Australian breakfast TV: a smorgasbord of the bland, boring and banal

a bowl of cornflakesBreakfast television in Australia is more boring than cornflakes, I think as munch on a far more interesting bowl of muesli, stewed fruit and skim milk on a morning when I decide that instead of blogging or checking emails before leaving for work, I’ll watch televsion.

I’ve blogged before about non-newsworthy stories that get front page scoops, but really the drivel they’re showing on Channel 7’s Sunrise this morning takes the cake.

I’m not making this up.

There’s a man, lets call him Jim (I forgot his name in the excitement of it all) who is telling host Sam Armytage about how he got a parking ticket overturned in Brisbane.

“I only parked for 40 minutes in a two-hour zone,” says Jim as we’re shown a shot of the offending Moreton Bay council, a square, white block of a building, oozing petty bureaucracy, with palm trees swaying outside in the ocean breeze.

And then Jim goes on to tell us breakfast-eaters about the whole saga, of how he had to go to the council offices, and wait, and then when he did speak to someone was told that he would have to take his case all the way through the appeal process.

But in the end he got his ticket revoked – a tale of bravery against the odds. Let’s give Jim a medal!

But that’s not all.

Jim is suing the council for wasting his time – “My time is valuable to me” he muses.

And so is mine I think as I wonder just how this little provincial tale made it onto national television at 7am in the morning.

It’s not just me who is bored, Sam Armytage looks bored too and annoyed, wondering if Jim will ever end his story.

Eventually she gets good old Jim to wrap it up – and the relief is palpable on her face.

The camera pans to David Koch – Kochie as we all know him – who seems to find Jim’s story most interesting.

“Good on you Jim,” he says, but then Kochie tells everyone that.

I switch channel to ABC News Breakfast.

Noooooooooooo!!!!!

It’s that regular morning spot where a fellow colleague at the ABC dissects the minutiae of the what’s in the day’s newspapers, in search of the most boring stories, commentary and analysis, which is then re-analysed and re-commented on by the guest and the hosts of the show.

It’s high-brow intellectual mumbo-jumbo, mental masturbation as Woody Allen would call it.

And it’s always the same stories. What Julia said. What Tony said. That Julie Bishop where’s the pants in the Liberal Party. The latest scandal. Etc Etc.

Everyone looks interested and fascinated by the analysis of analysis of the day’s newspapers, but I’m lost and can’t even follow the basic political plot.

Time to switch.

Channel 10 Breakfast.

Thankfully this is one of the last episodes as they’re just about to can the racist, sexist right-wing rants of host Paul Henry, a gerbil of a man if ever there was one. (The show ended this week).

And so its on to Channel 9’s Today program.

Karl Stefanovic, with his Tom Cruise-like grin is making all the ladies giggle and swoon.

Ho, ho, ho he’s so funny that Karl with his cheeky expressions, except when he puts on his serious face for those serious topics and then he reminds me of Ben Stiller’s “blue steel” stare in Zoolander.

Also on Channel Nine, entertainment reporter Richard “Dicky’ Wilkins is interviewing someone about the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

As with all his interviews, they go something like this:

Dicky: It’s a wonderful movie.
Celebrity: Thank you.
Dicky: Really wonderful.
Celebrity: Thanks. We were pleased
Dicky: That’s wonderful. So what’s your next project
Celebrity: A low budget foreign movie.
Dicky: Oh. Sorry I’ve only ever reviewed Hollywood blockbusters, budget $100 million minimum.
Celebrity: Oh
Dicky: Never mind. Still it’s wonderful nonetheless.
Celebrity: Thanks.
Dicky: So when are you coming to visit your fans in Australia?
Celebrity: Oh, I love coming to visit. We’ll be here soon.
Dicky: That’s wonderful. Wonderful.
Celebrity: Thanks
Dicky: That’s wonderful.

I grab for the remote.

End transmission.

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Boned: Here’s another reason why newspapers are losing readers…

Having just completed the 14 km City2Sea race on Sunday I was given a copy of The Sunday Age for my troubles.

Sweaty and tired and looking forward to a big breakfast, I turned to the front page of the newspaper which had as its headline: “End transimssion” with a granny photo of Channel 10 newsreader Helen Kapalos.

Expecting a big story about a financial crisis or collapse – indeed perhaps the end of the TV network’s own transmission – I read on and found that the story was about Kapalos losing her job as part of network cutbacks.

Reading like a suspense novel plot, the story describes how “within minutes of bidding viewers a good weekend and walking off set, Kapalos was grabbed on the arm by the personal assistant of Ten’s head of news, Dermot O’Brien, and instructed not to leave the office”.

After a tense stand-off, Kapalos was allowed to return to her computer to retrieve her holiday booking – it just so happened her sacking occurred on the day she was due to fly out for a holiday in the US.

Now I don’t wish to make light of anybody losing their job – having been “boned” myself in the past I know how it feels  – but I have to ask: was a newsreader losing her job the biggest and most important story of the weekend in Melbourne or Australia or anywhere for that matter?

Was it the biggest story of the weekend and did it warrant front page courage?

I bet Kapalos herself was surprised to find news of her boneing (for overseas readers, “boneing” is an Australian term referring to getting fired) her photo splashed across the front-page of Melbourne’s only Sunday broadsheet newspaper.

It’s the kind of story that should have warranted a side column somewhere in the middle of the newspaper, not the front page or third page or even the fifth page.

Apart from Kapalos herself (who will surely be fielding many job offers on her return from her overseas holiday), and some of her fans who enjoyed watching her read out the day’s news items in her rather sultry, whispery voice (I didn’t mind her interrupting my Thursday night viewing of Law & Order with a news update) this is not a story that warranted the front-page splash it received.

Yes I know Channel 10 is in trouble (and that’s the bigger story) but it’s the network’s own fault really –  have you watched some of the dreck they have come out with lately: Being Lara Bingle, The Shire, Everybody Dance now? All of them rubbish. All them failures. All of them axed!

As for the story of Kapalos’s dismissal this was a just another example of how the TV networks operate- indeed anyone who has enjoyed a television show on the commercial networks only to see it suddenly “boned” from the schedule will know they are a ruthless bunch.

You could also read into the “misplacement” of this story as a sign that’s its not just the internet that’s too blame for newspapers’ falling readerships and advertising woes.

Is The Sunday Age a learned, high-brow broadsheet or is it re-making itself into another tabloid? Or perhaps it is having an identity crisis?

Surely, there had to be a bigger story on Sunday then Kapalos getting boned?

First of all it was Remembrance Day, so that might have warranted a front page  – after all there are Australian soliders involved in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and risking their lives on a daily basis.

And there are many other local and national issues that would have deserved front-page priority.

Instead, The Sunday Age has gone for a front page story which (with the greatest respect) is what you’d expect on the front cover of the Herald Sun.

And I wouldn’t have a problem with it being on the front cover of the Herald Sun because those sorts of stories are its bread and butter- attention grabbing headlines about attractive news anchors being pulled aside after their last news broadcast and told to pack their bags.

The Sunday Age is a weighty newspaper and deserves weightier stories on its front page.

Is it any wonder its readership has fallen around 15% in the space of year!

Update to this story: As I predicted, Helen Kapalos is reportedly being courted by a host of TV networks since being boned by Channel 10, which only re-affirms what I wrote about this never being an important enough story to warrant the front page of a major newspaper.