No change for Today Tonight

2013-02-12_0047The more things change the more they stay the same.

Today Tonight‘s relaunch will have to go down as one of the most over-hyped in recent times.

After all the “will they / won’t they?” questions about whether the show would be incorporated into Seven News, the end result was little more than a change of host. Maybe that was the intent.

Promises of lifting the tone and incorporating local news were barely touched in the thirty minutes that rolled out in Sydney and Melbourne.

Yes there was Helen Kapalos, a glamorous, confident anchor behind a desk with the most subtle of hollow set changes. Same music, same use of graphics.

The rundown of stories was the same in Sydney and Melbourne: a story on bikie gangs in Brisbane, brief stories referencing both Sunday Night and My Kitchen Rules, and a “You Be the Judge” segment featuring Derryn Hinch.

This is despite promos plugging the fact the show would offer Sydney and Melbourne content for their audiences.

The story on the bikies in Brisbane was well-balanced, a lengthy 13 minute yarn that didn’t even carry the old “Exclusive” watermark, that has accompanied every TT tale. More of this please.

But it was let down by two stock-standard stories referencing Seven shows: James Packer crying on Sunday Night and the ‘Spice Girls’ being the target of My Kitchen Rules hate campaigns. At just 1:30 and 30 seconds each these offered nothing except to give the show a nod to talking points from Seven’s own shows. Fail.

Then Derryn Hinch, still full of fire, fronted a segment on one of his favourite topics: legal judgements that are at odds with public consensus. Hinch told us of the case of a woman injured by a motel light while having sex. The case resulted in compensation some time ago, but viewers were encouraged to download FANGO to weigh in with agreement or disagreement.

Disappointingly, it resulted in tabloid TV re-enactments (complete with accompanying music and soft-focus cameras). It included the bizarre sight of Hinch standing beside a bed of semi-naked actors, and a shirtless actor giving us a sworn-testimony quote from the male involved. It’s not clear if he was actually shirtless when he gave the testimony to police, but just had to be for the TT re-enactment. Bonus.

As much as I like Kapalos, at this point I was lamenting that we hadn’t returned to a fully-fledged revival of Hinch -but maybe I am being sentimental. We had real current affairs back then, not re-enactments -or did we?

Amazingly by the time a commercial break had ended we had a verdict from the audience: 90% thought she didn’t deserve any financial compensation for her injury. Only 10% agreed. Such lightning fast results from TT, yet it takes a week to tell us how many people voted out a Dancing with the Stars contender.

I get that TT will not be doing a George Negus and telling us about the war in Syria. It doesn’t want to alienate its core audience, it just wants to drop the average age of the viewer, which has flocked to its tabloid tales of the past.

But if it really wants to lift the tone of the show it needs to ditch pointless cross-promo stories, fulfill the promise of local content, break more investigative yarns, give us stories that go behind the headlines of daily News (anything on the choices faced by Catholics tonight?) and most importantly, have Helen Kapalos front some interviews which is the point of difference Tracy Grimshaw has given to ACA, albeit in between some yarns about supermarket wars and red light cameras.

“What’s your verdict so far?” Derryn asked.

Not much Derryn. But that’s life.

22 Comments:

  1. I don’t think Seven gets it. It was never about the presenters or where the show originates from. It was about the stories catering to the lowest denominator. In the TT world anyone who had anything to say suddenly became experts and their version of events the truth.

  2. @EvanOnTheGC

    TT comes out of Melbourne now. We used to get an overlap of the news in Sydney here in Melbourne when TT was coming out of Sydney.

    Maybe that’s why the set looked ‘hollow’? Anyway, before Derryn, they showed some of the waiting screen with the duration of the segment etc.

    Seven has been doing that a lot lately…
    Getting sloppy with some of the behind the scenes paneling work Seven? =P

  3. The above picture sums it all up nicely. Why anyone watches this tripe is beyond me.

    @daredevil2012 I don’t understand how anyone can watch this or Current Affair both stupid stupid shows, and after being offended at last nights show you are still willing to give it another chance… seems crazy to me. Just don’t watch it.

  4. I was disgusted with last nights TT segment about compensation, it was highly inappropriate for the time slot, and i had my kids listening and watching this especially my eldest daughter. Part of last nights show was definitely not the family orientated program that we all used to watching. If more of this is going to be shown i will definitely have to switch networks.

  5. Helen Kapalos is a great presenter.I have to agree that the Derryn Hinch segment was cheap and smutty. I felt like the show reached a new low with that rubbish.

  6. News and tabloid current affairs are still rating over 1m each evening for 7 and 9 and very important in getting viewers.

    In the US where the young demographics are everything news and current affairs hardly rate a mention these days.

    7 & 9 are torn between keeping the older afternoon audiences from the afternoon news and quiz shows and trying get a younger audience as a lead into their reality TV shows.

    There was definitely a power struggle over this in 7 between Meakin’s if it ain’t broke approach and the new guard with Meaking being pushed out to a consult role. 7 experimented with a combined news and current affairs programme, which happens anyway where there are major media events like floods and fires on.

    But they have gone back to old idea with a few tweaks. But even though he was proved right Meakin is unlikely to get his job back.

  7. Thanks David. I still think they should have gone local for all markets. Just about everybody in Sydney has seen the Melbourne promos & are wondering how on earth is Sydney’s voice stronger, given that the promo clearly states that its made in Melbourne for a Melbourne audience. The ratings show that many have switched over to ACA.

  8. people get home after a long day and just want to veg out. They have their own family/friend/finance issues they cant be bothered listening to more politics/wars etc stories. Hence these shows have a place. I must admit i do watch them because of this….not because i dont care about more serious issues just 6.30 is unwind time. On the topic of last night she was very good…sharp and crisp. Her audience share will evolve no doubt.

  9. It will be difficult for the shared version to have local content. A story of interest to Melbourne may be of no interest to Sydney & vice versa. Should be separate,local versions for each market.

  10. carolemorrissey

    The bikie story was good and well done. I found it interesting. But that re-enactment, it was a bit creepy seeing Hinch standing by the bed while that couple were pretending to have sex. I don’t have fango and don’t intend to get it so didn’t bother to vote.

  11. Kapalos looked relaxed, confident and happy.She really is a stunningly beautiful woman. The cross promotions of MKR and Sunday Night were so short I wasnt sure if I was seeing an ad or what.

    But that Derryn Hinch piece was nothing more than cheap smut.Those corny sexual puns belonged in some amateur theatre cabaret rehearsal..I actually found myself laughing at how bad it was.

    I’ll give it a week to find its feet but its very similar to the old TT format.

  12. Proposition Joe

    Re-enactments in factual shows are one of my least favourite things about TV. Even some ABC shows are doing it. It’s just another step along the path of changing information into entertainment, although I would say that Today Tonight is a lot further down that path than Foreign Correspondent.

  13. It wasn’t just the same rundown in NSW & VIC, it was the exact same show! There was about 5 frames of 7 News Melbourne overlapping Chris Bath in Sydney before TT started (have emailed you a snapshot).

    Brisbane dropped the MKR “promo” and Packer recap in preference for a news update at the end of the show.

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