TV’s best bullshit detector: The return of Gruen to ABC


• Wil Anderson on the new season and one hell of a talking point

ABC’s Gruen will be a little bit different this year with the fallout from Covid impacting the way the weekly CJZ series about marketing is produced. Regular panellist Russel Howcroft will be in Melbourne, while fellow panellist Todd Sampson and host Wil Anderson will be in Sydney, but with no studio audience. The regulars and their guest panellists though will have the biggest talking point they’ve ever had in 12 years of TV.

This year has impacted all us, including host Anderson who told Mediaweek yesterday about his 2020 challenges. As Anderson discusses his last remaining paying gig, for now, he recalled how things unfolded after Covid arrived.


Gruen 2020 will again feature [L-R] Todd Sampson, Dee Madigan, Wil Anderson, Karen Ferry and Russel Howcroft

See also: Wil Anderson week: Unemployed stand-up on return to TV and future plans

“It’s interesting to go from someone who has just watched how other people have adapted to the new world, to now being in the middle as one of the people who has to adapt to the new world.

“I feel grateful I have had a few months sitting around thinking about it and watching other people doing it in the way that something like Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell didn’t really get an opportunity.

“They were doing a show with an audience full of people one week and the next week they couldn’t have anyone. We have been pretty lucky to at least have a think about what it is we need to do and how our show can benefit from the current circumstance rather than be just hampered by it.”

Gruen promo: The whole world may have changed but one thing remains true: as long as there’s advertising, there’s bullshit. And if you can find a better bullshit detector than Gruen, we’ll beat it by ten percent

Anderson was referring to the first season of Mad As Hell this year which launched in February and ended in late April. A lot changed in that 12-week period.

Anderson said there was no way he, Sampson and Howcroft could start the new season of Gruen other than by looking at Covid-19 and its impact.

“I always like to think of Gruen as a consumer of the show. In the old days when something happened in the news the great thing about [Working Dog’s TV series] The Panel was that you would always be excited about what the people on the show would say about it. I really wanted to know what Rob Sitch or Glenn Robbins or Kate Langbroek were going to say about it.

“With a show like Gruen there is an appetite from the audience for the conversation we will have about the changed world that hasn’t been had yet. There have been many other conversations about the new world of course, but not by us looking through the Gruen prism seeing the world through advertising and marketing.

“All advertising and marketing didn’t stop, some was paused and some was ramped up. A lot of the messages about Covid-19 were delivered by advertising and marketing. There’s a lot to say about brands and what brand messages worked in the new world and what messages had to be changed. The conversation we had about tourism in 2019 is a completely different conversation to one we would be having about tourism in 2020. You could say the same also about alcohol, the banks, and many other topics.

“We would just be silly to ignore the changed circumstances of the world because they are going to infuse every conversation we now have on the show even if it doesn’t start about Covid.”

Anderson said Gruen has a unique way of talking about things everybody is already discussing. “That’s why our most successful seasons in the past with regard to audience numbers have been when we do a special in the middle of something.

“They might have been Gruen Nation shows around an election or Gruen Sweat we did during the Olympics. The idea that we are having a conversation about something that everybody in Australia is also engaged in brings great value to our show.

“The very DNA of our show is to explain the world through advertising and marketing. It gives us a blank slate to start again with all sorts of conversations.”

Some Gruen fans lamented that the show wasn’t on air this year when they might have needed it most. “I know the point they are making,” responded Anderson. “What we have this year is probably the best of both worlds. My suspicion is, unfortunately, we are still slap bang in the middle of what the world is going through. What we have had the opportunity to do is not just react in real time. We have had an opportunity to see what has happened to be able to put some stories together about how people first reacted and then how they reacted in the second wave. We have the opportunity to be in the middle of it still, but having had time to think and reflect about it.

Thursday: In Podcast Week, Wil Anderson reviews his podcast plans, business model and the Tofop superhub!

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