Let’s go, rambling

Back in March Mumbrella and other media reported that Andrew Denton was quietly stepping away from Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder (CJZ), the company which formed when Cordell Jigsaw merged with Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films. Yesterday, finally, there was an official (and rather long) statement from CJZ on the matter:

Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder (CJZ) today announced the formal departure of Andrew Denton from the company. Cordell Jigsaw and Zapruder’s Other Films merged eighteen months ago bringing together two of Australia’s most eclectic and successful production companies.

After seeing the two companies successfully merge, Andrew has made a personal decision to move on from his television career and pursue other creative interests. He leaves CJZ with over a dozen shows on the production slate and an exciting range of content across most networks.

“When I started Zapruder’s Other Films 13 years ago, I never imagined I’d be leaving it as CJZ, Australia’s most active, locally-owned, independent production company,” said Denton.

…or that he’d be quoted as saying something that sounded like it’d been written by a media manager with a rod up their arse, presumably…

“In that spirit of delighted astonishment, I am selling my share of the company to Nick Murray and Michael Cordell and moving on to stir my creative juices outside of television, leaving behind something of which I am immensely proud.

“Having worked with Nick and Michael over the last year, and seen the two teams come together, I’m excited for the company’s future as a place for creative people to continue to flourish. The CJZ production slate will deliver some great television in coming years and they will always be the first port of call if television beckons again.”

That’s nice.

CJZ retains a first look deal with Andrew in the event he decides to move back into television.


Michael Cordell described Denton as one of Australia’s great creative spirits. “We’re sad to see Andrew go but his DNA will always remain embedded in CJZ. The proof of that will be a roll-out of great shows that take risks, excite and make a difference.”

We wonder what they are…?

Nick Murray says: “Andrew assembled a great team at ZOF and they are a key part of the merged CJZ team. The goal with the merger was to create a company greater than the sum of its parts and that’s proved the case.”


Since its establishment, Zapruder’s produced an enviable slate of original Australian developed and produced shows. Andrew reinvented TV interviewing with Enough Rope and Elders, helped Australia look at advertising and marketing in a new light with The Gruen Transfer/Planet, brought The Chaser to our screens with CNNNN and Election Chaser and mentored an enduring team of new talent with 3 series of Hungry Beast.

No mention of Randling, we note…

Says Denton: “The measures of success in our industry are ratings and awards and we have racked up our share of both. I take great pleasure from the fact that, every year of the last ten, Zapruders has supplied among the most-watched, locally made, programs on the ABC.

And Randling.

“My measure of success, however, is not something that can be as easily seen from the outside. To watch talented people grow under the Zapruder banner has been a reward that outstrips the more public ones.

Like being the face of Randling.

“In an industry that can be brutal, I consider it an achievement to have provided a nurturing environment for good people and ideas. It’s great to know that tradition continues at CJZ”

Plus crap ideas like Randling.

The 2012 merger with Cordell Jigsaw saw CJZ become the most active independent creator of original formats and content in Australia. Just last week the company announced the production of Wanted, a new prime-time format with the Ten Network. Shitsville Express will soon begin screening on ABC2 and the federal election incarnation of the Gruen franchise, Gruen Nation starts soon on ABC1.

Um, didn’t they say something about great shows that take risks, excite and make a difference earlier?

“It’s been a full-on 13 years,” said Andrew. “For the next little while at least, I am going to try my hand at being Australia’s most unlikely, least-laid-back, hippie.”

In case you didn’t pick up on this, Andrew Denton is kind of uptight.

“We’ve installed web cams throughout his house and will monitor his every move with interest,” says Cordell. “Maybe there’s even a show in it.”

This is a reference to the late 1990’s radio and TV competition House From Hell, a sort of forerunner of Big Brother, which Denton devised.

Murray just breathed a sigh of relief as the Denton imposed fatwah on Earl Grey tea rides into the sunset.

In joke?

Okay, snark aside, Andrew Denton has been a significant figure in Australian comedy and television, and this announcement suggests that he’s moving in to a sort of retirement. Most likely he’ll join the likes of Ita Buttrose and pop up from time to time, writing articles or appearing on things or dabbling in this ‘n’ that. At 53 he’s hardly an old man, and if he wants to make a come-back he will. What we probably won’t get is any more Denton-led TV projects, which given his recent history is fine by us.

The utter failure of Randling to do anything other than fill up a lot of airtime must surely have played a part in this decision. Denton’s made a lot of bland television before, but nothing that’s miss-fired as spectacularly as that. Say what you like about Enough Rope or Gruen, but they did what they needed to do: rate.

What will be missed is Denton’s proclivity to nurture future stars. He gave The Chaser and lots of others a leg-up, and even made three series of a show which gave people with potential a chance (Hungry Beast). That kind of thing is very rare in television, and few people in a position to get new talent on air seem interested in sticking their neck out to do so.

Overall, though, it’s hard to move away from the view that for all the fawning devotion Denton got from the industry, and anyone else who wanted to look cool, he’s a person whose success was as much built on hype as it was on making good shows. Legendary series like Blah Blah Blah and The Money or the Gun are hard to assess favourably with modern eyes as they were so much of their moment. And shows like David Tench Tonight were so unsuccessful it’s hard to believe they came from the same person.

What we’ll miss about Denton is that he at least came up in a time when TV would take risks, real risks, and thus he has a spirit of genuine risk-taking about him. What’s sad is that in his vale media release CJZ talks a lot about how it will keep taking risks, but in a way that suggests that the riskiest thing they plan to do is claim they’ll take some risks. The one thing you can say about Andrew Denton is that if he says he’ll take a risk, he probably will.

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