Julian Assange can never stay out of the headlines for long, and if last night’s strong ratings on Channel Ten are any indication, people can’t get enough of him.
The Wikileaks founder is reportedly planning to sue Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation over her assertion that Wikileaks has engaged in illegal activity.
On one level, you have to agree with Assange. The Prime Minister has been unable to point to a single law that Wikileaks has broken.
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And then there were two…
Not even the hosts of Channel Ten’s breakfast show want to wake up together.
Andrew Rochford walked out a week ago, closely followed by the show’s original executive producer, Majella Wiemers.
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Not since that vibrant community festival involving Cronulla locals and middle eastern visitors in December 2005 has Sydney’s Sutherland Shire been portrayed as such a happy, forward-looking kind of place.
The Shire debuted on Channel Ten last night, showcasing under bright tanning salon lights the talented, hard-working and incredibly plucky youth of the infamous southern Sydney beachside municipality.
Not before time too. For too long we’ve been swamped by quality American shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore. Now, at last, we have our own. The Shire is about our young people, and about the pursuit of their dreams, their hopes, their ex-boyfriends.
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So the people who produced Underbelly have now unleashed Overbelly, a drama mostly about women removing their shirts and bras and bouncing their boobs about, with a trivial side plot focusing on bikies.
Bikiewars: Brothers in Arms premiered on Channel Ten last night and it was fine television, if by fine television you mean yet another drama glamourising the absolute dregs of Australian society.
It was also an excellent showcase for some talented Australian actors, if by talented Australian actors you mean women with a bra size in high alphabet letters who were willing to leave said garments at home on shooting days.
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Channel Ten soapie, Neighbours is so far behind the times all that’s missing from the Ramsay Street set is an FJ Holden and a Hills Hoist washing line.
Case in point: last night’s episode of the popular show where male gay characters, Chris and Aiden, share their first on-screen kiss.
Well, whoop de do. Feels a little bit 1985, especially for a show that’s dominated its time slot for 27 years. Surely that’s time enough to understand your audience? So what’s taken them so long to get on board with gay relationships?
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Every now and then, you might come across a disaster of some kind and have the inexplicable urge to stare at it. It could be a train accident, or a natural disaster. On Sunday night, it was on Channel 10. More than a million Australians went through this feeling, powerless to stop it from unfolding.
After resting for more than 20 years, It’s a Knockout is back on our screens - hopefully sufficient time for the nostalgia factor to kick in. It delivered a much needed ratings debut to Channel 10 to start the summer, but viewers watched in horror as their cherished childhood memories were harvested.
For the most part it was simply that the concept hasn’t stood the test of time well, but for a remake it also did little to match the tone and atmosphere. It was the equivalent of buying something dodgy from China off eBay and calling it an iPad.
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Here’s a simple statistic that TV executives are happy you didn’t know. Back in the 1980s the population of Australia was about 14 million. A good TV show would rate about 5 million viewers. Fast forward to 2011. Australia’s population has grown to 20 million and TV execs are dancing on their mini-bars if their show attracts over 1.2 million viewers.
The population has doubled, the viewers have halved. The maths is not good. “Masterchef” peaked last year with over 3.5 million viewers. Proportionally, based on 1980’s viewing habits, Masterchef should have rated nine million viewers.
The velocity of the decline is increasing. For an industry that was once a sizable chunk of the life and breath of Australian culture, the Australian free TV industry is “circling the drain”. That’s cop show talk for dying.
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There’s been a curious role reversal between Channel 10 and Channel Nine in the past 5 years or so, made even more compelling with James Packer’s new 18 percent stake in 10.
The networks used to be opposites of the TV spectrum – Nine the heavy-weights in both budget and exposure – Ten the cut-price youngsters. Nine had a stable of headline stars. Ten was a quiet achiever. Nine had a formidable newsroom of senior journalists. Ten had a bunch of bright, hungry 20-somethings.
Then they started morphing into each other. Nine began carving away the newsroom budget, chunk by chunk. A lot of fat was shed, then a bit more. Young, ambitious 20-somethings started to feature in the 6pm line up. The tone changed from stable, solid (and sometimes predictable) to a more American, flashy, invigorated product.
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The Packer name back in the public media fold has caught everyone by surprise. There is a temptation to start dusting off analogies to his father Kerry Packer and his love of Channel Nine; the proprietor who might be given to bark down the phone ordering changes to that night’s line-up.
There’s nothing like a mogul roaming the media landscape. Ten was boring until now thanks to an open share registry - an entity in the hands of fund managers who were more interested in EBITDA and price to earnings ratios than the alchemy of making a rip-snorting TV show.
Indeed, Ten boasts the most successful TV franchise ever in Masterchef but the thing that has frustrated shareholders is that it hasn’t really translated into stellar gains in the share price _ Ten’s cost structure has risen of late and it’s share price has taken a whack.
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I was spending some quality time with channel 10 the other night. It was blathering on about how good it’s life is now, and I was only half listening. But I did hear it accidently say Masterchef’s name when it was talking about its new friend, Jamie Oliver’s Road Trip.
You see, Channel 10 needs us, guys. In recent times it was on top of the world: Masterchef was the most watched non-sporting event in Australian television history, with the finale reaching a peak of over four million viewers.
It was raking in sponsorship and commercial money, there’s book royalties to look forward to, it seemed like things could never go wrong.
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