No sitting on the fence says Pickering

Donald Trump is President. Australian Prime Ministers are dumped with alarming regularity. And ABBA are recording new songs.

Yes in 2018 just about anything is possible, which has led to Charlie Pickering and producer Chris Walker conceiving of a show built around hypothetical situations to test prominent Australians on moral dilemmas: Tomorrow Tonight.

“These things keep happening that you never would have thought possible. We realised that audiences are used to news stories that beggar belief,” Pickering tells TV Tonight.

“So that gave us license to say ‘If we were going to make up news stories what would be the most interesting ones and make us think about things in a different way?’

“The media landscape is made up of panels of people reacting to news as it happens, with very firm views and opinions. And often with not long enough to think about them.

“But one of the rules of our show is that there is no sitting on the fence. So you have to make a decision. You can’t equivocate.”

“Because the stories are made up we get more genuine opinions from people”

According to Pickering, responding to fictional situations has elicited more honest options from the panelists.

“In the news cycle now it’s as if every story that happens you have to take a side on. People very quickly retreat to their side of the ideological divide. But what we have found making this show, which is awesome, is that because the stories are made up we get more genuine opinions from people.

“They have more of a think about their position because the stakes aren’t real.”

The format sees host Pickering relate a hypothetical news situation, complete with fake news packages, that set off a chain of events for the panel to respond to. The first, he teases is a global hacking event, which impacts ‘everybody’ on the planet. Guests Julie Bishop, Prof. Richard Buckland and comedian Luke McGregor play along.

“It places them in a number of moral and ethical conundrums”

“It places them in a number of moral and ethical conundrums. They have to make personal decisions about what they will do in this situation and at the same time we learn a lot about the world through them,” he explains.

“I do updates throughout the show and then there are further packages that move the story along.

“But the news event could be something that plays out over a week or a year. It’s not just half an hour of breaking news.”

Also joining them is permanent panelist Annabel Crabb.

“Annabel is a naturally inquisitive journalist so she naturally asks questions of the other members of the panel.

“One of the great revelations of the show is what a joy it is to work with Annabel”

Pickering is reticent to compare the show to iconic ABC series Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals which ran at various stages between 1985 – 2009.

“I’m a huge fan of Geoffrey Robertson, but I couldn’t pull off what he does.”

“The similarities with Hypotheticals is that they are made-up situations. But ours is coming from the point of view of a TV news background rather than a philosophical one,” he continues.

“I’m a huge fan of Geoffrey Robertson, but I couldn’t pull off what he does.”

Indeed the show is far more Gruen in nature thanks to ex-Gruen producer and former ABC Head of Entertainment Jon Casimir on board. Pickering insists there are laughs as well as serious and informative aspects to the show and watching panelists squirm on their positions is half the fun.

“What was interesting was that as the scenario played out even an expert like Richard Buckland was forced to change his mind,” Pickering adds.

“It’s a lot of fun but it really does get people thinking.”

Tomorrow Tonight screens 9pm Wednesdays on ABC.

3 Comments:

  1. “The media landscape is made up of panels of people reacting to news as it happens, with very firm views and opinions. And often with not long enough to think about them”. Is this a dig at Sky News / The Project?

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