Now we’ve had two weeks’ worth of Seven’s new current affairs show, it’s time to look a little closer at its style and content. The show was clearly thrown in the deep end in the first week, having to cover the bushfires in Victoria. It wisely sent Mike Munro and Monique Wright to Victoria. How well they covered it is debatable, but it would have looked foolish to premiere a new flagship current affairs show without including the biggest breaking story in the country.
Seven deserves a tick for attempting to revitalise current affairs in a live format. It would have been logical to adopt a magazine style show, or put a host behind a desk introducing pre-recorded stories filed by its journos. With the exception of the bushfire cross, so far there hasn’t been a great deal of live interaction. A studio audience sits watching the show, but hasn’t yet added any significant role to the format. You even get the feeling they’ve been asked not to clap. This is serious stuff, remember.
Current affairs shows really make their mark by breaking stories, and for two weeks we have had the Britt Lapthorne case by investigative journo Ross Coulthart (Sunday). Last night the show named two suspects, alleged to be Croation police. Coulthart also showed how his first story has attracted interest in Croatia, even if much of it was largely negative.
The jury is still out on whether this story will lead to any progress in the Lapthorne case, but indications would suggest it is heading in the right direction as a first “get” for Sunday Night.
Mike Munro’s forum with survivors and experts on the bushfires last night looked like it would be good stuff too. A shame it was so brief. There are lots of questions to be asked. If Seven was nervous of over-saturating the subject it should have stayed away altogether. Jennie Brockie would have made a meal of this on Insight for SBS.
Molly Meldrum’s piece on Coldplay felt like a story filed for Sunrise or Today Tonight. Comprising Molly’s itinerary, hotel check-in, interview, songs and concert it lacked the point-of-view necessary for a current affairs genre. It’s fine to have a light piece but please can we smell the roses? Let’s get under the skin of Chris Martin, not just string together a puff piece edited at breakneck speed.
Similarly, I’m not sure how Grant Denyer playing tennis with Jelena Dokic (with JetStar attire no less) really says “we do serious current affairs.”
But it hit a home run spending time with a man who lost loved ones in the fires. Hearing his anguish was powerful, indeed.
Seven is also screening The All In Call on 7HD, a terrific idea to incorporate the audience with their comments and questions on the stories of Sunday Night. But despite the promises, only three or four questions made it to air. Most of this saw Ross Coulthart talking to Chris Bath and Mike Munro, and even an extra story from Monique Wright (which was good enough to put in the main show).
So far The All In Call isn’t living up to its title. Seven would do well to put a microphone into the audience and have Coulthart talk to them rather than the hosts.
Visually the show also looks too similar to breakfast television. Male and female hosts sitting on a couch with clipboards screams brekkie telly in this country, and its Sunrise that asked us to think that way.
The show appears to ask us to re-think the way we view current affairs with a bit of everything on offer: live interviews, filed reports, crosses, forums, investigative journalism, light celebrity pieces and a studio audience. The proposition may unsettle purists who like their storytelling more focussed. Next week 60 Minutes is back with a special boasting how its done this for thirty years.
Sunday Night must really be hoping there’s an arrest in Croatia before then.
Sunday Night airs 6:30pm Sundays on Seven, followed by The All In Call at 7:30pm on 7HD.