It was on-going grief as a customer that has led to a new 10 part series, The Checkout, a co-production between ABC TV, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder and Giant Dwarf.
“I think there is a decade’s worth of amusement in The Chaser office from the other guys seeing me crack the shits with various service providers, usually in the telecommunications and IT industries. Some people would say I’ve been waiting my whole life to do a show like this,” he admits.
“I get very frustrated at times by poor service.
“I remember watching The Investigators from the mid-80s to mid-90s and it was a pioneering consumer affairs show. It’s kind of like the ABC has vacated the space since then.”
Joined by Craig Reucassel, Hungry Beast’s Kirsten Drysdale and Kate Browne from Choice magazine, the series will tackle issues that face consumers, including being taken advantage of, manipulated and ripped off.
Morrow says Choice is not a producer of the programme, and the scripts are generated and / or edited by the show’s production team.
Regular segments will include tips for changing consumer behaviour based on consumer psychology; a Brand Power style infommercial that showcases the way marketers play on parental guilt; showing photographed products as they look in real life; and advice from consumer advocates and researchers.
However the show won’t simply be a Gruen-style look at consumer issues.
“Gruen is a small number of experts discussing the issues on a panel. But I’m calling this ‘satirical consumer affairs.’ It’s more magazine / story based and segment based.
“It’s more about the products, not the strategy behind the sales. What does this product do? What do they say it does? Do those things square up? Can you get your money back if you’re unhappy? It’s designed to be an engaging tasting plate to the nuts and bolts practicality of consumer affairs.”
But don’t our 6:30 shows already tackle consumer issues on a nightly basis -defending the little guy with the whopping phone bill or being ripped off by shonky salespeople?
“I don’t see us as being in competition on that sort of stuff. There are times when you can see a hypocrisy or perhaps a commercial interest behind the way they cover consumer affairs. It does sometimes align with who the advertiser on the network is,” Morrow insists.
“But as far as I’m concerned, the more discussion of consumer affairs the merrier.”
The first episode promises stories on the ‘complimentary medicine industry’ in Australia’; a ‘Buy Now, Pay Forever’ segment on low-price goods that lock you in; and car services and how they comply with Australian consumer law.
The show is also asking disgruntled consumers to send in their complaints, tips and rumours.
“We’re encouraging consumers in Australia to record little video gripes, kind of in the same way people ask questions on Q & A,” Morrow explains.
“It’s about mixing new media with old media, such as television, to get a better deal for consumers.”
But being a by-product of The Chaser, surely there will also be an expectation to be amusing? It can’t all be foot-in-door journalism exposing shonky sales people?
“We’re trying to convey information which is engaging. If something is just a pure joke, it probably won’t find its way into The Checkout. There has to be, even remotely, some sort of consumer affairs rationale to the content,” he says.
“It will probably be clown-foot-in-door rather than Mike Munro jackboot in the door. But where we can make a point about cynical marketing or over-charging or conduct that is not in consumer’s interests and we can make that point directly to the executive, CEOs or board members of companies, then we’ll be looking for every opportunity to do so.
“Unfortunately we find that our names are on plenty of doors these days but not on the admin lists -so sometimes it’s pretty hard to get the foot in.”
The Checkout airs 8pm Thursday March 21 on ABC1.