The very first episode of the new Foxtel / TEN series Common Sense won’t hold back on the big agenda topics to be debated by its newly-cast participants.
As Producer David McDonald explains, “There’s probably an assumption that Pell will be in there. The results of the Census, which is interesting for a first episode, to have a snapshot of Australia. And Trump, god bless him, is at it again.
“They would be 3 off the bat I think you can expect to see.”
Local butchers, hairdressers, removalists, real estate agents and retirees are amongst the ordinary Aussies who are about to become television stars.
What Gogglebox does for TV viewers in the home, Common Sense will do for news junkies in the workplace. David McDonald, who also produces the former, acknowledges the similarities for the latter, and happily re-applies the production methodology.
Like its counter-part the show is on a tight delivery, shooting footage as late as possible in order that its news stories are as fresh as possible. But McDonald hopes what he has learned on the fore-runner gives his new prospect a fighting chance.
“Gogglebox, apart from sounding like the worst idea on television, was at least going into a landscape where there wasn’t anything else like it. Now this is coming into a space that has Gogglebox and Travel Guides. But you could argue they are popular,” he explains.
“So there will be something to compare it to now.
“Common Sense is a little bit of everything. If you think of the sections of a newspaper, there’s the headlines, the world, the human interest stories, entertainment and sport on the back page.”
Newspapers, radio, television and online form the basis of the topics which will be dissected by a cast from Sydney & Melbourne. They range in ages from 21-92 and tick various boxes on the socio-economic and ethnicity front.
“I hope the audience identifies with them, and they see themselves or someone they know,” McDonald continues.
“We wanted it to be as broad as we could, so there is age and experience at one end and youth and enthusiasm at the other, mixed in with different economic backgrounds.
“We’re totally at the mercy of what happens in the news”
“We’re totally at the mercy of what happens in the news. Sometimes a slow news day may be better because they have to fill up their pages with something, so you get more interesting, obscure stories.
“We have to hit the stories that everyone’s talking about, and has made a big splash during the week.
“But if a really big story hits it dominates everything and you get nothing else for a couple of days.
“Sometimes on Gogglebox it’s the more obscure shows you might not know that are the most fun to watch. For the audience part of the enjoyment is ‘What the hell is this?’”
But Common Sense also has to work as television. Is he confident the show can maintain enough visuals when the source material includes newspapers, radio & online?
“Even with online content, so much of it is embedded with video and visuals. But it’s even amusing sometimes to hear them reading out the articles. You can just read the first paragraph of an article and you’re already off, commenting about it.”
“If it becomes big enough it would be fairly obvious if we weren’t doing it”
McDonald is also conscious of the fact that if there is big news about either of the two networks -like, say going into receivership- then the show will have to consider going there too.
“It’s one of those things that I think we have to do,” he admits. “If it becomes big enough it would be fairly obvious if we weren’t doing it. There has been that approach with Gogglebox, so I hope there hasn’t been bias there in what we’ve done. It’s a case by case basis, depending on what it is.”
And lastly, will we ever get to a point where Gogglebox is reviewing Common Sense?
“I don’t think they will ever be on air at the same time!” he laughs.
“That’s when I would have to pull the pin and say ‘This is ridiculous!’”
Common Sense airs 7:30pm Wednesday on Lifestyle and 8:30pm Thursday on TEN.