Can Reputation Rehab transform “Tennis bad boy” Nick Kyrgios?
It’s a very big brief for The Checkout‘s Kirsten Drysdale and Zoe Norton Lodge in ABC’s newest show. But in an age of public outrage, pile-ons and cancel culture it’s a valid question which is undertaken, almost Charlie’s Angels-like.
Across half an hour they dissect his image, media appearances, public perception, tantrums and press coverage, with wry humour and social observation.
First up, members of the public are quizzed on their perception of the tennis star, which vary from “A bit of a tosspot,” to “One of the best” and “His attitude stinks.”
Press conference footage suggests Kyrgios is unenthusiastic about dealing with the media, but thankfully we get to hear from the man himself in an interview filmed at his home.
Without dismissing his track record, Krygios alludes to racism in the “nice white gentleman’s sport.” Cue Dawn Fraser’s quote that players should “go back to where their parents came from” (it neglects to acknowledge her apology). And there’s a light nod to the amount of ‘swear jar’ money his bad behaviour has raised for good causes.
“Off the court I’m quite chilled and mellow,” Kyrgios insists.
“I really don’t think I’m a bad boy.”
Kyrgios also explains his love / hate relationship with the game.
“I love training, I love putting in but there are times when I hate it,” and “Losing sucks.”
Other feature interviews include sports media advisor Niav Owens, Tennis Australia’s Director of Performance Wally Masur and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Malcolm Knox. All contribute something on Kyrgios’ public persona and sporting success and the tug of war that exists between them.
But there are some segments that make light of the quest such as having a member of the public (who frankly feels like they have been cast accordingly) in faux tennis court tantrums and press conferences.
By far the most interesting interview is with Kyrgios’ own mother, whose answers speak to the real impact of how her son has been affected by press articles and public attitude. More of this please.
The style of the series is zippy and light, in the vein of The Checkout or The Project, but whether the content justifies its devoted airtime could be relative to the weekly subject.
I also feel more establishing of the credentials of our intrepid hosts might have been helpful. I’m a bit unclear on why they have been tasked with the mission rather than an investigative reporter, or indeed whether Australian Story or Four Corners would mine more depth. But this is not that show. It’s a light and lateral poke at our predisposition on those in the crosshairs.
I suspect achieving said outcome will vary according to the weekly subject. That said, there is certainly room to swim against the media tide, which is what Drysdale and Norton-Lodge seek to offer.
Reputation Rehab airs 9:05pm Wednesday on ABC.