Diamonds in the Mud or Turds In The Bowl: A Nation Decides

What to make of this?

Australians love sport, and one of our favourite sports is the grand old game of ”Slagging Off Australian Television”. The beauty of this sport is that it’s cheap, easy and can be played by anyone – all you need is a television set and a certain smug sense of superiority. And in this day and age, you don’t really need the first one.

So saying Australian television is bad requires “a certain smug sense of superiority”? And not just, say, one functioning eyeball?

Pobjie goes on to qualify his opening to such an extent that we seriously wondered why he bothered with the opening at all. Just kidding! Newspaper pages don’t just fill themselves, especially when you have nothing to say, and so over the years Pobjie has become fairly good at almost saying one thing then qualifying it out of existence before anyone got the impression he might have an actual opinion on something.

But today he does! And unsurprisingly, it’s that local television, by and large, is ace.

But every now and then, in the midst of the enjoyable schadenfreude of ripping into Australian TV, we should take a moment to recognise that we actually have some damn talented folk in this country, doing damn fine work. As great as stunning locations and spectacular effects are, great television can always be made on a shoestring when you have great writers and great actors on the case. And Australia doesn’t lack those.

It just doesn’t give them television shows. But don’t worry, another series of House Husbands is just around the corner!

The real question here is what inspired this sudden rush to defend the helpless, pitiful Australian television industry – which last time we looked only had a half-dozen or so awards devoted to telling us how great it is, including one “night of nights” – from what the kids call “da haterz”. After all, he says this-

So, as much as I enjoy joining the dogpile on the woeful state of our TV industry, let’s not let the brilliance under our noses go unnoticed.

-prompting us to go boil the jug, make a nice strong cup of tea, take a hefty swig from the cup once it’s cooled down, then spit-take it all over the place because Pobjie’s idea of dogpiling on the local industry is suggesting that maybe Masterchef has lost its way a little.

But where exactly is this dogpile? It’s certainly not amongst Pobjie’s peers in the print media, where praising every single Aussie production to the high heavens is a basic job requirement. Maybe he overheard someone calling Laid “not very good” on the bus and thought “this insult WILL NOT STAND!!” *furiously types out insipid column*

Seriously, we have zero problem with Pobjie hilariously claiming that Wentworth and Redfern Now are our world-beating dramas, nor that It’s A Date and Legally Brown are our first-rate comedies. He’s wrong of course, but he’s expressing an opinion that his readers can agree or disagree with. Which is his job.

What isn’t his job is talking up the Australian television industry, as we already have an entire business to do that. It’s called PR, and the many people who work in it are very well paid. Their job is to lie to the public… uh, we mean get out the good word about how great every single show made in Australia is. They take out ads, they wine and dine TV writers, they trade media access for positive coverage, and so on. And they’re just doing their job too.

So when one of the few television columnists in the print media – one of the very few who doesn’t have to fill his space with positive puff pieces about upcoming dreck or near-moronic actors taking the opportunity to say bugger-all – decides to do the PR industry’s job and waste his time and ours writing a column with nothing to say but “lay off Australian television, it’s rooly good”… well, we’re really looking forward to next weeks effort from Pobjie. Will he decide to do the crime columnist’s job instead of his own? The motoring reporter’s job? The Leader of the Opposition’s job? Spin the wheel and find out!

Australian television should be attacked again and again and again until they get it right. Yes, plenty of lovely and extremely hard-working people put their entire lives into it – which makes it just like every single other job on the planet. If you hired a plumber who came round and fucked up your plumbing so it sprayed shit all over your kitchen when you turned on a tap, you wouldn’t say “we should take a moment to recognise that we actually have some damn talented folk in this country, doing damn fine work”. And plumbing isn’t nearly as important as television; you can always call another plumber to fix your taps, but Please Like Me is broken forever.

Going soft on the local television industry doesn’t do anyone any favours. When one of these hugs and snuggles-style critics continually calls shit gold, those who take their advice soon learn the unpleasant truth for themselves. Then they either stop listening to critics, or they think “wow, local standards must be pretty fucking low if that crap is the best we can do”. Either way, you end up with an audience that automatically assumes anything local is rubbish. Just ask our film-makers how much three decades of Margaret & David “supporting the local industry” has helped the public perception of Australian film.

“Once you start looking for diamonds in the mud, you’ll suddenly find them everywhere,” Pobjie says. Hey, you’re the paid TV critic with a high-profile position: how about you TELL us where these diamonds are. And once we know what your definition of what a “diamond” is and whether it involves content-free terms like “tastily tasteless”*, we can decide whether your voice is one worth listening to in the field of diamond exploration. Australian television doesn’t need another critic who’s idea of “criticism” is a school sports day where everyone gets a medal just for turning up; when the Chris Lilley hype machine gets into gear later this month that mud Pobjie is so fond of is going to be rising up around our throats.

And if columns like his latest are any guide, it’s not going to stop there.



*”Laid is clever, dark and tastily tasteless but it makes me laugh, which is the first, last and only necessary qualification for a comedy.” – Ben Pobjie, March 5th, 2011

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  • urinal cake says:

    It’s interesting who’s mentioned as worthy of laudation- IAD, Nazeem Hussain, Tommy Little, Celia Pacquola, Claudia O’Doherty. IAD- is basically an old hand featuring some newish faces and really Heliar has had plenty of chances. And with the exception of Hussain the rest of the names don’t really have their own projects on Australian TV. Little is a presenter fronting for his agency, Pacquola appears on panel shows and had a small part in Laid and O’Doherty had a small part in Problems. I’d say O’Doherty has a bigger presence in the UK than here. So I’d say there’s a bit of looking out for mates here.

    And in effect if the article was arguing that local talent seem to be more recognised overseas that would make a decent yet obvious yet factually accurate article. Because Minchin, Burns, Simmons and O’Doherty are well respected and known in the UK. And Thomas is getting inexplicably good reviews and the next Woody Allen crown (Jimbo alert) in the US and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratings reflected that.

    Anyway I’m an Audi.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Remember when Rove was going to be taking over for Jay Leno? Ahh, good times.

  • urinal cake says:

    All I heard was he was going to ‘conquer’ America. I haven’t bothered to click the article on Fairfax.

    For all their bitchin’ about tall poppy syndrome, low populations etc comedians in Australia have it pretty good in their cultural cocoon compared to the bear pit that is the UK and something something Hollywood.

  • Billy C says:

    I remember reading an interview with Sam Simmons years ago about how he was going to make a show with Baby Cow in the U.K. I guess he spoke too soon. I was a very odd article. The number of people allowed to create their own comedy show in the past 10 years I would suggest would be somewhere between 10 and 15, if that. O’Doherty? She’s done very little on TV, not a criticism of her but being on some eps of Problems is hardly worth signalling her out for. Likewise Pacquola who I really rate as a stand-up, has written almost nothing for tv. She can certainly act and deserves her own vehicle. It was a truly odd article. Pobje has ‘critic who wants to be a writer performer syndrome’. He’ll need to choose

  • urinal cake says:

    Another reason to add their names could be to balance out the males in his list. But then Jess Harris is the only newish female talent on TV I can think of- which is a whole other article in and of itself.