The Hamster Wheel

By David Knox on October 6, 2011 / Filed Under Programming, Reviews 38

There’s a bit of a theory that only those in the media are interested in shows about the media watch.

TV Burp, The White Room, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Back To You, You Have Been Watching haven’t worked on Australian screens.

Of course Media Watch, 30 Rock, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Frontline and Murphy Brown are just a few that blow the theory out of the water.

Last night The Chaser boys got out their magnifying glass and scrutinised the media in The Hamster Wheel. They may have even cast a few direct sunrays onto a few players and burned them around the edges.

This was a fast-paced show, zipping through plenty of the big guys: News Ltd newspapers, Twitter, Nine News, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Q & A and more. Meatloaf and Stephen Conroy’s singing ‘skills.’

Julian Morrow, Craig Reucassel and Chris Taylor were seated behind Horace, a very hairy desk, dropping the gags while Andrew Hansen and Chas Licciardello waited for their moment. The opening monologue was irreverent and set the tone for deconstructing the media. The funny cats YouTube clip was better left to Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, but I did laugh at the Go Back To Where Tony Abbott Came From. Stop the boaters indeed…..

Hansen and Licciardello highlighted media headlines and grabs about whether Gillard would go or not. The editing was swift and was beginning to hurt my head. It was Jonathan Holmes on speed, capped off with a swearing granny as punchline.

The dig at Q & A about carbon tax questions being asked every single week was wicked, as was a dig at Nine’s coverage of jumping dogs in Japan. But the News in Brief fell flat.

The cheekily-titled Schembris had me slightly nervous, but this segment with a simple structure worked well.

The best was left for the crime report about the rules for covering grieving families. Always stand outside the front of a house regardless of whether you’re welcome or not, and preferably get a helicopter shot of their roof. Seven’s Cameron Baud got a lashing….

By the time show was over I felt a bit exhausted but only having enjoyed a handful of laughs.

Where were the trademark pranks we’ve come to know these boys for? It felt like they had barely ventured out of the studio and relied upon the edit suite for storytelling. A little more schtick wouldn’t go astray. It must have also been frustrating that the week’s biggest spin story, GASP clothing, had been covered by Gruen Planet directly before them. But more could have been made of the NRL pokies and the government’s media inquiry. How about a day at ACMA’s complaints office while we’re at it?

I also think the show owes a debt of gratitude to Hungry Beast. The mix of graphics, deconstruction and satire was very much the hallmark of the Denton-produced series (and to a lesser extent The Times, a 1994 Seven show axed way too soon).

Shows like The 7PM Project and Hungry Beast learned that trying to cram too much into a show worked against them rather than for them, and they improved when they served up a more modest menu with better clarity.

The Hamster Wheel is a welcome return for The Chaser boys, but with their reputation it would help to deliver more with less.

The Hamster Wheel airs 9:35pm Wednesdays on ABC1.

38 Comments »

  1. Dexter October 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm -

    Bad, very bad. I’d say move on.

  2. Ben October 7, 2011 at 3:25 pm -

    I thought it was ok but I will wait until the series kicks along a bit. It is not a show I would make an effort to watch. Jax from Sons of Anarchy still rules this timeslot for me.

  3. David Knox October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm -

    Some good points…

  4. Egg October 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm -

    I have a conflict of interest so I’ll be straight up and say Cameron Baud is a close relative, but I felt their segment on him was a good example of media manipulation – the very thing they are trying to send up!

    The Hamster Wheel editors showed footage from different reporters on different TV stations from similar stories requesting comments from similarly distressed people. It was all mashed up so it came out like Cam was doing the same thing when their was No footage of him at all with the family involved in this story.

