Last night, Nine’s infamous AFL Footy Show returned from a brief hiatus, revamped with a new set, new graphics, new desk and a new(ish) cast with the return of Eddie McGuire in place of the sacked Craig Hutchison.
Despite the overbearing pre-publicity, it was a well-orchestrated re-entry which basically delivered the same Footy Show. The program’s ability to survive numerous hosts, controversies, changing audience expectations and shifting ‘”community standards” is a reminder that football punditry television programs show no sign of slowing down. From the historic League Teams to the contemporary The Footy Show, loyal AFL footy fans have built an entire genre of television. There are now numerous shows throughout the week, some daily. Here are five of the most noteworthy.
The AFL Footy Show, Channel 9 Thursday, 8:30 pm
The Footy Show is one of the most criticised programs on television but AFL fans love it for its take on football and the industry that surrounds it. Its humour isn’t particularly smart, but dumb can still be funny which The Footy Show proves with its steadfast audience. The media ‘elites’, as The Donald might say, need to understand that there is an audience out there for coarse or ‘vulgar’ humour. Not everything can be written by Armando Iannucci.
Despite the critics, The Footy Show has managed to survive the scrutiny of its detractors, though its comedic value has taken a hit. McGuire has promised letting the show’s politically incorrect centrepiece Sam Newman ‘off the leash’. A muzzled Sam Newman is certainly not as funny to watch when the show’s producers are worrying about how offended Clementine Ford might be when she wakes up in the morning.
However, the modern ‘PC’ version of The Footy Show is not without its benefits. Despite backlash from a small minority of fans who thought a female panellist would ruin ‘the vibe’ of the show, Rebecca Maddern has become an important facet of the line up. More charming than her predecessors James Brayshaw or Craig Hutchison, Maddern forms an unlikely comedic duo with Newman that prevents The Footy Show being just another show analysing football; this 25 year old cultural juggernaut continues to entertain its loyal AFL audience.
AFL 360, FOX Footy Monday-Thursday, 7:30 pm
Dubbed ‘the odd couple’, AFL 360 comprises the nerdy Gerard Whateley (ABC) and the blustering Mark ‘Robbo’ Robinson (Herald Sun) four nights a week on FOX Footy. From his work on ABC Radio to 360, Whateley’s acute analysis and general intelligence has seen him become one of the wise ‘elders’ of the sport and a commentator whose opinions carry weight. A younger, less camp, Bruce Mcaveney.
Robbo …is not so universally loved. He has a habit of stirring up controversy and is affectionately nicknamed ‘Slobbo.’ In short, he is an overweight, bald, mumbling mess of a television host. Thus, he is often mistaken for a former footballer.
It is fair to say his mastery of the English language does not translate to live television and he often appears dazed and confused while live on air. Despite this, Robinson brings inadvertent humour to the show and seems a nice enough bloke who has used his passion and friendliness to his advantage extremely well despite his (lack of) natural talents.
Despite their differences, Whateley and Robinson have terrific chemistry, and are equally important in creating the friendly, but informative, vibe of the show. Backed up by impressive production values, 360 is the most in depth show about football — sometimes excruciatingly so due to its four times weekly format.
Footy Classified, Channel 9 Mondays, 9:45 pm
Essential viewing for any footy fan who wants an uncompromised look at the entire football industry, not just the on-field stuff. Whilst not always being the most objective journalist (Essendon/James Hird saga), Caroline Wilson is unquestionably the most knowledgeable and powerful person in the football media. Her information is solid and often the first you hear of a story it will come from ‘Caro’ on a Monday night. Garry Lyon is a more than capable host and Craig Hutchison and Matthew Lloyd are solid back-up to the most ‘must-see’ show on the AFL landscape.
Talking Footy, 7Mate Monday, 7:30 pm
Footy Classified’s simpler cousin, Talking Footy sums up the weekends football on a Monday night. Former players Luke Darcy, Tim Watson and Wayne Carey are joined by Sam Mclure, obsessively referred to by Darcy as the ‘young gun’ Fairfax journalist.
Being the only one not to have kicked the pigskin, you get the feeling that McClure is happy enough to just be sitting at the table. This is compounded by the fact he sometimes appears and reappears mid-show, a football-analysing Houdini who is at the whim of producers constantly tossing up whether he is relevant or not.
His opinions, whilst earnest, often smack of knee-jerk reaction, and the way he fawns over Watson and Carey can be nauseating at times. Carey and Watson are two of the soundest football minds in the industry and alone make the show worth watching. Darcy is an adequate, but largely irrelevant host.
The show provides undoubtedly one of the most awkward weekly segments on Australian television with ‘Say that Again’, where clips of footballers mumbling and stumbling their words are followed by excessive fake laughter from the panellists. All in all, Talking Footy is worth watching if you are a footy nut, but there are better shows out there.
The Front Bar, Channel 7 Thursday, 9 pm or 10:45 pm after Thursday night matches
The spiritual successor to the legendary Before the Game, The Front Bar began as a 10 minute advert for Carlton Draught on afl.com.au. It was picked up by Channel 7 due mainly to the hilarious Sam Pang and the sometimes funny Mick Molloy. It now runs for an hour on Thursday nights directly against The Footy Show. Sports radio host Andy Maher joins the duo as host and ‘straight man’ to Pang and Molloy’s gags. Each week they are joined by an esoteric footballer of yesteryear, usually someone famous for something like headbutting an umpire.