The Hamster Wheel

The Chaser boys got out their magnifying glass and scrutinised the media in The Hamster Wheel at breakneck speed.

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 Responses

  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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).

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