    I can assure you Cam would have been extremely uncomfortable while covering this story and ensured he made every effort to respect their family. However it goes with the territory and he just had to get on with doing a very difficult job. To label him a ‘stalker’ was a bit rich when the Chaser boys would have done plenty of ‘stalking’ in their time in their pursuit of a gag. Politicians across the country can probably back that up

    I don’t think it was one of their braver efforts but I guess I looked at it a bit closer than others would

  5. Joe October 6, 2011 at 11:32 pm -

    Had some very funny moments and some very dull moments. Loved the Twitter messages though, especially the St Kilda School Girl tweets saying she would have sex with Meat Loaf and Ricky Nixon’s tweets as well! Gold!

  6. Charlie Kelly October 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm -

    @Gavin

    Awesome a Charlie Booker mention!

    His stuff is great!

  7. Charlie Kelly October 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm -

    It was ok, i’ll keep watching.

  8. Andrew October 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm -

    Just watched it on my VCR and thoroughly enjoyed it.The chaser boys back at their best.

  9. elly October 6, 2011 at 6:42 pm -

    i enjoyed, it was good for a first ep. it’ll get better… one thing though that i couldnt stand was the tweets put in down the bottom. at the start i couldnt stop myself reading them and as a result missed stuff that was happening in the show. at the end i had to work to tune them out. it wouldve worked if theyd had maybe 2 or 3 as tweets that complimented the show (kinda like what stephen colbert does with the word), instead of just being bombarded with random stuff

  10. Gavin October 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm -

    The Oz You Have Been Watching didn’t work because it was toothless compared to the UK version (I like Peter Berner, but he’s no Charlie Booker) and had to plug an upcoming Foxtel show in each episode (If it didn’t, it sure seemed that way).

  11. Big V October 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm -

    So far, so good but the wish the War is still on

  12. Chris October 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm -

    The style of graphics was indeed like Hungry Beast, but they actually looked almost exactly the same as Can of Worms.

  13. jan October 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm -

    I;m glad they are back and I really enjoyed it. Very clever.

  14. David Knox October 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm -

    When in doubt, always click on the show’s Tag at the end of the story. It brought up this: Airdate: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

  15. Shelley October 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm -

    Sorry to nit-pcik David – did we ever get the chance to see Studio 60? I thought it was axed in the US before it ever aired here…

  16. Reg October 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm -

    It was quite funny overall, it was a bit patchy in parts for me with laughs. I thought they could have done a show on what have we learned today about the media when it was a segment on the Chaser. CNNN is still the best taking the pi*ss out of Fox News with Firth’s Froth, the war on terror etc, can never get enough of that on 7Mate at the moment! The Chaser was good but the gags even in that show with the stunts did get a tad predictable and stale at times. Bin Laden gag was ok to highlight the lack of security, but was stupid as well when dealing with security carrying firearms.

    It was long overdue (apart from Media Watch on a serious side) to have a show about the quality of the Australian media with the news. Lets be honest it has been going to the dogs for a while. These days the news is nothing more than media releases and spin with a PR person trying to spruik something or puff pieces or something for the sake of getting hits online for advertisers.

  17. David Knox October 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm -

    Doh @ Frankie. I will slap him for u.

  18. MuchoTB October 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm -

    I found Yes We Canberra funnier than this.

    Still great to have these guys back on TV – will be interesting to see how episode 2 goes.

  19. Frankie October 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm -

    As I texted to Faine (who didn’t read it out again!!!) when you were on David, I thought this and Gruen in its current guise are a bit too similar. Nonetheless had a good laugh, I thought the cats were well done as they had been put into context by the boys. As usual I find myself laughing at the fake tweets and news tickers and loved the dig at David Stratton via the coming up next super.

  20. snowflake October 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm -

    I love everything these guys do and this was no exception. Sure, there is room for improvement but it’s great to have them back.

  21. Jen13 October 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm -

    I loved it! Lots of laughs and a whole lot of fun!
    Loved the pokes at Q&A and 9 in general, and the YouTube cats were great.
    A few flat bits, but that’s to be expected.
    I’ll certainly be back for more – and the ABC has one of its rare nights where you can watch several programs in a row (Gruen, Chaser, Movie Show), just like the old days!

