Gruen: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Gruen is back! Okay, yes, Gruen was back a few weeks ago to cover the election, but considering how pro-LNP their coverage was we’re all pretending that never happened. After all, what good is a crack team of experts who keep on getting it thuddingly wrong? Anyway, now they’re back to covering things like KFC and movies, so… yay?

If you’ve been waiting for someone to ask “Is Top Gun the best propaganda campaign ever?” and make jokes about Police Academy, good news for you and your blog about 80s pop culture. And if you’re thinking “hang on, since when did Gruen do movie reviews?” maybe you can focus on the wacky banter between the panel instead. Is war a bad thing? Not if you’re advertising the Army!

The strange thing about watching Gruen 2022 isn’t that we’re even still bothering with this garbage it covers such a wide range of topics, but that there aren’t any other series competing for those topics. Even The Weekly now has to fight with The Cheap Seats over that footage of that motorcyclist not realising he still has a lap to go; if it’s not news, sport, or bad reality television, the Gruen team has it all to themselves.

Hang on, wasn’t it not that long ago that the quickest way to get a show up on the ABC was to come up with “it’s Gruen, but about something else”? And not just the ABC; The Joy of Sets on Nine was clearly intended to be Gruen Television until Tony Martin got ahold of the format.

There was Gruen Arts (Screen Time), Gruen Consumer Affairs (The Checkout), Gruen Reality Television (Reality Check), Gruen Manners (How Not to Behave), too many Gruen Sports to count, and a whole bunch of other shows featuring a panel of experts that were probably more influenced by The Footy Show if we’re being honest.

Sure, none of these shows were much good (well, The Checkout was ok), but neither is regular brand Gruen. If a bunch of marketing “gurus” laughing at their own jokes about how the viewers at home are gullible fools can run for over a decade, surely a panel show with likable experts talking about interesting topics could be entertaining?

We’re clearly now in the terminal decline stage of Australian television comedy on the ABC. Not only are there no new series, but the spin-offs and knock-offs spawned by the few series still running flamed out years ago. Hey look, Spicks & Specks is coming back!

And meanwhile, what we do get just keeps on getting more and more out of touch. Example: the first big segment on this week’s Gruen was about the new Top Gun movie and how it’s promoting the military, encouraging kids to enlist, and so on.

This was interesting stuff back during the first Top Gun movie in the 80s, which actually did boost military recruitment. Then Todd Sampson pointed out that the new movie wasn’t going to do anything for recruitment because a): it’s aimed at middle-aged viewers and b): now the US Military now does most of their advertising via Twitch and online gaming – two vital advertising markets Gruen never mentions and wouldn’t know how to cover if they tried. And the whole segment became completely pointless.

Gruen in various forms has now been running for 14 years. Advertising has changed a lot since then: social media as we know it barely existed in 2008. And yet Gruen remains static, increasingly unmoored from the realities of advertising, featuring a bunch of marketing types whose main job is selling themselves to their cashed-up clients.

Whatever educational value Gruen might have had about the realities of advertising has long since faded: with no other reason to exist, why doesn’t it at least try to be funny?

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