Recently one of our personal acquaintances took us aside to have a quiet word. “Listen, Team Tumbleweeds,” he said, “I’m fine with you having a go at Josh Thomas and Chris Lilley and those guys – but when you start taking swings at Annabel Crabb, you’ve stepped over the line.”
It took us a minute to realise what he was talking about:
If a show is dragging your whole schedule down, you don’t wait until the last episode to replace it, especially if the replacement is the staggeringly ineffectual sop to our politicians’ collective ego Kitchen Cabinet.
Which, let’s be honest, is pretty mild all things considered.
But as the conversation continued, it turned out that our chum’s actual problem with our comment was that – in their view – we’d wandered outside of our remit. In this guy’s opinion it’s fine for us to kick the beejesus out of any show we like, just so long as our target is at least trying to be a comedy. And Kitchen Cabinet, for all its immeasurable faults, has never claimed it was trying to be funny.
Fair enough, we said – well, actually, what we said was more along the lines of “if Australian television criticism was anything more than, to coin a phrase, a conga-line of suckholes, then we wouldn’t have to say anything because everyone else would have kicked the head off this disgusting and disgraceful sack of politician-pandering puke years ago”.
But after we finished shouting, we also had a counter argument: Kitchen Cabinet might not be comedy per se, but it is a prime example of one of the less tasteful aspects of Australian “satire”: sucking up to the people they’re meant to be taking down.
This has been one of our pet peeves for a while now:
If The Chaser were doing their jobs properly, no politician would want to go within a hundred miles of their studios – and they wouldn’t let them in even if they did. Because when they have politicians on the show, they’re showing them as being in on the joke. The politicians then are simply making fun of themselves, telling us that “hey, we’re just like you” – and then they go back to telling us how we should live our lives and we’re supposed to go back to letting them.
An oft-repeated story about the old Martin / Molloy radio show says that at one stage, when Tony Martin and Mick Molloy were riding the Liberal party hard over their attempts to de-unionise the docks, they were asked to have prime mover behind the anti-worker push Peter Reith on “for balance”. Supposedly, Mick said fine, but that he’d have only one question for Reith: “why are you such a cunt?”. And he was going to keep asking it until he got an answer.
That’s pretty funny: it’s also the level of respect our politicians all too often deserve.
Fortunately, as The Chaser have increasingly abandoned politics for media commentary, getting politicians involved in comedy “for balance” has largely died out. The idea of presenting audiences with an actual real-life politician on Mad as Hell is crazy; for all its flaws, The Weekly has largely stuck to interviewing non-political figures.
But who are we kidding? It’s more than likely that the reason why we’re not having politicians jammed into every remotely topical comedy show on the ABC is because they now have an entire show* where they can demonstrate that, despite spending every waking moment looking for a way to fuck over the general public, they’re really just average knockabout blokes who like a barbie like the rest of us. So selling off government services to their mates for bargain prices then quitting to take a job with those self same mates is Aussie as, right?
Meanwhile out in the real world, what our politicians are like as people is so amazingly irrelevant to anything related to the actual concerns of ABC viewers that the existence of Kitchen Cabinet can only be considered to be a direct insult to every man, woman and child in the land. These are people voted in to do a job, and that job is not “enjoy smashed avocado in their salad”. The policies they advocate and their ability to execute those policies are the only things of relevance when it comes to these power-mad bastards: if you’re going to do a television show about their private lives, it had better be Real Housewives of Melbourne-level debauched or stop wasting our time.
Of course, everyone already knows this. That’s why Kitchen Cabinet is hosted by the Marieke Hardy of political coverage: someone with nice hair and a fetching line in flowery dresses (cardies an optional extra) who is really quite good at pointing out that our politicians are really kind of cuddly once you take the time to get to know them. Unless you’re the people who don’t get to be on television but do get to be fucked over – then politics can be very harsh indeed. But why take our word for it?
This insidious spread of propaganda, soft interviews with hard-line politicians who wield enormous power over the lives of the most vulnerable, is sold as a fun, light-hearted look into the lives of the people we elect. But this taxpayer-funded sycophantic date with power will end up making us all sick. It completely dumbs down debate and again re-ingrains the perception that politicians are just like us, while the people their policies hurt, aren’t. They are the others who don’t dine with famous journalists on television.
So yeah, Kitchen Cabinet: we’re letting it off lightly when you think about it.
*you really don’t want us to get started on Q&A