Mike Munro: “No quality factual on Free to Air”
With a doco celebrating 100 years of US-Australian mateship, Mike Munro is at home on the History channel.
Public broadcasters may produce quality factual TV, but according to Mike Munro, commercial networks aren’t investing enough in the genre.
But Munro has found a home of late on Foxtel’s History channel, where his passion for storytelling fits with documentary specials, such as the recent Lawless: The Real Bushrangers.
“Apart from ABC and SBS, who can’t spend much, Foxtel is the premium leader on spending money on quality factual programmes. Free to Air spend nothing. There’s no factual quality on any of the Free to Airs that I can see, and that includes current affairs to be honest with you. But thanks to (Foxtel’s) Brian Walsh & Jim Buchan they still have the guts to spend,” he told TV Tonight.
“And I think the public want quality TV. They are screaming out for it.”
His latest project, Mateship: Australia & USA: A Century Together screens on July 4th, marking 100 years of the close bonds that unite Australia and America.
The special begins in 1918, when US & Australian troops first fought together at Hamel on the Western Front under Lieutenant General John Monash. It was the beginning of a mateship that would span decades, social and political history, and it’s a term that resonates with Munro.
“You look after each other in the good and the bad times”
“My best mate in the world is my beautiful wife and we’ve been together for 47 years last week, married 40 years next year. And I have 3 mates from kindergarten who I still see for dinner and play cards 2 or 3 times a year. So I’ve known them for about 55 years plus,” he explains.
“That’s true mateship, where you protect each other, look after each other in the good and the bad times, being supportive and loyal. To me that is absolute mateship.
“That’s initially what the Australians did for the Americans on July 4 1918. That was Monash’s first major battle.
“The Americans were fighting with a sceptical but very experienced, hard-nosed Australians.
“The Australians loved the keenness of the Americans but they said ‘We love your enthusiasm, but slow down or we will all get into trouble.’
“But they ended up firm friends, before WW II which was big time and their camaraderie became even closer. Then Korea & Vietnam.
“Those two more than anything … signify the true mateship.”
Munro speaks with historians, political experts and veteran soldiers in the one hour special produced by WildBear Entertainment.
“One of my favourite parts of the doco is when you meet the American gunner Jess and the Australian pilot Andy who are just so close. I can’t imagine anyone could be more close than those 2 who have come in and out of hot zones, hundreds of times in Vietnam,” he continues.
“Andy was given the silver star by America for rescuing so many Americans.
“Those two more than anything else in the doco signify the true mateship.
“It’s also speaking your mind when you have to -as Whitlam did with Nixon. No love lost there. As Turnbull is sort of trying to do with Trump now.
“So it doesn’t matter how the leaders don’t get on or do get on. The deep relationship between two countries, whether a gunner and a pilot or 2 foreign affairs depts and bureaucrats, it will never change. We will always be there for each other.”
There are also references to other areas of kinship including music, fast food, sport, television, retail, Indigenous nods to the US Black Panthers and an interview with a 90 year old former war bride.
But while the focus is on male mateship, Munro agrees a longer doco could have expanded on the definition.
“I wish we’d had more time”
“It’s a pity that we couldn’t have had 2 hours instead of 1 so that we could have portrayed more women on the production line during WWI and WWII,” he acknowledges.
“It was the women who were keeping things going back home while the men and women were giving up their lives overseas. I wish we’d had more time to do more than the war brides. And that’s why towards the end we did make a point of portraying young women soldiers in Darwin. But for me there wasn’t enough female contribution.”
Munro, who is currently writing a Last Bushrangers book for Harper Collins, was not featured as part of the Hall of Fame induction for 60 Minutes on Sunday.
“It’s really their 40th year next year. Strictly speaking it never really started until 1979.”
7.30pm July 4 on History.