Razer: ABC2 is a treatment plant for cultural waste

Of the so-called Millennial generation, we Xers must hold no conclusive view. They are fatter than us, which is a fact we may maliciously enjoy. They produced Wyatt Roy, which is a fact we may desperately mourn. But, other than their larger waistlines and slicker neoliberalism, these younger persons are much like us older persons and provide no proof of generational difference firmer than those awful chia puddings they buy from supermarkets in large numbers and pretend to enjoy.

All of which is to say: we must not judge them harshly. We’ll leave that to the national broadcaster’s television “youth” network, ABC2, currently getting Millennials completely wrong.

Less a channel than it is a treatment plant specialising in cheap re-use of solid cultural waste, ABC2 has a much lower opinion of “youth” than even my neighbour Jackie, who has turned the hose on them twice this summer. With its primetime focus on deadly fish, swingers and hoarders, ABC2 serves an imaginary demographic preoccupied with sex, death and mental illness. Apparently, they’re just like Sigmund Freud, only much dumber and far less invested in liberating themselves from the prison of the repressed than they are in watching some self-absorbed bint race around China for five minutes and pronounce it “conformist” and “workaholic”.

Last week, everything stirring in the uncomfortable gut of ABC2 was upchucked in the shiny, blond furball of Billie JD Porter. The young and manifestly sassy filmmaker whose stark irreverence brings to mind the genius of Bear Grylls and/or a footstool lets us in on the Secrets of China. Here’s a spoiler: Billie’s secret is that the entire nation of China is a bit shit. It is a bit shit because it does not encourage the kind of liberating individualism that produces persons like Billie JD Porter.

Honestly, this is the most ethnocentric turn in recent years on television, including I’m A Celebrity and those pompous orientalising shows in which Michael Palin bounces around the subcontinent saying syrupy things about the Indian character. I understand that Billie is young, comely and has written Brutally Honest items about her thrilling sex life for VICE. She is also a DJ and a model. These facts are not prophylaxes against the kind of western arrogance that has her confusing Confucianism for mindlessness or Chinese wedding traditions for sexual oppression. When it comes to the most basic relativism, Porter stumbles and is unable to see that she is not the ideal midpoint of all creation. This is her entitlement at 23. But, it is the ABC’s responsibility not to echo racialised ignorance and it seems especially crass that they have taken the decision to do so during celebrations for the lunar new year.

Billie’s memsaab complaint is really no worse than the range of “Gypsy” programming ABC2 has previously elected to air. These “documentaries” on Romani life are so fetishistic, it is difficult to know how to start crapping on them. But, let’s start with the word “Gypsy” which Romani have unambiguously and in near unanimity rejected as a racial slur.

But, like a lot of the dire factual cack on ABC2, these programs are shot through an apparently humanistic lens. For hours each week, a feigned liberal concern for the other masks the fact that these are shitty, mean reality programs that manufacture schadenfreude. I *guess* this is how programmers justify the broadcast of an exploitative sideshow like Tourette’s On the Job which is intended far less to raise awareness of a debilitating neurological disorder than it is to give us all an opportunity to laugh at swearing bozos.

Then, there are the putatively sensitive programs on hoarders, transpeople and swingers which almost uniformly dispose of true sensitivity or even a healthy curiosity for the richness of human experience to say little more than “wow look at these freaks”. Like the worst of the reality genre, the appeal lies in the relief afforded the viewer who is permitted to think that things could be worse.

If these low pits of hate were dug more often in Australian conditions, we could forgive them. At least Joe Hildebrand’s exercise in extreme political naiveté provided local jobs. And 2 has given us the very good Please Like Me and the very funny Dirty Laundry Live, now graduated to the premium channel. But, this meagre hit rate is no real rationale for the continued subsidy of a channel that makes Fox8 look as though it is programmed by John Pilger by contrast.

Millennials are not as prurient, narcissistic and cruel as programmers at ABC2 apparently believe. They are not quite so ready to laugh at afflictions, mock entire nations and squirm at non-normative sexual codes as the schedule would suggest. Then again, few people are that idiotic and mean.

When the ABC tries to mimic what it holds to be commercially viable, it gives us the very worst impulses of both the public and private sectors. We have cheap reality exploitation, far more artfully and honestly provided by Ten, filtered through a faux humanistic prism. At least Celebrity knows it is Satan. Much of the programming on ABC2 is the work of the dark lord masquerading as the angel of light.

Main image: ABC2 publicity shot for Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder which is described as: “Mr Wallace owns a detached bungalow, a four bedroom house and a double garage, all of which are literally stuffed from floor to ceiling with newspapers and other household items. He is arguably the UK’s most extreme hoarder”.

27 responses to “Razer: ABC2 is a treatment plant for cultural waste

  1. “continued subsidy of a channel that makes Fox8 look as though it is programmed by John Pilger by contrast.” A slightly brilliant analogy, Helen.

