News & Commentary, Screen, TV

The Chaser's Media Circus: media navel-gazing comes good

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There’s one thing Australia’s mainstream media outlets do particularly well: identify, respond to and reflect the prejudices of their respective audiences. But there’s one area in which many are particularly tone-deaf: their audiences’ interest in the media itself.
While your average punter enjoys the odd media scandal, or 15 minutes of shaking their heads as Media Watch takes on faux pas, poor judgement and deceptive reporting each week, there’s an extraordinary amount of time and space devoted to media news and petty feuds in newspapers designed to cater to the broadest possible audience.
The world’s media tends to recognise that media gossip and journalistic craft is not necessarily of interest to vast audiences. Even online outlet Gawker, which has long been a prominent player in covering media news and gossip, this week announced it was retooling with a focus on politics.
But journalists in Australia generally have a rather warped view of just how much their readers care about media industry matters — see Helen Razer on the bizarre conflict between ex-Australian Media Editor Sharri Markson and the ABC’s Barrie Cassidy for a particularly scathing assessment of this navel-gazing — and that filters across to other areas of the media, including TV satire.
No industry spends quite as much time dissecting itself as the media does, and The Chaser’s latest satirical effort Media Circus veered dangerously closely to adding to this excessive self-obsession in its first season last year.
The satirical game show which pits teams of journalists and comedians against each other to analyse the news of the week got off to a slow start in its first season, with various segments shifting around and merging together without a whole lot of clarity.
Unlike the popular and long-running Good News Week (based on the UK series Have I Got News For You), The Chaser’s Media Circus is just as focused on the craft and style of news reporting as it is on the content of the news itself. Its first season was, at times, alienating and missed the broad cut-through of some of The Chaser’s previous TV projects, including CNNNN, The Chaser’s War on Everything and The Hamster Wheel.
But its second season, which wraps up next week, has been broader in its focus and far more successful in finding its groove. It’s featured consistently entertaining guests, locked in the various games — the now permanent opening segment “stitch-up” is a fast-moving and very entertaining recap of some of the more bizarre and extraordinary news stories from the previous week — and the skits which air between the games have become funnier and sharper critiques of media practice.
The world of media can be fascinating to outsiders, but satire or analysis of the industry must be pitched in such a way that opens up the craft and exposes the powers and pressures working behind the scenes. And unless we’re talking Andrew Bolt or morning show hosts, individual and personal satire of the major players in the media just doesn’t have particularly broad appeal.
ABC is announcing its TV line-up for 2016 next week, and hopefully The Chaser is given another season of Media Circus. The series has not rated as well this year as it did in its first, but it’s in a less popular timeslot for the ABC (it moved from 8.30pm on Wednesday to 8pm on Thursday). Given a little more time and a promotional boost it could just find a larger audience and become even more relevant by skewering the media’s relationship with their audiences.

[box]The Chaser’s Media Circus airs at 8pm on Thursdays[/box]

One response to “The Chaser's Media Circus: media navel-gazing comes good

  1. I have no idea why this sort of game show ABC circus is regarded as biting, hilarious, sending up commercial game shows (?), or even entertaining. I can only call it boring, 70s type student revue (and not like ABC TV 80s satirical shows), and immature. A bit like Kitchen Cabinet, another one of those typical old-fashioned programs complete with the little shepherdess/Red Ridinghood with her basket of goodies visiting the big bad wolf, who turns out to be a cuddly harmless politician!
    Bring back John Stewart!

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