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ABC’s Screen Time: can new culture criticism show step out of David and Margaret’s shadow?

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Two widely loved and respected giants cast a long shadow over screen criticism on Australian TV: David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz.

The two dominated the airwaves with their decades-long collaborations on SBS’s The Movie Show and ABC’s At The Movies, and left a noticeable gap when they retired from their ABC show at the end of 2014.

Three years later, ABC TV is about to launch its first major screen criticism program since then: Screen Time, hosted by Chris Taylor.

Taylor, best known as a member of The Chaser, hopes the obvious comparisons don’t stick around for too long, given the big differences between what David and Margaret offered and the goals for Screen Time.

“What became very clear in our early conversations for the show was that in 2017, the way people watch and what we watch nowadays is very different to when David and Margaret were on air,” Taylor says.

 “I think if anybody was going into this show thinking we’d have that kind of influence, we should certainly pack up now — but what interested me about the show was the opportunity to have a conversation that everyone is having in their own homes or workplaces or barbecues.”

It’s for that reason that Screen Time has a broad remit, taking in film, TV and screen content, wherever it may appear. The show will also cover web series, which have seen an explosion in interest over the last few years: from 107 web series episodes in 2011/12 to 3,248 in 2015/16.

But perhaps the most significant difference between Screen Time and other traditional screen criticism shows is that the vast majority of panelists — who will appear to offer their verdicts on a rotating basis — are not professional critics.

The panel includes playwright and commentator Nakkiah Lui, editor Sophie Black, writer Benjamin Law, comedians Judith Lucy and Susie Youssef, and critic Marc Fennell.

Each week the panel will discuss two major works, generally a film and TV show, and launch into bigger conversations. The first episode, for example, will tackle Blade Runner 2049 and discuss Hollywood’s long-standing love of sequels and reboots.

“The idea is that me and the panel will review the work but then drill down on it and have a much more analytical discussion about what that work means in a broader context and trends in the industry,” Taylor says.

Given the breadth of those conversations, the show won’t seek to be any kind of a record of major new releases, and will likely evolve over its initial ten-episode run.

“The show’s modest aim is to help people navigate the huge glut of content that’s out there,” Taylor says. “I personally find it incredibly confusing and overwhelming to work out what to watch next when there is so much out there.”

Certainly with the rise of streaming services like Netflix, that rise in content has been largely led by US and UK production studios.

But David and Margaret famously used their platform to champion the Australian film industry — and were even considered too generous to local product at times — so it’s fair to question how much local film and TV Screen Time plans to cover.

The pilot episode of the series — which will not be put to air — reviewed the ABC/Netflix co-production Glitch, and there are certain local series and shows that will be covered in coming episodes.

“We don’t have a formula for what the ratios are,” Taylor says. “We’ll go where the best conversations are, but still be mindful of the ABC charter to look at Australian culture. We won’t feel any obligation to look at Australian culture, but the show will naturally be more relevant if we do.”


Unlike the other panelists, Taylor won’t be making his own recommendations for what audiences should be watching on their screens. But we gave him the opportunity to share a few of his favourites with Daily Review readers:

“I’m a huge fan of Transparent. I think it’s probably the greatest TV show I’ve seen in the last couple of years. It’s an amazing piece of writing and acting.”

“I’m as excited as most people that Curb Your Enthusiasm is back on air at the moment. I think it’s as funny as it’s ever been, and I have a huge amount of time for that show.”

“I’m loving The Deuce, the new David Simon show. I think he’s a really interesting writer and I love the journalistic rigour he and his writers bring to the show, telling stories that are really rooted in a desire to understand how society and systems work. If I have any clout on the show, I’ll be lobbying to see if we can discuss David Simon in the first couple of weeks.”

“I think Get Krack!n is as funny a show as has been made in Australia in a long, long time, Mad As Hell notwithstanding … It’s a return to jokes; so much of contemporary comedy in Australia and America is comedy with heart, comedy with love interests and stories, and there’s something old-fashioned about a show that just exists for jokes, and I love that about Get Krack!n.”

[box]Screen Time premieres on Tuesday, October 17 at 8pm on ABC TV[/box]

11 responses to “ABC’s Screen Time: can new culture criticism show step out of David and Margaret’s shadow?

  1. Just watched the first program (and for me the last). Nothing but leftwing PC nonsense. Everything has to be dicussed based on gender equality, LGBIQ etc, racism, all the usual PC stuff to try to stifle differences of opinion.

    One ‘expert’ claimed that a film is misogynist if it doesn’t have two women having a conversation about something else besides men? I can’t imagine what he would think of a film about men in a prisoner of war camp.

    I had hoped for serious discussion about the films/tv series, not a leftwing diatribe.

    I won’t be watching it again.

  2. Hope this project finds its feet as this area has been neglected on Aunty for a while now.

    It could use a fine tune though. The Gruen style “laugh track” was annoying (host spits out zinger, panel cack themselves – on cue). The Chaser avoided this – which is way preferable. Let the audience decide if it is funny.

    Also, the cuts between segments were too tight. eg Someone makes a comment, a quarter of a second later, the next subject is introduced with insufficient pause, like a print publication with no white space.

  3. Everyone just needs to feel more comfortable. I am sure there is quite a bit of a pressure for this to succeed. It was not terrible just too stilted and made me feel anxious for them. I will give it another go, hope they can all just relax and forget about any political correctness. Ok, that was me being nice, get your act together guys, commercial television is killing humanity, give us something!!!

  4. This show does both the screen industries and criticism such a bad service. The panel is strangely ignorant of their topics, and the anti-intellectualism of their approach is disturbingly Trump-like.

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