Not the nine o’clock news

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN MAD AS HELL, ABC, pre­mieres Fri­day, 8pm

RE­PORT­ING the news can, well, be pretty de­press­ing at times, telling peo­ple about aw­ful things go­ing on in the world.

Some­times the only thing more dis­heart­en­ing than re­port­ing it is watch­ing it, as view­ers are bom­barded with war, geno­cide, end­less po­lit­i­cal scan­dals, vi­o­lent crime and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. So what can you do about it?

In the clas­sic 1976 film Net­work, news­reader Howard Beale is told he only has two more weeks on air be­cause rat­ings are so low.

In an un­scripted out­burst fired by rage and frus­tra­tion, he de­liv­ers an im­pas­sioned mono­logue dur­ing a live broad­cast, lament­ing the sorry state of the world – the fear, ma­nip­u­la­tion, in­jus­tice – and en­treats view­ers to get an­gry, to take back con­trol of their lives and change things.

His speech ends with the now- fa­mous line: ‘‘ I want you to get up right now and go to the win­dow, open it and stick your head out and yell: ‘ I’m as mad as hell and I’m not go­ing to take this any more!’’’

That’s one way to deal with it. The other way is to just laugh.

And off- kil­ter fun­ny­man Shaun Mi­callef is the per­fect guy for the job when it comes to find­ing the hu­mor­ous side of any­thing and ev­ery­thing.

His new show, Mad As Hell, is a panel- based news com­ment and anal­y­sis se­ries with a dis­tinctly Mi­callef twist.

Mi­callef has likened it to a re­vi­talised ver­sion of his old SBS se­ries New­stopia, which had to be shelved be­cause it clashed with Mi­callef’s com­mit­ments to Ten for Talkin’ ’ Bout Your Gen­er­a­tion.

He says the comedic news dis­cus­sion show is some­thing he has longed to re­visit. With TAYG tak­ing a rest this year, it is the per­fect time.

Mi­callef’s new ve­hi­cle on ABC1 prom­ises a half- hour weekly round- up, brand­ing, in­oc­u­la­tion and crutch­ing of the week’s im­por­tant news sto­ries.

As well as the ex­pected panel dis­cus­sion of the big na­tional news sto­ries and Mi­callef’s typ­i­cally ab­sur­dist treat­ment of them, we can also look for­ward to spe­cial guests and some pretty warped sketches.

Orig­i­nally an Ade­laide in­sur­ance lawyer, Mi­callef de­cided in 1993 to move to Melbourne to pur­sue a ca­reer in com­edy. Since then his lan­guage- twist­ing, dead­pan weird­ness and oc­ca­sional out­bursts of straight­for­ward lu­nacy have made him one of our stand- out TV tal­ents.

He has hopped from net­work to net­work over the years in a mul­ti­tude of projects – from sketch se­ries Full Frontal to his cult ABC se­ries the Mi­callef Pro­gram, Nine’s Mi­callef Tonight, ABC sit­com Welcher & Welcher, SBS’S New­stopia and Ten’s hugely pop­u­lar TAYG.

His trade­mark style has al­ways re­mained, as have some reg­u­lar char­ac­ters who seem to pop up

ev­ery­where he goes, like Nobby Dol­drums and Milo Ker­ri­gan. Since New­stopia’s dis­ap­pear­ance, Good News Week’s spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of crawl­ing up its own rear end and The Project’s grad­ual shift away from its ini­tially edgy news- dis­sec­tion roots, Aus­tralian TV re­ally needs some­thing like Mad As Hell right now. And hav­ing a good laugh at the state of the world is a hell of a lot health­ier than hav­ing to go to your win­dow and shout out in anger.

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