Here’s where the story ends…

2961e84cacde415fa3c0e112f176433b

I’ve discussed before that when I first moved to Australia, even then there was an awkwardness to admitting to liking The Footy Show, There was an awkward acknowledgement even as far back as 2001 that “the show used to be better” from people who seemed to want to apologize to me for finding the interplay between Sam and Eddie and Trevor and a parade of male footballers in on the boys culture jokes absolutely hilarious or an awkwardness that they were leaving the pub early to go and watch it. I initially never felt the need to judge – after all, I presumed that it was all some random Australian in joke anyway, a strain of locker ocker banter that wasn’t designed for me, and the show has always had a particularly exclusionary nature for female viewers. Initially my thoughts on the Footy Show were it just a show that wasn’t for me. However, it is a show that celebrates that fact that it’s not for me. It doesn’t just exist, it exists to tell you it’s a show you don’t understand because you are different. It forces itself into your existence, through it’s bragging, through it’s publicity, through people trying to mansplain to you why Sam really is hilarious. To ignore the Footy Show living in Melbourne has been about as impossible as trying to block a persistent Twitter troll. Oh just log off they say, or if you don’t like it, don’t watch. Oh that it was all so simple…

After all, the only females celebrated on the show were those of exceptional outer beauty, the rest were humourless critical shrews or mockeries on Street Talk. Boys will after all be boys…the Footy Show is a bastion for a particular strain of humour. It brings the locker room to your home, it shows you that you need a thick skin (MATE!) to survive, that you dish it out and you cop it, and your differences will be radically exploited in the name of humour. If you survive that, and your accompanying group added nickname, you can come in for some froffies with the boys. At its worst, it has revelled in a horrible banality, a vapidness, a reach for the lowest common denominator, an insult barely raising itself to the level of a joke, with James Brayshaw guffawing in the background in airless grim fixed laughter. It was at its worst a circling of the wagons around some poor target, the last bastion of Melburnian elite boys club humour, and woe betide those outside the tent. The Footy Shows success had the effect of propping, preening and pushing it’s viewpoint onto everyone – for those who think women shouldn’t be at sporting events (unless it’s in suitable deference to it’s participants or in a flippy summer flock) it’s a gathering point, a chance to rail against social justice warriors, the politically correct. It’s a gathering point to say women shouldn’t play football, to say things that “you can’t say on TV!!!” – like a drunk 6 drinks too far gone at a party, ignoring it’s influence is impossible.

To say the Footy Show has been awful for its entire existence is unfair critiquing for their acts that defy it’s worst moments (Shane Crawfords charity efforts are still genuinely unironically uplifting) but it knows it’s audience and plays on it, particularly from the Lyon/Brayshaw era on. Everyone knows the type of joke they perpetuate, the moment of dread, the group joke, the ringleader that decides it’s time to push their luck with the personal jokes…it’s the sickening dread of “fun” that comes at the expense of others. At any moment, you could be next, facing the choice to deal with the “banter”, having to laugh along with a fixed rictus grin, or challenge it at the expense of more “banter” and outright abuse. In other settings, the tone of the humour is bullying. But for years, it was propped up by ratings success. Just ask James Brayshaw, who could quote every ratings point to every critic, to the nauseating point he bragged once on air about how The Footy Show had outdone every other show in a joint channel charity fund-raising effort, without a trace of humility…

Each show opened with a female cheering in the audience being singled out for Sams approval, while the James Bond theme played. Sexual prowess was a fundamental component of the shows humour, and viewing often veered into uncomfortable areas. Over time, those uncomfortable areas grew as the panel aged, became more confident in their arrogance, as the Triple M “style” of humour and it’s acolytes ran Melbourne in cliques, as they emboldened themselves to appeal to the “what’s wrong with having a LAUGH!” crowd. Sam called an Asian a monkey then to ram in the joke compared the Asian couple to Serena Williams (GET IT!), they belittled Sam Lane and Caroline Wilson, ran a show based on grudges, and then saw their show and their world crumble when Garry Lyon had an affair with Bill Brownless missus (who of course didn’t have a name, she was Bill Brownless missus, mumble mumble something about a wallet). The brand over time had become toxic, and while Patrick Dangerfield baulked at the chance this year to implement real genuine change to the show, the glory days, the shine, the swagger had gone. It became a distant memory, given the benefit of the doubt by nostalgia (who remembers the M&M! Anyone!) but absolutely out of touch with reality.

The Lyon affair could have been the end of an era, the moment a show embraced modernity and a new sense of humour. Instead, Sam Newman called Caitlyn Jenner an “it” to guffaws and WHAT IS WRONG WITH HAVING A LAUGH!…letters to the Herald Sun 50/50 column. The Footy Show lurched and spluttered to the margins. That precious ratings success was long gone, and on Thursday night it’s most self confident and crude acolyte was reduced to mute silence after his attempt to come out in drag was quashed by executives/meddling do gooders who don’t know good comedy (delete as appropriate). In what can only be described as an act of generous overanalyzing, the papers seemed to decide Sam was some of kind of clever Machiavellian figure showing his bosses up and not just a man having a sulk on live TV. In the midst of a television show that was falling apart at the seams live on air (or at least desperately was playing one to gain publicity, if you are a cynic) it seemed finally that the long-awaited television revolution was coming…but not before one last gasp from the old guard, a predictable move, but one that still has some implications to consider.