  22. Ash October 6, 2011 at 11:48 am -

    I was hoping they wouldn’t have a studio audience for this show.. in my opinion their funniest stuff happens when there’s no cheers and applause to follow. Something in the style of CNNN might have fit well with this show’s brief.

    But it was pretty enjoyable on the whole, and there were a few good laughs. I agree that the News in Brief was the weakest segment.

  23. John October 6, 2011 at 10:42 am -

    Started off okay but it went downhill rapidly to be nothing more than a predictable and juvenile irrelevance. Not funny, especially following the extremely funny and clever Gruen Planet. Won’t bother watching again.

  24. John Jackson October 6, 2011 at 10:25 am -

    Good show last night.. will tune in again. Although the Hamster looked more like a Wombat to me!

  25. Bob October 6, 2011 at 10:21 am -

    the show was brilliant and very funny
    i am glad they stopped doing the pranks it was becoming stale and boring

  26. chris October 6, 2011 at 10:19 am -

    I enjoyed it, please dont bring back the pranks!

  27. Mia October 6, 2011 at 9:52 am -

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of laugh out loud moments.

  28. Beckala October 6, 2011 at 9:49 am -

    I loved it. My husband and I were both laughing the entire time.

  29. Veronica October 6, 2011 at 9:31 am -

    Yeah only ok for me….felt a little cliched, a pastiche of their best bits.
    Plenty of scope for improvement.

  30. Gil October 6, 2011 at 9:13 am -

    Where were the trademark pranks we’ve come to know these boys for? I think it was a good thing there were no pranks. The APEC stunt was great but nothing since has (or will) top it – this was clearly evident in later episodes. I too thought the crime reporting was the best bit. But disagree with the Tony Abbott part – another dig at the Church and knocking living in Canberra….yawn.

  31. A. October 6, 2011 at 9:10 am -

    I agree with those that hope they don’t resort to pranks. They’re more miss than hit. I also wish they’d maybe vary the show between serious and funny. As I’ll admit they come across better individually on Q&A and The Drum when discussing things seriously as well as intelligently. With an occasional zinger. I was hoping they’d have more of that. That said I liked what they did overall and I’ll watch next week. I’ll look forward to it.

  32. Elbogrease October 6, 2011 at 9:09 am -

    Watched it and enjoyed nearly all of it. Good work fellas.

  33. Jason October 6, 2011 at 8:35 am -

    You know what? I liked this show Best of everything they’ve done. In the past it seems like they’ve resorted to pranks when they’ve got nothing informative to say or joke about. The Bin Laden security breach was great, but flying the blimp at the Vatican was just stupid. Pranks are OK occasionally, but it good to the point where I was feeling sorry for their prey just because the pranks were often pointless/cruel. This time you could tell that the show was well researched and that made all the difference to me.

  34. phatBoy October 6, 2011 at 8:35 am -

    hmm, felt a bit lazy too me.. how come the Daily Show can turn around an episode every day with more satire/comedy/information than the chaser can with a week to prepare?

  35. Number1 October 6, 2011 at 8:28 am -

    I liked it, I thought that it was pretty good, but not as good as The Chasers War on Everything.

  36. Don October 6, 2011 at 8:23 am -

    thought it was a great. sure it’s not a whole world away from what they’ve done before but who else in this country does it better?

  37. wamdue October 6, 2011 at 7:31 am -

    I think it was ok, but nothing special, I miss the War. No real stunts in this one, maybe the Chaser have matured.

  38. Njk October 6, 2011 at 6:56 am -

    I agree that some shows like this appeal mostly to people in the industry and there were some gags that only they would truly get. The thing they missed on pointing out was that reporters like Cameron Baud don’t want to be standing in front of the same stupid crime scene for 12 hours filing – they have to because that’s what they are told to do. I reckon this was the best Chaser show in a long time, and as for the absence of cheap pranks – that’s a good thing I think…their gags were falling flat in recent series because everyone on the street knew them and so they weren’t getting spontaneous reactions.

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