with advertising, would suggest you haven’t really been paying attention to said big public events. In which case why do you even care how they’re funded?
The “insights” Gruen offers into the world of advertising and public relations can pretty much be boiled down to one line: “advertising works”. That’s because the show is a willing hostage of the advertising industry. Imagine a series about the wonderful world of petrochemicals where the solution to every single energy problem was “use more petrol!”: that’s the relationship Gruen has with advertising. The idea that advertising could be bad, or that shutting the fuck up rather than ceaselessly trying to promote everything all the time could be the way to go, never gets a look in.
So the panel ends up largely trying to defeat each other in a game of “who’s the biggest fucknuckle”. There’s no real debate going on, just various ad types pitching their various different approaches to an advertising dilemma because THAT’S ALL THEY KNOW HOW TO DO. We’re not saying a show about advertising should end every segment with someone shouting “Fuck advertising” – that’s the job of the viewer at home – but for a show whose defenders are always talking up its supposed intelligence, the fact that every single issue they discuss always ends up being solved by more / different kinds of advertising kind of suggests a limited intellectual range. Not to mention it’s really, really, really boring.
Here’s an idea: why not get the people who hire the people on Gruen to come in and talk about advertising? Oh, that’s right, they don’t like to talk about the fact the people on Gruen are basically contractors hired by companies to to their bidding. Advertising isn’t really a field where creative giants bestride the Earth hurling down thunderbolts of genius; rather, they pitch ideas to faceless corporate types who pick and choose depending on what they think suits their business best. Because that’s how advertising actually works. And if Gruen isn’t about how advertising actually works, what good is it?
[remember on Get This when they’d make endless yet never not funny jokes about “idea mining” and “blue sky sessions” and “sizzle” and “cut through” and all that crap? That’s how advertising is made. And yet oddly, for a show that supposedly lifts the lid on the world of advertising, the fact that lots and lots of ads are made by smug hateful douchebags so oily they leave snail trails everywhere they go never seems to rate a mention]
As far as entertainment goes, we did already mention “boring”, right? Let’s throw “repetitive” in there as well. Sure, Gruen has expanded its scope to cover pretty much everything that takes place in any form of media (in what was basically a confession that the show is just the same thing over and over again – otherwise why would they need to broaden their scope?), but again – we did mention “repetitive”, right? – all that’s happening is you get the exact same perspective on events over and over again. What’s that? Advertising solves everything? Wow. And that’s the deep stuff: half the fucking show is them just identifying advertising! “See those giant words on the side of that building? That’s advertising!” [audience gasps in astonishment].
With Gruen Planet done for 2012 – oh yeah, that’s why we’re talking about it now – it’ll be interesting to see how the 2013 version copes with the departure of Russel Howcroft now that he’s going to be Executive General Manager of rival network Ten. Oh wait, who are we kidding? Gruen isn’t going to let a little thing like a conflict of interest so big it can be seen from orbit – even when you’re orbiting fucking Mars – get in the way of their little circle jerk.
This is a show, lets not forget, that not only shows commercials on the “commercial-free” ABC but is basically one giant commercial for the very idea of advertising. Who cares if their good buddy Howcroft now literally works for their direct competitor; everyone on this Godforsaken show from episode one has been working for a rival network. They work in advertising; other networks run ads. If the idea of running ads on the ABC came up for a vote, do you seriously think any of these guys would vote no? Do they look like guys who don’t like making money to you?
In case you think we must be joking – after all, there’s no way the ABC would let the General Manager of a rival network appear as a regular on one of their shows, let alone a show that supports and promotes the lifeblood of his rival business – check this display of abject grovelling out. Oh, and to answer the question you’ll come away asking, the “reason” the ABC can’t quite figure out is “Ten won’t allow their newly-appointed General Manager to appear as a regular on a top-rating show on a rival network. Because they’re not fucking stupid.”:
Ten has not officially revealed whether Howcroft will continue in his on-air roles on the ABC’s Gruen programs, hosted by Wil Anderson and produced by Andrew Denton’s production company, Zapruder’s Other Films.
However, an ABC spokesperson has indicated that all signs are positive that Howcroft will remain with the program.
“He is with us for this series, which finishes in October, and while we haven’t confirmed the line-up for next year our understanding is there is no reason to think he won’t be able to continue with us.”
It is, without a sliver of reservation or a moments hesitation, a complete and perfectly formed five star fucking disgrace.