Checks and bal­ances

The team from The Check­out ad­mit they some­times get taken for a ride too, writes AN­DREW FEN­TON

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

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

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