2011 will be the year that TV looks at TV.
In the past the small screen has looked back on its output in various formats. There was David Lyle’s The Golden Years of Television on Nine in 1986, TEN’s The Great TV Game Show in 1989, ABC’s magazine format TVTV (1999) and Seven’s comedy clip show TV Burp (2009).
This year Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee will host The Joy of Sets for the Nine Network, produced by Andrew Denton and rumoured to take a Gruen-style look at the box.
Tonight the Comedy Channel launches You Have Been Watching with Peter Berner.
This 10-episode series, produced by Southern Star Entertainment, takes a cheeky look at a different genre each week while Berner banters with three special guests.
Episode One is ‘Crime and Punishment’, a look at cop dramas, police procedurals and even observational series that infest the genre.
Seated on a colourful 60′s-style set adorned by bright TV squares, Berner is joined by actor John Wood, and comedians Meshel Laurie and Aamer Rahman.
The first topic for discussion is the Underbelly franchise, as the footage rolls.
“The first Underbelly was a tightly-plotted well-acted take on the real-life saga of the Melbourne gangland war,” says Berner.
“It was chockful of sex, drugs, violence, foul language, sex, money, sex and …biscuits…. The equally well-executed Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities jumped back in time to the moustachioed ’70s when the Mr. Asia drug syndicate ruled. There was still plenty of naughtiness for the wowsers to moan about, but once again it was all vindicated by the gripping plot and performances that were so realistic, they could almost be real life.” [CUE: Matthew Newton as Terry Clark behind bars]
Underbelly 3 is described as Jumping the Shark -a term familiar to any good TV addict.
It was “A pole-dancing grey nurse shark in a copper’s uniform,” suggests Berner.
“It collapsed under the combined weight of its breasts.”
A pretty fair description.
While Laurie loved the first series, Wood -who played Murray Farqhuar in the second series- admits he had a problem with the glamorising of crims.
There are several gags at the expense of Carl Williams and even Schapelle Corby.
The show also draws upon some of the world’s more baffling archival and short-lived shows, including Poochinski (ABC US 1990) with a cop-reincarnated-as-dog and Manimal (20th Century Fox 1983) in which a guy slowly morphs into a hawk detective. Weird.
No crime chat would be complete without discussion of Prisoner, recently acquired by Foxtel. The raw clips are fun. Laurie calls it her all time favourite show. Wood admits to having written 15 scripts.
Finally there is Border Security, which Rahman brands as “bar none the most racist show on TV. It is half an hour of making foreigners look like terrorists, drug smugglers, criminals.”
Another fair description.
Berner is very relaxed as the master of ceremonies here and drops some sharp, sometimes caustic observations. More of this would be welcome (or is that just me?).
The show isn’t as analytical of television politics as The Gruen Transfer is of advertising, but not as flippant as 20 to 1. Network machinations, programming, latest industry news and Media Watch-style corrections are not on the agenda here.
If anything it could benefit from cramming in more content.
But if you have a passion, and sometimes an enraged passion for the small screen, check it out.
You Have Been Watching premieres at 9.30pm tonight on The Comedy Channel.