This week Gruen Planet begins on ABC1, in place of The Gruen Transfer.
Just as Gruen Nation looked at politics in 2010, this will take the Gruen format and apply it to a broader landscape as host Wil Anderson explains.
“Planet will be the same show as Transfer but instead we’ll be talking about Samantha Stosur instead of shampoo. Or coal seam gas instead of shampoo,” he says.
“It will look a lot like Gruen Transfer. There’s a monologue which will reflect the world of spin and advertising.
“There’ll still be an opening segment –a long form discussion that may be a How Do You Sell Something that’s been in the news?
“Or a renovators style thing where you take a fallen celebrity such as Tiger Woods, or Craig Thomson for example.”
Retaining duelling panellists Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft, the show will still analyse strategy and the ways we are persuaded.
“We’ve looked at how they sell shampoo, cars and banks but that’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advertising. Politicians are advertising to us everyday, celebrities, sports people are advertising to us everyday. PR, branding, image control, are all the bit of the iceberg that’s under the water.
“Now it’s time to look under the water at everything else that’s going on.”
It will also keep its popular segments The Worst Product of All Time and The Pitch. Anderson says rather than being hypotheticals, this time The Pitch will remain rooted in the news landscape.
“One of them is a campaign for sports people saying they shouldn’t have to be role models. (For example) As long as they do their job on the field, then off the field they should be able to do whatever they want. Obviously that’s not a thing that would ever happen in real life. But it’s a real life issue.
“A great Gruen Planet pitch might have been to do a re-election ad for Craig Thomson. So it’s based in something that might have to happen but is still an impossible offer.”
In order to stay topical the show will record just 24 hours before airing. In planning for the first episode there are a number of potential topics, with production yet to decide which 2 will make it to air.
“We’ll probably make our final decision on Tuesday but on Monday we’ll really look at the show and ask ourselves ‘If we were making the show today, what would be in it?’” he explains.
“We’ve floated around 6 ideas that we feel confident are things that we’d like to talk about or address in the run of this show.”
But while it shifts focus to celebrities and politicians there is still a line in the sand about what should and shouldn’t be discussed.
“This isn’t The Insiders or Q & A. If somebody comes on the show and starts discussing their personal political beliefs or the politics of the situation that’s the shit that’s gonna get cut out of the show. The Gruen Transfer is not a show about advertising, it never was. It’s a show about why we buy what we buy,” Anderson says.
But Anderson says it’s too early to say whether Gruen Planet might mean the end for The Gruen Transfer after 4 years.
“‘I don’t know’ would be the answer to that. It wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t, but that’s not to say there won’t be,” he says.
“Last week’s episode of Transfer was the last you will see of Transfer for a year, I would imagine. But it may be longer than that, who knows?
“It’s hard to be making plans for Planet when we haven’t done an episode of it. It may well be our Renovators moment.”
Anderson also says he doesn’t know whether viewers will see him on ABC1 next year because he hasn’t made any decisions. But he also says the Gruen team doesn’t plan that far in advance.
“It’s not that sort of show. Everyone who does this show, it’s not their career. This is all our ‘second jobs.’ Todd and Russel have jobs in the advertising industry. I have my stand-up career which is my real career. We only do a few weeks a year and we’re doing 16 this year which is the longest run we’ve ever done.
“It’s not a thing where we come back and go ‘Ok we’ll do 12, 15 whatever…’ If we feel like there’s still some life in a Gruen-related concept, then I imagine we will probably do something else.
“But if we feel like we’ve gotten to the end of that journey then I think we would all walk away from it as well. It’s not a franchise. We’re not going to flog a dead horse. As long as we have something interesting to say then we’ll probably try to find a way of saying it.
“I don’t mean to say it definitely won’t be happening. We just don’t look that far ahead. We’ll see how Planet goes and maybe in 8 weeks we’ll say ‘Well that was f***ing fun for 4 years, it was really good to be part of it.’ Or maybe we’ll go ‘Great we’ve just started this incredible journey where we have this whole new world we can explore in the same format.’
“But before an episode has gone to air it’s not a point to be making those decisions.”
With the loss of Spicks and Specks, ABC audiences and management will no doubt be hoping that Gruen Planet will indeed prove a fertile and amusing ground on the world of advertising. It is, after all, ABC’s highest-rating local series.
“We’re going to do this while it’s interesting to do it, and the minute it’s not interesting then we’ll stop doing it.”
Gruen Planet airs 9pm Wednesdays on ABC1.