Where there’s a Wil . . .

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - ANOOSKA TUCKER- EVANS

WHEN The Gruen Trans­fer be­came one of the ABC’s high­est-rat­ing shows of last year, no one was more sur­prised than host Wil An­der­son.

The se­ries, which fea­tures in­dus­try ex­perts ex­plain­ing the ins and outs of ad­ver­tis­ing, av­er­aged more than 1.4 mil­lion view­ers each week, while its spin-off Gruen Nation be­came ABC’s high­est-rat­ing show for the year and was one of the top 10 shows across all net­works in 2010.

‘‘ When we started do­ing the show I had lunch with Andrew [ Den­ton, the show’s cre­ator] and he said, ‘ I want to make a show about ad­ver­tis­ing which gives peo­ple the tools to un­der­stand it in the same way Front­line gave peo­ple the tools to un­der­stand cur­rent af­fairs’, and I was like, ‘ Great, fan­tas­tic, what else have you got?’,’’ he laughs.

‘‘ We were go­ing to do a show about ads on the ABC, which doesn’t show ads, with peo­ple from the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, not pro­fes­sional en­ter­tain­ers, and I just as­sumed it would be, at best, a show that filled a void like Me­dia Watch does.

‘‘ Just a lit­tle show that peo­ple in that in­dus­try might look at. I never imag­ined it would so broadly con­nect with peo­ple.’’

An­der­son is still try­ing to work out why the show has struck such a chord with au­di­ences, but be­lieves part of the rea­son is its bal­ance of in­for­ma­tion and hu­mour.

‘‘ I think we in­vite peo­ple into that world where you can come for the dick jokes and stay for the knowl­edge about how you’re be­ing ma­nip­u­lated in the mar­ket,’’ he says.

‘‘ I al­ways say to the ad­ver­tis­ing guys, ‘ You don’t have to be funny, you don’t have to be en­ter­tain­ing, you just have to be smart and talk about what you know’.’’

Does An­der­son feel the pres­sure to make the show a rat­ings win­ner again? ‘‘ Not un­til you said that,’’ he laughs. ‘‘ I think we’ll try to be less pop­u­lar be­cause that’s when it goes bet­ter.

‘‘ Last year we did a four-week elec­tion spe­cial [ Gruen Nation] where it was like, not only are we do­ing a show about ads on the ABC but po­lit­i­cal ads, and peo­ple seemed to re­spond to that so I think the more non-main­stream we go, hope­fully the more peo­ple will come.’’

An­der­son is play­ing down the show’s chances of rat­ings suc­cess this year, declar­ing the days of high au­di­ence num­bers are over thanks to the ex­pan­sion of dig­i­tal TV.

He in­stead hopes the show is sim­ply well re­ceived across its three plat­forms – ABC1, the re­peat on ABC2 and its up­load on ABC’s on­line chan­nel, iview.

‘‘ It’s never been a show that was meant to rate well so I don’t feel like that should be an im­per­a­tive of what we do,’’ he says.

‘‘ It’s a show with a name that no one un­der­stands, with ad guys sitting around talk­ing about the bits of TV shows you nor­mally fast for­ward through. It’s hardly MasterChef or big event tele­vi­sion.’’

An­der­son, 37, has had enor­mous per­sonal suc­cess in the past 18 months.

His stand-up show Wil­ful Mis­con­duct played to sell-out au­di­ences and re­ceived a Help­mann Award, he was nom­i­nated for a Gold Lo­gie and was named GQ mag­a­zine’s me­dia per­son­al­ity of the year.

‘‘ I just feel like this is a good patch. I feel like I’ve got a nice bal­ance in my life,’’ he says.

‘‘ I feel like I do Gruen for enough time that it’s smart and en­gag­ing but I don’t get bored with it and I don’t get rest­less and I still feel I can do the things I want to do.

‘‘ This year I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to do a lot of over­seas trav­el­ling as well, which fresh­ens you up be­cause you’re per­form­ing in front of au­di­ences who don’t know who you are, so you have to work a lot harder and you have to re­ally have your head down.

‘‘ And I’ve also been able to do re­ally cool lit­tle things, like my podcast I do with my mate, that are just the com­plete op­po­site of that – so there’s a nice mix.’’

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