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.