“Lauren, isn’t that stretching credibility?” That was the moment we gave up on Gruen for 2015 (we made it a whole ten minutes in – gold star for us). Wil Anderson and the panel were talking about a pet food commercial involving warring street gangs that joined forces to save a dog, this issue of credibility came up and… it wasn’t a joke.
That’s always been the problem with Gruen: it happily makes fun of commercials – and news, pop culture, whatever – but it always does so from inside the tent. They’ll run a bit mocking a sportsman for all his endorsement deals because “he’s already got enough money” and why not; our question is, where’s the bit pointing out that pretty much everyone in advertising is massively overpaid and the two regulars on the panel are also raking in fat cash from other gigs (TV host, board member, etc)?
Oh that’s right: this is the show that sells advertising to the public. They might throw individual ads under the bus, but mocking the very concept of advertising, let alone the people who make it – seriously guys, did you have to specify “inner-city hipster” when getting in the two ad dudes for “The Pitch” segment – is never an option. Even when it’s literally the only thing worth saying about advertising.
That’s not to say that how advertising works isn’t an interesting topic. And making fun of advertising can be entertaining too. But since day one Gruen has been all about working with the ad agencies, which means that “how advertising works” is always going to assume that it does work, and that making fun of ads is always going to come with the assumption that only some ads are worth laughing at.
If you don’t care about any of that, Gruen still grates. How many cuts to the audience laughing-and-or-applauding do we need? None. The correct answer is none. But if they didn’t have those cutaways then they couldn’t edit the crap out of the answers to make sure there was absolutely no flow to the conversational back-and-forth. Or have room to shoe-horn in Anderson’s quippy quips. God forbid we missed out on any of them.
But it’s that insiders point-of-view that’s the real comedy killer each and every week. It’s as if they made a show focusing on politics where the panel were all sitting politicians, or a show about the environment where the panel were all from the mining industry, or a show about comedy where the panel were all working comedians. Which sounds like a great idea – they’d be experts! – until you think about the way they’d be very careful about what they said because when the cameras stop rolling comedy is the world where they make their living.
[there’s also the well-known fact that a lot of comedians seem to have somewhat shit taste in comedy; for every stand-up who’s good at pointing out acts worth seeing there’s at least three who just big up their mates]
Yet Gruen keeps on keeping on, putting ads on the ABC while being one giant ad for how great advertising is. It’s the kind of show that history will stare at in slack-jawed amazement, a Black and White Minstrel Show for rampant capitalism and naked greed. “They really made a show that treated shitful commercials with awe and respect?” our descendants will gawp from their hover-toilets. “The government-funded television network made a show promoting something only available on other networks?”
And if they don’t understand that, fuck knows how we’re going to explain the success of Wil Anderson to them.