Paul Fenech says TV is overrun by “posh wankers”

Housos creator speaks frankly about frustration with govt departments Screen Australia, Screen NSW and even SBS.

Prolific comedian Paul Fenech has spoken frankly about the frustration of working with government departments Screen Australia, Screen NSW and even SBS in getting his comedy onto screens.

Fenech’s Housos feature is currently screening around Australia but as he told Mumbrella, he didn’t wait for funding from Screen Australia and Screen NSW which he labelled as “so slow,” instead opting for independent funding.

He even noted a curious relationship with SBS, where Pizza, Swift & Shift Couriers and Housos have all found an audience.

“SBS and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. They love the success but they are always a bit worried about the content I give them because it’s not everybody’s cup of tea,” he admitted.

“But you cant argue with numbers and results – we’ve always been their number one show that they make, since Pizza, for ten years.”

Whilst Fenech’s comedies have been niche successes for SBS, it’s debatable to argue that any have been the broadcaster’s #1 show (Mythbusters, Top Gear, Who Do You Think You Are? and Go Back To Where You Came From have all averaged higher).

But SBS did sit on the second season of Swift & Shift Couriers for months, not seeing the light of day until Managing Director Shaun Brown vacated the building due to its Indian setting.

However Fenech suggests under Michael Ebeid there even were problems with Housos.

“The regime at the time were happy with the idea. Then there was a regime change. When they saw the final product the new people were very reluctant – swearing , domestic abuse,” he said.

“Everything was against it, it was on at ten o’clock at night and that’s almost the kiss of death for most TV programs but luckily enough people found it through social media.

“I’ve never understood it. Since Pizza, there’s a weird inhouse, maybe it’s a personal reluctance. There’s a lot of middle class people that work in the media in general, not just SBS. Out stuff is very – working class is the wrong title – but underclass kind of humour. Maybe some people call it lowbrow but I just think it’s general Aussie humour, so I’m dealing with posh wankers the whole time.

“In the last 15 years the posh wanker brigade has taken over more of TV and there’s less and less real film makers and TV makers actually making TV. We’ve been overrun with people who’ve come out of all sorts of corners but not actually production so it’s a real struggle.”

You can read more here.

13 Responses

  1. The reverse snobbism (“posh wanker brigade”) of Fenech (apparently a “real film maker”) and his shows have never appealed to me – conversely nor has Rafters, Offspring etc… Give me well-written, smart shows like Laid, The Librarians, Outland or The Strange Calls any day.

  2. Posh? Let’s call a spade a spade – elitist snobs is what I would call them.
    When I saw a knockabout criminal on Underbelly speaking with a north shore accent (darnce, charnce, plarnts) all I could do is laugh.

  3. To give Paul the benefit of the doubt I just watched an episode of Housos. I don’t mind a bit of trashy tv but this was completely amateur – the acting, scripting and schoolboy comedy. I can see exactly why Paul has trouble getting funding. The Shire is posh in comparison. Shameless would be ashamed.

  4. Fenech says “…we’ve always been their number one show that they make…” which I take to mean that he’s claiming the highest ratings for drama produced/commissioned by SBS; ie not overseas progs. He’s either unaware of/forgotten about “Go Back To Where You Came From” or isn’t counting it because it’s a doco of sorts.

    There’s is plenty of both bogan and middle-class TV and, as David says, the likes of Rafters and Offspring do well because they’re about people that plebs can aspire to be like.

    So, we just need some TV to cater for the rest of us. Where’s my opera and not that Gilbert and Sullivan muck!

  5. Although David I’m not familiar with the real estate in “Erinsborough” (a.k.a Vermont South) but I think it’s selling it a bit short to consider the homes as “student rental” 🙂 I think they’re a bit higher up the real estate food chain than that still, even all these years later.

  6. “In the last 15 years the posh wanker brigade has taken over more of TV”

    Hence our TVs are getting hammered with Today Tonight, A Current Affair, Brynne Edelsten, Eddie McGuire, Lara Bingle, The Shire, Border Security, The Footy Show, Australia’s Funniest Home Video….? Not exactly high-brow stuff.

    If Mr Fenech is frustrated with SBS has he talked to a commercial network, I’m sure his material would be lapped up by 7mate, etc…

  7. I had to laugh at this but it is so true and it did start about 15 years ago. If you look at all our dramas whether it be Rafters/Winners & Losers/ House Husbands/ Offspring/ Neighbours etc etc they are all about middle class people and families. Where are all the poor people, the strugglers and the down and outs like we see in Housos and the shows we used to make?

    There’s definitely a middle class intelligentsia that has influenced all these productions, making TV moreso for the critics now than for general viewers. It’s the same middle classes that push the gay agenda in virtually all of these shows by showing positive gay related storylines that guarantee them critical acclaim and praise but at the expense of the masses.

    1. Surely the Gross family in Winners and Losers cannot be called posh wankers, Lotto wins aside I would consider them lower middle class. Frankly the houses in Ramsay Street are no longer upper middle class. These days most would be student rentals. But there are other shows people often overlook, usually low budget comedies such as Wilfred, The Strange Calls, A Moody Christmas, any of the comedies by Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler, Small Time Gangster, Outland. Underbelly is hardly upper middle class and Wentworth is coming. Yes the big hits are middle class with aspirational qualities, which in part is what makes them big hits. I agree there is lean towards positive gay characters, just as there is a lean towards positive straight characters. No argument that providing equity in both would lead to some interesting stories and depth of character, such as Hit and Miss tonight on ABC2.

  8. We have had a lot of LCD TV with the factuals this year – Bingle, Shire, Brynne, endless factuals that focus on minorities that all cater towards the lowest common denominator.

    But when you look at local drama I think a majority of it features upper middle classes – Offspring with doctors and estate agents. Winners & Losers with more doctors and a laywer or two.

  9. Funny, because I think TV is overrun by bogans! There is hardly anything highbrow being produced in Australia at the moment. Many of our presenters have bogan mannerisms and accents and the content being delivered is directly for bogan crowds with bogan themes. Call me a posh wanker, I don’t care, but there certainly isn’t a limitation of bogan content in Australia at the moment!

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