Checkin’ Out

We don’t really cover The Checkout much these days. Here’s why:


In The Checkout this week, 8pm Thursday 30 April on ABC:

–         A2 Milk is Australia’s fastest-growing milk brand. What’s the story – clever marketing, or is it really better for you? Kirsten Drysdale brings us up-to-date with the latest bogus developments in milk science. No stranger to milk, Kirsten wrote and presented Milk, White Lies and Permeate for The Checkout in 2013.

–         Alex Lee (The Roast and ABC News 24) joins The Checkout to examine who really owns your books (and other media) now in this age of Kindle. The digital licence you agree to when you buy a lot of digital media online is not always the same as ownership.

–         Count Snackula complains about Oral B in the latest ‘Complaint Letter’ received in The Checkout’s inbox.

–         CHOICE’s Kate Browne returns as ‘The Guilty Mum’ and loads up the weapons in the war on nits.

–         The uppers and downers in chocolate in ‘Source of Confusion’ with Zoë Norton Lodge and Kirsten Drysdale.

–           In F.U. Tube this week, Craig Reucassel deals with consumers who’ve been FU’d by Hungry Jacks, RACV Roadside Assistance, Chupa Chups and NAB Fixed Home Loan rates that weren’t exactly fixed.

Don’t get us wrong; when we actually watch the show much of what we see certainly looks like a comedy. And not just because “the latest bogus developments in milk science” sounds hilarious. But comedy is about finding things you find funny and making jokes about them: The Checkout is about taking consumer affairs and slapping a few jokes around the edges to prevent the audience from dying of boredom.

It’s not surprising that The Chaser – well, members of it – have gone this way. Much of the appeal of their best work (that’d be The Hamster Wheel) came from the way they really burrowed down into an issue to find out what was really funny about it – a lesson we’re hoping The Weekly learns sooner rather than later. So applying this approach to consumer affairs is kind of a win-win, as it takes something popular but dull and makes it slightly less dull.

What it doesn’t do is make it a comedy. With The Hamster Wheel, The Chaser could roam pretty much wherever they liked around the world of politics following the funny. “Who really owns your books in the age of Kindle”? That’d be the publishers and distributors, as they’re only renting the text of the book to you. Next segment please oh wait this one’s still got five minutes to run because it’s got to explain a whole lot of things before it can even get to the jokes which are just bolted on in the form of wacky presentations and cute visuals.

This is in no way a slam on the show itself. It’s doing what it set out to do skilfully and well, and it has the ratings to prove it. But it’s infotainment with a comedy slant, a show where getting laughs is always going to come second to providing information (actually more like third, once you factor in “audience participation”). The comedy is a spoonful of sugar; we’d rather take our medicine straight.

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