  2. gazing up and out
    from binding shackles
    feeling the dragging
    burdens of expectations
    from the unthinking
    the leaden hand
    of upholders of
    the status quo
    and somehow always
    imagining the light
    through the bars
    of the cages
    set for our
    protection from our
    enemies our freedoms
    our truths unaccepted
    their truths unquestioned
    and thus enforced
    as a matter
    of self righteous
    authority in action
    card houses so
    solid in appearance
    you can bank
    on them or
    so we’re led
    to believe led
    by the nose
    to the slaughter
    back to our
    brand new coat
    of paint cages
    where we watch
    with alligator tracking
    the lives of
    the wealthy and
    vacuous the games
    of the rich
    and brutalized the
    current scandals always
    tuning in for
    the next revelation
    never to be
    finally resolved so
    tune in tomorrow
    and tomorrow and
    tomorrow and so
    do we consent
    to our enslavement
    not with a
    bang but with
    the biggest loser

  3. Alas, ABC2 seems to be following the BBC3 model of vacuous nonsense masquerading as entertainment for the young folk. I think these shows are cheap (and nasty) and reflect the reduced resources available to programmers, as well as a massive lapse of sense and taste.

  4. There are these strange rectangular objects, or their newer brethren that require a jolt of electricity, that could well save the day. They are portable and quiet. In many cases they actually enrich your lives. READ A BOOK DAMMIT! You don’t HAVE to turn the television on.. EVER! Listen to some nice music. Put your feet up and relax. If everyone stopped watching I’m sure it would have some effect on the broadcasters and, if not, you’ve probably enhanced your intelligence.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Read a book, listen to music, go out to a play etc. If there is something you particularly want to watch catch it on iView or record it. Anyway ABC2 is great for kids; I think Helen is writing for the sake of content.

  5. I left Oz 10 years ago so all this extra channel stuff is new to me. On the face of it though it has to be bad, I mean if 5 channels were awful, how can 10+ be any better?

  6. Yes I have noticed a few more ‘Jerry Springer-type’ shows on ABC and agree it is less about informing the public and more about amusing the voyeuristic character traits we all possess. But nothing could be more cringe-worthy than that awful show ‘Balls of Steel’. Meant to shock unsuspecting members of the public and make us titter, it makes me feel an odd mixture of boredom and embarrassment. I gave it a 2nd chance, but only for 30 seconds before experiencing the urge to stick my fingers down my neck and puke in the hope that would be more comedic or entertaining than watching such lame trash a minute more (GROSS)

  7. I concur, Helen.
    And with m’learned friend, Billy Bob, above.
    It’s all about the dollars, innit.

    I must say, though, that the hoarder shows motivate me to declutter like nothing else. I am torn between feeling for the poor sufferers of what’s now recognized as a disorder, and wanting to get round to their houses with a skip and throw all that crap out. SO, to get to my point – it’s less about “it could be worse”, and more “geez, we better DO something before it gets worse. If you know what I mean.

  8. “Tourette’s On the Job” an exploitative sideshow? Well I guess opinions are like you-know-whats. Everyone has got them. I actually found it interesting and formative. I mean, how many time have you wondered what happens to people with this problem? Probably not much, but it doesn’t hurt to gain at least some insight on the issue. As for the other shows used as an example – well I didn’t see them so can’t comment. Presumably they were thrown on ABC2 to fill programming time as they were really cheap & included in some bargain-basement package from the BBC or similar.

  9. The multiple channel idea has basically proved to be a disaster. We have five organisations each struggling to fill up to five channels by 24 hours – a huge demand for content. The result is that there is huge reuse of things that should, in many cases, have not been made or screened in the first place, and the broadcast of real “bottom of the barrel” stuff just to fill hours. It is not only ABC2 that is a disaster, but also the additional channels provided by SBS and the commercials. And, of course, anything that is worthwhile and you enjoyed has been played so many times that you never want to see it again.

    1. I think this comment is spot on. So many of the programming disasters, endless repeats, etc could be remedied if they weren’t having to fund content for so many channels.

  10. I love ABC2, all my friends love ABC2. We are all in late 40’s to early 60’s.
    I think you are picking on the wrong demographic here Helen and anyway, what is wrong with programs such as Louis Theroux reruns? They make a change from watching Escape to the Country on Channel 70 something, as well as giving us almost as much nudity as SBS, but without the disturbing violence :)

    1. I too was thinking of Louis Theroux, whose shows are always p entertaining, if and when you get past his nerdy dorkishness. But LT is usually on real late, and there’s bugger all else on ABC2. Jeez, do you remember when they used to broadcast Jon Stewarts Daily show and the Colbert report? I do, thems were the days…

  11. If the govt’s keep screwing the ABC budget it simply takes it as an excuse to continue as a news and current affairs Sydney networker bookended with less than commercial standard dross.
    PAID FOR BY ALL AUSTRALIANS!

  12. The bottom line is exactly that – there’s no money in the ABC coffers to make local rubbish docu-realitainment, so they buy it in for cheapcheap. In fact, there’s barely any money to make ANYTHING. More channels doesn’t mean more local productions, it means more voyeuristic shite from BBC3

    ABC2 is simply an empty shell desperate to be pozzed by the highest bidder. Hooray.

  13. Aunty appears to believe that dross from Britain is somehow superior dross. To me the crap on ABC2 in the evenings is as bad or worse than anything from the USA. In its defence though – the (also mostly from the UK) preschooler programming on ABC2 during the day is pretty good overall.

    1. It appears there’s no ABC2 scheduled content during the day (runs between 7pm and the wee hours). So the preschooler programming you’re seeing must be on ABCkids or perhaps ABC3.

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