Earlier this week the ABC sent Tom Gleeson to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Initially we were excited, then we realised this wasn’t going to be a remake of 90s monster movie Relic and he wasn’t going to get eaten by a dinosaur. C’mon Aunty, even a cheap knockoff of Night at the Museum would have been better than this.
Don’t worry if you missed this chance to see one of Australia’s… let’s go with “best known” comedians wandering around someplace mildly incongruous, because the ABC’s got you covered: on November 1st they’re airing Magda’s Big National Health Check, in which she goes door-to-door giving prostate exams or something.
Remember when comedians used to host comedy programs? Not at the ABC they don’t. If Tom Gleeson wants to be funny*, he can do it on his own time: if Magda wants to get her face back on the ABC, she’s got to cough up a lung to do it.
With all the ongoing kerfuffle about how the ABC clearly has zero interest in investing in new comedy talent, these two shows are… well, not exactly a slap in the face, but another sign of exactly what’s going wrong at the national broadcaster.
Imagine a glass of water. The level of water in the glass is your level of popularity. Comedians have a big advantage here: being funny is something people like. When a comedian is funny in the public eye, water is tipped into the glass and their level of popularity goes up.
Hosting shows like this, on the other hand, does not make you more popular. The idea here is to use your already existing popularity to make something unpopular – museums, health checks – more interesting. Water from your glass is tipped into the subject’s glass.
What the ABC is doing, is saying to comedians “we won’t give you the chance to become more popular by airing shows people might enjoy, but we will use your popularity to make the boring shit we want to show more popular, thanks for the glass of tasty water”. You wouldn’t say they’re exploiting these comedians, but you wouldn’t want to rule it out entirely either.
The ABC used to get shitty if their home-grown stars left for commercial television. Both Andrew Denton and Shaun Micallef have talked about how, once they took up a commercial offer, the ABC shunned them for the next few years.
Presumably to avoid this issue, the ABC have now decided to not risk the nightmare of creating any further home grown stars, and will only let the stars they do have work on boring programs nobody wants to watch. Thanks guys.
To be fair, occasionally a sexy weatherman or nutty gardener will somehow get some traction in the wider community. But you don’t see them getting an one-hour prime time special where they’re rummaging in the bins behind Australia’s Top Transplant Hospital, do you?
*yeah, we know