When you watch RBT you better be drunk
Around a third of Australian road fatalities are the direct result of drink-driving. Add to that the millions of random breath tests that occur across the country every year and you’re looking at some fairly good reasons not to drink-drive.
Not that you’d know that from the statistics; the percentage of alcohol-fuelled road fatalities has remained constant in the past two decades. In fact, our collective apathy toward the separation of alcohol consumption and motor vehicle control is so great as to warrant its own show on the Nine Network.
Premiering last Sunday, RBT is Nine’s attempt at discouraging drink-driving or, depending on your point of view, an attempt to capitalise on the inability of Australian drivers to understand that driving home after six beers is probably a bad idea.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the trendy acronym RBT stands for “random breath test”, although it could just as easily be “really banal television”.
According to a press release from Nine, the “compelling new series goes behind the lines of the NSW Police force on breath testing operations” from “major roadside drink-driving operations and mobile breath-testing to high-speed pursuits and drivers under the influence of drugs.” That all sounds very promising but the show’s first episode did little to earn the glowing tone of the initial press release.
We met a bubbly Scottish woman whose dirty jokes had Kings Cross police thinking (incorrectly) that she might have indulged in some recreation drug use. We saw a concerned-looking skipper providing a negative test out on Sydney Harbour, despite the instincts of the testing officer. We watched as a slew of drivers passed through the RBT stations, accurately proclaiming their innocence.
Far from providing “compelling” viewing, these encounters were hammed up so as to enhance their dramatic impact – has she been taking drugs, or hasn’t she? And then there was the lovable bogan from Tamworth, Michael.
After finishing work for the day, the young plumber was convinced by his boss to stick around for a few Coronas. Far from being let “glide past” when the police saw “the ladders on the ute”, young
Michael was breath-tested and blew a .065. While his pregnant wife waited at home with dinner on the table, young Michael found himself acting as comic relief for the 1.323 million viewers that tuned in for Sunday’s premiere.
After being arrested “for the purpose of breath analysis” a sheepish Michael enquired “do youse put cuffs on me?” While sitting in the booze bus waiting for a secondary breath test he ventured a similarly comical “You know the worst part? I don’t even like Coronas!”
As fun as it is to laugh at our rural-dwelling brethren, it doesn’t exactly make for “compelling” television. And as for Nine’s assertion that RBT is “new”, well, that’s only partially true.
Sure, there hasn’t been a show called RBT on Australian TV before but the idea of the “front-line heroes” show is hardly original. You know the sort of shows I mean; the ones where we get a “behind the scenes look” at a valuable department or service doing their bit to protect Australians from the ills of the world. Shows like Ten’s Bondi Rescue, Nine’s Customs and Seven’s essentially-xenophobic Border Security are just a few that spring to mind.
The “front-line heroes” genre has a number of key characteristics. The shows are cheap to produce; after all, why bother paying someone to write quality Australian drama when you can film an existing service or department doing what they do every day? More important than the cost of such shows, however, is the message. Whether it’s a warning for viewers to respect quarantine laws or to swim between the flags, the “front-line heroes” show is really about instilling positive community values.
In the case of RBT, Nine does things a little differently; the only thing more effective than a police officer telling viewers that drink-driving is bad, is a recently de-licensed drink-driver telling you drink-driving is bad.
Introducing Dean, the episode’s token idiot. Having blown twice the legal limit, had his license confiscated and incurred a $750 fine and an eight-month driving ban, the vodka & red-bull sipping numbskull had the gall to lecture the viewer about drink-driving; “I think people that drink too much and drive are idiots, but I thought I was right to drive – one drink an hour was what I had and yeah, I’ll pay the consequences for that”.
Throw in some cheesy, suspenseful music as drivers await the results of their breath tests and a spinning blood-alcohol content counter at the bottom of the screen and you’ve got a thoroughly forgettable instalment in what is an already disposable genre.
A big thanks should go to the 33 per cent of Australians who have admitted to drink-driving in the past – without you, this sort of show just wouldn’t be possible.