Paul Henry in The Chaser’s crosshairs
TEN's Breakfast host is set to feature in The Chaser's new season -and not in a good way.
Paul Henry is on notice. The Chaser boys have loaded up their cannon with footage and are set to light the fuse tomorrow night.
The Hamster Wheel returns to ABC1 to look at media, politics and censorship and as Chas Licciardello explains, TEN’s new Breakfast host is set to feature quite prominently this series.
“The thing I find amazing about Paul Henry is that he is the only person on TV, in fact that I have ever seen, who is equally intentionally funny and unintentionally funny. The guy is actually a bit of a comedian, and he is often self-aware with the schtick he does. But so often he is not self-aware and that’s the gold. The gold is when he has absolutely no idea about how he is coming off,” he says.
“What we’ve discovered is that his clips look very different in context to out of context. We look at a clip and think ‘That’s very funny, but is it fair to play this?’ because if you watch it in context he’s being a bit naughty, but very intentionally so. There’s no way that he’s actually making that statement. He’s just playing a character.”
“He likes to say things with the kind of panache that leads you to ending up on comedy shows.”
Could Henry become an Anna Coren-like running gag?
“I don’t know if I would say there’s a particular Paul Henry running gag but I do think that Paul Henry is going to be starring over and over and over again in various segments,” he said.
“Put it this way I think we will get to the point where we ration out our Paul Henry, so this isn’t just a repeat of TEN Breakfast.
At this rate the show may actually give TEN’s struggling show a free kick.
“That has actually occurred to us! We thought ‘Are we actually the best promotion the show has ever had?’ and I think the answer is we probably are! But I think the kind of people who watch our show probably aren’t the kind who either A) watch TEN Breakfast or B) would be up during TEN Breakfast!”
Licciardello wades through hours of footage to derive material for the show. He has been logging content since June on 5 computers, and this year has 4 assistants monitoring both 24 hour news channels and every news service on commercial and non-commercial TV.
“It means we can have a broader range than we did last year. People noted there were a certain number of shows that kept on coming up like Sunrise and Today. Admittedly the reason they keep on coming up is because they keep on delivering the goods.
“But also because we couldn’t watch every show on TV.
“Now we would have easily gone through 10 terrabytes of data. Easily. And there’s a lot more coming where that came from.”
The show is filmed just 2 hours before it airs, with an ABC Legal representative on the set. It also shoots As-Live in order to minimise editing requirements.
“There’s not much turnaround and the reason for that is simply because this is a show about the news, we need to be on the day,” Licciardello explains.
“If something big happens we don’t want to ignore it.
“We’ll record about 31 minutes and then cut out 4 or 5 minutes.
“We’re very fond of biting off more than we can chew at The Chaser. We like to fly new segments up the flagpole and see how they go.”
While Media Watch takes a hard editorial line on media transgressions, The Chaser team serve up the gags and the footage to make their point. On their list of goodies is the “buxom bandit,” a woman caught on CCTV cameras in July as she held up a Gold Coast service station with a knife. And ample cleavage.
“You might think that’s not really much of a story but it ended up running 75 times over a week on the news and it was clearly just because she showed her cleavage. We tallied up the number of seconds on the story and it was 43 minutes and 10 seconds,” he laughs.
“Let’s put it in context. There was another servo being robbed by another guy at knifepoint, also caught on CCTV on exactly the same day which was covered for 14 seconds in total!”
But without resorting to War on Everything stunts, sometimes the show will also include a segment with a sting in its tail. Shaking off reputations about pranks will take time.
“I worry that when there’s a real issue that we want to make a real point about, we end up just doing silly jokes and we don’t actually make any points at all,” he says.
“We’re very nervous about going more than 45 seconds without a laugh.”
Licciardello is also nervous about the new ratings landscape and the kind of numbers most shows outside of event TV are now attracting.
“Let’s be honest, shows on the ABC are not rating what they used to. I don’t want to go to air and have 300,000 people watching ourt show. That would be embarrassing. And I put that on the record knowing that there’s a chance that might happen and I might look really silly,” he admits.
“I know we’re not going to get the ratings we got for The Chaser’s War on Everything. No show gets those ratings now. But you’d hope we wouldn’t drop too much.”
No doubt it depends a lot on the competition. Just as long as it isn’t upcoming panel show The Unbelievable Truth, which will feature Craig Reucassel, Andrew Hansen and Julian Morrow on Seven.
“I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let it happen but if they do I will throw a full na-na live on air. So tune in for that!”
The Hamster Wheel returns 9:05pm Wednesday on ABC1.