But the switchboard lit up when one of the cast members tackled a live pelican. Such is the bizarre nature of public complaint: don’t harm animals. But as Shock, Horror, Aunty! host Craig Reucassel now tells us, no pelican was actually ever tackled. It was all done with computer graphics.
This two part special opens up the ABC vaults and relives some of the broadcaster’s most ‘shocking’ moments that triggered audience outrage. If the phones ran hot or the media ran headlines (Shock, Horror, Aunty! is an actual headline), then chances are it gets a guernsey in this clip show.
Reucassel is seated at an ABC complaints desk, complete with Mark Scott hotline, linking together archival footage into various themes: religion, deaths and more.
First up is Norman Gunston in black and white on the footsteps of the old Parliament House as a dismissed Gough Whitlam faces outraged supporters. This is footage that works on its own merits. It’s bizarre now to think Garry McDonald was actually there, in character in the face of unfolding history. This is the stuff of television legend.
Featuring regularly throughout the first special are the Doug Anthony All-Stars, mostly in Big Gig segments, with their anarchic humour. One scene involving mock violence still looks shocking, and Paul McDermott tells us that even now Tim Ferguson looks back on the sketch with regret. Another sequence where Paul McDermott rogers a pony was apparently his comment on the over-commercialisation of the Melbourne Cup. It still looks like he is just rogering a pony.
Buggery is a frequent theme. US comedy actor Mike Myers visits Roy and HG’s Club Buggery making lots of cheeky references to the meaning behind the title. Apparently shocked members of the audience had no idea of its true meaning until then. On Review with Myles Barlow Phil Lloyd is also seen having sex with a male prostitute. Even the late Ian Turpie gets a bit of a rogering in the name of comedy.
The Chaser boys make several appearances, with the APEC arrest, the blimp circling the Vatican with the words “young boys inside” and that infamous Make a Realistic Wish sketch which “we’re still not allowed to show you.” Boo.
There’s also suitable outrage over their Eulogy Song as part of a larger segment on tasteless comedy about Death. A young Wil Anderson is seen making jokes about Christopher Skase on The Glass House. Too soon? Too soon.
Also making it into the first episode are The Dingo Principle, John Safran’s crucifixion and trawling Ray Martin’s trash, Aunty Jack punching an elephant, Libby Gore about to lick Paul Keating, GTK and a banned show called The Off Show with the sketch “Leave it to Jesus.”
This special moves swiftly through its comedic moments, with very little time to document the subsequent outrage. I would have liked more examples of the public protests, Back Chat style if necessary, to put more context on just how outraged we were and how society’s values have changed over the years.
There also isn’t any representation from current affairs shows, some of which have offended entire nations with their interviews or stories. It’s purely the comedy shows in the spotlight.
But as Andrew Denton tells us, thank God for the ABC. Thank goodness Australians have a democracy capable of having “an organisation that is prepared to offend them.”
Shock, Horror, Aunty! part one airs 8:30pm Wednesday February 6 on ABC1 with part two on February 13.