Channel Ten News: Reviewed
Ten News was the hipster of Australian news programming. It refused to broadcast at the mainstream 6pm timeslot and proudly claimed to be “First At Five”. However, 7 News, previously the jock of the Australian TV news world, started listening to the same kinds of music as Ten News and decided to become indie too, moving to the 4.30pm timeslot. Ten News was overcome with fury and now threatens to become more indie by moving to 3pm and if challenged will keep moving until eventually it broadcasts yesterday.
SBS News, on the contrary, is so worldly that it refuses to report about Australia and instead focuses solely on world affairs. SBS News eventually gave up on Australian audiences altogether, employing only anchors with ethnic backgrounds and a weak grasp of English. In fact, SBS News has now replaced Channel 4 News in Iraq as the most viewed news program in The Middle East, even bizarrely sweeping the continent’s Television News Awards. It is making similar ground in China, recently overtaking Channel 9+4/3=x by 1%, or 60 million viewers.
Channel Nine are, and have always been, quite simply fuckwits. Similarly, the ABC are too busy whacking each other off over how great they think Q&A is and are therefore jizzing too hard to put together a decent news program.
TV news is incredibly important and relevant as it informs old people about current events and confirms what millions others found out on Twitter and Facebook several hours before, because if it’s on The News, then it must be true. However, despite their entertainment value, news programs somehow manage to avoid review and instead are judged on ratings. This is fucking bullshit, and it’s time for a paradigm shift amongst critics.
Forward we go to last night’s episode of Ten News.
Ten News open with their trademark animated intro and theme song, and following the success of Pendulum’s remix of ABC News’ theme song, boldly sent a copy of theirs to Bob Marley – seemingly unaware of his passing three decades ago – and tried to get him to remix it. This caused a PR nightmare, with the channel eventually releasing a statement admitting that “perhaps we aren’t the phat maddogs we imagine ourselves to be”.
Following the intro, we’re greeted by Mal Walden, who doesn’t need to say his name because we’ve seen his old mug and unflappable hair on television since before Christ, but does so anyway because he likely wants more people to add him on Facebook. He proceeds to read out the date to remind university students what month it is, and to inform the unemployed of the proximity to their next paycheck. Everybody else knows the date by 5pm.
Bits of footage from the day’s current affairs are shown, accompanied by perfect narration from Walden and his co-host, Helen Kapalos. Walden attempts to lead straight into his first story but before he can, Kapalos swiftly steals his moment as she interrupts him with the classic “But first…”, thus leaving the viewers in an exhilarated breathless frenzy. Such unpredictability! Was this switch staged, or spontaneous? Perhaps Helen is attention-seeking, perhaps not. Regardless, viewers around Australia are likely on their feet applauding such masterful verbal tennis.
Before the audience can regain their composure, we cross to Andrew Smithington, who probably made that name up to avoid being poached by SBS News. Smithington is reporting next to the Yarra River, and has adopted the traditional walk-towards-the-camera-as-it-slowly-moves-backwards approach, only this time with a twist…the camera remains still. Such creative flair is unbelievably rare in the modern news era, and credit must go to director Grant Worsfield for his unwavering belief in his vision. Smithington signs off with a well-executed “Back to you Mal”, demonstrating a deep understanding of the game well beyond his years and showing flashes of the skillset that made him the #1 overall draft pick three years ago.
Ten News have adopted the male-female anchor partnership, inevitably causing the male viewers to wonder “if he’s fucked her yet” or “if he’s at least had a crack backstage”. Whilst Kapalos and Walden are most definitely not as sexually fluent as the famous flirtatious anchor partnership of Sandra Sully and Brad McEwan in their glory years (particularly the 2009 season), they still exude a comfortable chemistry and flirt skilfully yet tastefully. He probably hasn’t nailed her yet, but if keeps playing footsies under the table with her long enough, he may be in with a shot. Patience – Walden is a veteran and he understands its importance.
After some scenes of people covering up their faces with jumpers as they move from courtroom to car, Ten News swiftly announce the impending arrival of the sports news but cleverly build tension via an adbreak. When we return, Stephen Quartermain’s at the helm. Soon after, a slip-up forces the viewers to the edge of their seats. Quartermain tried to send the audience to a clip, but the clip fails to play and Quartermain is put into an uncomfortable position. He knows any movement here, particularly in the eyes, would invite the viewers to ponder the possibility of a technical difficulty, possibly causing the viewers to either switch channels to Deal Or No Deal, or turn off the TV and join a Mormon cult instead. While Quartermain will never quite be the anchoring legend that his father – also last-named Quartermain – was, he handles it like a pro, refusing to blink or lower his smile. The audience are enthralled by his confidence, and soon after the clip begins.
After an action-packed ten minutes, Quartermain switches back to Walden and he takes it marvellously in stride, returning us to the real news. However, after two items, disaster strikes. He forgets that the current news item – about a bombing in The Middle East – is morbidly depressing, and he’s failed to change the gleeful expression he wore during the previous segment about a squirrel who does handstands but only if you first tickle its testicles. These are the sorts of errors Walden that made during his rookie season of ’77, and one must wonder if he’s lost touch but refuses to retire because he hasn’t drilled Helen Kapalos yet. He may also be tanking for draft picks to get better correspondents, but he most likely messed up because he’s an old fuck.
Walden recovers and we go to the weather. The producers have sent the weatherman, Mike Larkan, to broadcast from outside where he shivers under an umbrella. Why he can’t broadcast from inside is a mystery, but theories range from it being a desperate attempt to demonstrate weather prediction accuracy from last night’s report, or to once again aid university students and the unemployed by reminding them what the weather was like outside whilst they were masturbating and sleeping, respectively. Larkan alerts the viewers of the weather around the state of Victoria, making sure to report the “weather around the bay” where the “wind reached speeds of up to 16 knots”, therefore catering to the interests of the six fisherman and fourteen sailors watching and wasting the time of the other 500,000 viewers.
Walden and Kapalos finish the last remaining news piece, and wish the audience a goodnight. The outro music begins and incrementally gets louder, where it is accompanied by Walden and Kapalos straightening their respective blank piles of paper as they converse. With the outro music so deafening it’s hard to make out what they’re saying, but judging by his lips, I think he’s asking for a root.
Overall, Ten News is an established, experienced and exciting news program unafraid to be different and creative. However, it could use a bit more localised material, a bit more polish, and a bit more lovin’ for ol’ Mal Walden.