To save the show in the face of this ratings crisis, and it’s seeming march to the TV graveyard, the powers that be at Channel 9 decided to play their last card from the bottom of the deck. Craig Hutchison was out as host, and Eddie McGuire was back in. A return to the old days. The swaggering 90s! It’s back! Trevor by the bar! Hell, what’s Doug Hawkins doing these days! Maybe he can say namure again and we can throw to Street Talk! The return to McGuire and his ominous warning that “fun” will be returning to Thursday nights is interesting for a few reasons: firstly, the hidden secret in all this is McGuire needs a hit TV show as much as anyone. After all, did you watch “EMT” or “Ed and Derms Big Week In Footy” or whatever that show was that shunted Bounce off to midweek? And didn’t they come with the same sense of “we’ll have some FUN!” motif McGuire has promised to bring to the Footy Show? And finally, McGuire has promised to lead the Footy Show out of the wilderness by unleashing Sam like the old days. Yes indeed, there’s a women’s football league, a viewing public growing tired of the horrible over-reaction of media, and a growing desire for something fresh, and Channel 9 decide to revive Eddie McGuire and his side order of fun. Someone get the mannequin…

All of this is such a fundamental misunderstanding of The Footy Shows woes. Eddie McGuire isn’t the person to come back like it’s the 90s. There were many directions for the Footy Show to go, but it’s making a lurching play for the nostalgia crowd and those who yearn for the days the height of comedy was an Ugly Dave Grey poem and twitter trolls who want to see that uppity woman host cut down a peg or two. Above all else, it’s an endorsement for Newman, that “world class” live television host who is indulged, pampered and propped up with self-indulgent “he’s a good guy really” puff pieces and some kind of terrifying inner monologue from Channel 9 and it’s dwindling band of viewers that somehow, someway, this collection of vitriol, insults, misogyny and “saying what he thinks!” is what is holding the crumbling edifice of the Footy Show together. Terrifyingly, they might be right. After all, there are those who think the reason the Footy Show ratings are down is because there is a woman on the show, and if we could just get rid of her everything would be comfortable and relaxed. Like the old days. Like the boys club got to swagger out, rubs their hands together and proclaim it’s been a big week in football…this was your day, your chance to feel comfortable and just have a laugh…it wasn’t ours…and as the Footy Show passes up it’s last chance to modernize, to set aside it’s old world view and focus on football instead of going back to it’s default comedic mentality, it just pushed itself even further to the television margins, ratings or no ratings…

At least on Channel 9, the revolution will not be televised…

Rural Round, Jonas, Sasha and hell, fire and brimstone…

DEm8bCpV0AIDD_S

Prior to all this, it had been a fairly rum old week in media. Sasha Banks swaggered on to AFL 360, showing once again Mark Robinson talking to a female is still akin to that old philosophical debate about if a lion could speak English would anyone understand it? Seeing Robinson talk to a female guest is the living incarnation of that dilemma, an awkward exchange that never threatens to become a conversation between two people (mind you, he was that way with Alex Lloyd as well). Fox Footy decided to inflict “Rural Round” on the masses. It ended up being a patronising, awful round dedicated to hayseeds and bumpkins and Ben Dixon on a mechanical bull. Pick a nadir – the pre game coverage of St Kilda vs Essendon hijacked by comedy sheep and a debate about country vs city that seemingly never ended, a miserable looking Kate Sheahan and Brent Harvey shoved into Driza Bone coats to sit on hay bales post Saturday night football, or the endless playing of Lee Kernaghans “Boys from the Bush”? Rural round could have been so much better, a chance to truly show the influence the country has on football, to help a country football team, to show a documentary, to fund raise…but that was all too hard for Fox Footy, so Brian Lake chewing straw and Danny Frawley on a pony it had to be.

Of course, it was also a week that belonged to Kane Cornes: Kane is worthy of further analysis since he’s grasped the nettle of bloke-who-says-stupid-things-for-clicks faster than just anyone in their post football media career. Cornes dispute with Damien Hardwick after all generated no fewer than 5 stories from a tired media (Cornes says something, Hardwick responds, Cornes says he’ll ring Hardwick, Cornes DOES ring Hardwick and breathlessly reports on it, Hardwick brings back the “Mrs Hardwick” schtick”) amid a slow news week. It was also a week of deep media backpedaling – Tom Jonas after all called the media out for a series of gaffes and mistakes and for not doing their homework (particularly in interviews). In response, Tony Jones decided on the Sunday Footy Show to try and look clever by pointing out he didn’t know who Jonas was. Which of course proved his point. In a lurch to be patronising and over clever in the end it was Jones who looked like an absolute idiot…

And in truth, Jonas is right – only in the AFL media is a badge of honour awarded for not knowing who a player is? James Brayshaw openly guffawed on Triple M about not knowing one of his own North Melbourne players personally and thinking he was the property steward. Brian Taylor openly admits not knowing many players and what they look like – it seems to be accepted practice. Not doing your homework is an accepted practice. It’s hard to think that journalists don’t take the time to do 5 minutes of even basic Wikipedia research on who they are interviewing to cut out the obvious errors? And why would the host of a major television programme have as his best defence “I don’t know who he is” when Jonas is coming up to 100 games of football? It makes the media, the precious sensitive media, look terrible. It’s something to monitor over time, as attention to detail is sacrificed to the need to get any old rubbish out as soon as possible…

Perhaps what we all need to do is learn to have a laugh…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s