SERIOUSLY OVERDOING IT
How can something that's delicious make me sick? Unless too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing. [In realization] My friendship with Abed is a giant cookie!
- Troy (Donald Glover), Community
History tells us that you can have too much of a good thing. TV is particularly bad at accepting this particular fact of life – series run far past their use by date, personalities overexpose themselves, TV channels air series like Two and Half Men and the Simpsons so often that it becomes comical.
In 2010, Channel Ten hit on a good thing called the 7PM project. Widely chastised after its first episode (on which it never should have really been judged) and low-rated, Ten persevered until eventually it became a relative success – averaging around or over the million viewer mark. Hosts Charlie Pickering, Carrie Bickmore and Dave Hughes began to gel. The show assembled a talented rotating cast, including Dr Andrew Rochford, Tom Gleeson, Kitty Flanagan and for a degree of gravity, George Negus.
One of the most remarkable things about this achievement is that not only did Channel Ten get people to watch a news program at 7pm, they got young people to watch news at 7pm. Sure, it was funny and lightweight at times – but it was still a news program, and people were still watching it. So with the launch of a new digital channel (11) on the horizon, the honchos at Ten decided now was the time to shake up the landscape. The 7PM Project was a success. George Negus was popular. So they came up with this:
5pm – A one-hour state news bulletin
6pm – 6pm with George Negus – a current affairs show on the day’s issues
6:30pm – Another State news bulletin with a more in-depth look
7pm - The 7pm project
For those of you that are counting, that is two and a half hours* of news programming of some sort. Two and a half hours. That’s like discovering people like a pastry you made and opening a patisserie.
*Something is not going to be successful just because it involves the words ‘two and a half’.
In my opinion, it’s way, way too much. I work in current affairs and on any given day in Australia there is only so much news around. At the moment, Australia is stricken with flood and fire and a lot of news coverage is focusing around the clock on that. But that will subside, and there will be days when the biggest issue is whether we should ban soft drinks, or something equally desperate. Sustaining news interest is hard enough on a good day – sustaining it for two and a half hours on a bad day is borderline impossible.
The basic principle behind the decision seems to be that no matter when you get home from work you can turn on the TV and find quality news coverage on Channel Ten – rather than watching Seven, sighing, turning to Ten to find Neighbours and exclaiming to your family how terrible television is at six o’clock. Now, on the other hand, you have the option of George Negus.
The problem with this theory is that it is splitting Ten’s natural audience for news programming over two and a half hours. The 7pm project is only a moderate success – though a worthy one – but I imagine it has a finite, predominantly younger audience. I can’t see those people jumping out of their skins to also watch George Negus tackle the issues of the day without Dave Hughes cracking gags alongside him.
The second state bulletin seems to be banking on the idea that there are lots of people who get home at exactly 6:30 ravenous for news updates and the whole misguided venture completely dilutes the impact of the 7pm project, which is at its best when it captures that feeling of being in a group of people discussing an issue that is happening right now. Discussing something that has been covered for two hours already completely undermines the 7pm Project’s impact. It runs the risk of being reduced to the comedy wrap of the news, rather than a live news show with comedic elements and discussion.
Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with that. I like watching Sky News (for anyone without cable, it destroys ABC News 24 both in immediacy, professionalism and the quality of its presenters and commentators) and the Channel Ten news line-up seems to be at its core a 150-minute mini-Sky news channel. That’s a nice idea, but I fear an impractical and low-rating one.
Like all revolutions, Channel Ten’s news revolution is going to be an uphill climb – and there will be blood. I predict failure (though I hope I’m wrong) and I can only hope that if the revolution fails, the 7PM project doesn’t become collateral damage.