Checks and balances
The team from The Checkout admit they sometimes get taken for a ride too, writes ANDREW FENTON
WITH two seasons under their belts and a third that has just started, you might assume it’d be difficult to rip off the team from The Checkout.
But star and executive producer Julian Morrow ( The Chaser) admits the performers and writers sometimes get taken for a ride just like everyone else.
“It’s actually a segment we might be doing in the show this year,” he says.
“The internal title we’re working on is Checkout Chumps, where we’ve just made errors.
“I paid about $300 to a premium mobile (service) over the course of a year because I think one of the kids pressed a button that subscribed me. So, yeah, we are very good at giving advice to other people and very bad at doing it ourselves.”
In 31 episodes (including clip-shows with recycled ingredients) The Checkout has perfected its unusual mix of consumer campaigning and comedy, looking at everything from marketing loopholes for complementary medicines (where you can make whatever wild claim you like) to gendered marketing and energy contracts. But taking on major advertisers such as Kellogg’s, Jetstar, Coles and Cadbury is a pretty dicey commercial proposition for anyone other than the ABC.
Morrow says his coexecutive producer Nick Murray pitched an early version of the show to Channel Nine.
“The creative side of the organisation was all very keen about it, and then the advertising people came in and said, ‘There is no way on this planet that show is going to work for us’,” he says.
The Checkout managed to get sued for defamation within 10 minutes of their first broadcast (literally, the first segment of the first show) by Avni Sali, father of Swisse CEO Radek Sali. Avni claims The Checkout falsely suggested he “manipulated” a clinical test of a Swisse suppressant. It’s still working its way through the courts.
“It’s been negatively affecting our wellness for years now,” Morrow says. “We made a fairly commonsense observation about a Swisse ad and if we’ve got common sense on our side it feels like your chances of winning a defamation case are grim.”
Regular segments including Product Vs Packshot and FU Tube will return, along with a new segment called Check In, where the team update consumer issues covered in season one. Topics this year – many from the 5000 or so tips-offs they get from the audience each season – include weddings, streaming service, sports drinks, cosmetic testing and car finance.
Morrow says making 20 episodes last year was “a real slog”, so they’ve slimmed the new season to 12 (including four “best-ofs”) to concentrate on The Chaser’s Media Circus in the second half of the year. He adds all of the young cast from The Checkout, including Zoe Norton Lodge and Kirsten Drysdale, are developing TV projects through The Chaser’s production company Giant Dwarf.
“We’re pretty busy and the plan is to keep a mix of the stuff people know on ABC, as well as develop new projects that will fail in the future,” Morrow says. THE CHECKOUT THURSDAY, 8PM, ABC