The culture surrounding AFL footy is much like that surrounding yoghurt left in the sun. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the loathsome AFL Footy Show. For those not in the know, this is a Channel Nine sports/variety show (presumably screened during prime-time only in the AFL states of SA, Victoria and Tasmania and possibly WA). Australian television has a strong tradition of sport/comedy television, particularly on the ABC. There was Denton's Live and Sweaty (later taken on by Elle McFeast), Tony Squire's The Fat, Roy and H.G., and who could forget Graham and The Colonel from The Late Show.
There is a "northern" (or rugby) version called the NRL Footy Show, following the same format, production values etc made out of Sydney. As a Melburnian, I'm incensed that theirs is far superior. Dammit! Why is that?
For starters, the regulars on the NRL Footy Show are ex-players. These guys - Fatty, Sterlo, Chief and Matty - have a genuine rapport that can only come with being a part of the game for so long. They actually seem to like each other and are not afraid to be affectionate, even sentimental. This was evident last night when Fatty returned after a couple of months recovering from some sort of accident. You could really feel the love in the room!
The humour is undeniably Australian, and they're not afraid to put themselves down, look stupid or take the piss from the assembled guests and players. But it's all done in good fun, devoid of viciousness or nastiness. While they clearly love their sport, they're not fawning or rude and have a sense of perspective.
By way of contrast, the Aussie Rules (or "southern") version is excruciating and lame. For starters, the line-up is weak. We've got millionaire media figure and club owner Eddie McGuire, floundering out of his depth. Somewhere a used-car is going unsold because of his involvement in this show.
Then, we have Sam Newman (the only host to actually play the game), a man who has spent much of his life being the only person in the room to have read an entire book. In AFL circles, this qualifies him as a Chomsky-like public intellectual, and it's warped his personality. He's not shy about inflicting his catchcry "You idiot" on the public, especially the elderly or people for whom English is their second language. Har, bloody, har.
Lastly, to add some showbiz razzle-dazzle we have Trevor Marmalade. I've got no view on his basic decency or good-bloke status, but I find his brand of humour (vaudeville-style gags straight out of "The Bumper Book of 1001 Gags Guaranteed to Make You Wet Yourself") very dated and old-fashioned. It might play well down at the RSL, but we won't be seeing his innovative comedy stylings at the Fringe Festival any time soon.
The on-stage vibe is aggressive, sometimes hostile. The humour is nasty and frequently sexist and racist. The five minute soap parodies are cheap, humourless and lame beyond description. Some (ex-)players are feted as gods while other guests are humiliated for a laugh. The hosts and guests show no talent for self-deprecation or taking the piss out of each other - key requirements for Australian humourists. It's all egos bumping up against each other, leading to an ugly undercurrent permeating the entire show.
In short - where's the love? The AFL Footy Show producers should take a long look at the NRL Footy Show and follow their example. It's telling that they can't find any thoughtful, talented, funny bastards from the ranks of retired AFL players to make the line-up.
C'mon, surely Melbourne deserves to wrest back the crown of footy-based comedy - or is The Fifth Quarter the best we can manage?
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