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One to watch

In The Last Year of Television, Mitch McTaggart examines the good, bad and most cringewort­hy moments on Aussie TV in 2022, writes

- Lauren Mitchell

MITCH McTaggart once again takes the pulse of Australian TV – newsreader gaffes, hastily developed docudramas and all – in a new edition of comedy special The Last Year of Television.

The retrospect­ive, which this year moves to Binge from SBS, takes viewers on a journey through the highlights and most baffling TV clips of 2022, peppered with hilarious, sassy – and factual – asides from McTaggart.

“I think this is the most comprehens­ive summary we’ve ever done,” says McTaggart.

“Novak Djokovic, Wayne Carey, Lisa Wilkinson,

Scott Morrison’s ukulele, Neighbours, it’s absolutely jam-packed. Except there’s no Queen content – 12 days of coverage was enough.”

Tracking down the clips for the show doesn’t leave a wealth of time for recreation­al viewing, but former TV and film teacher McTaggart is driven by his passion for the local television industry. He also writes and stars in The Back Side of Television, a similar format that explores the most ridiculous moments in Australian TV history and has a new six-episode season coming to Binge in 2023.

“It might seem like I watch a lot of Australian TV, but it’s also just being across it enough,” he says.

“That said, I have a very long list of internatio­nal shows I’d love to finally sit down with that would be for entertainm­ent. On second thought, maybe means I do watch too much Australian TV.”

McTaggart’s insightful media commentary tends to focus on the extreme ends of the television spectrum, taking particular glee in any hypocrisy and self-contradict­ion.

“We’re drawn to a show if it’s either really good or really bad,” he explains.

“If it’s good, then we’re excitedly telling everyone about it, and if it’s bad, we’re mocking it accordingl­y.

“Mediocre content is the most useless to us – there’s a real graphable uncanny valley when it comes to content like that – we watched a lot of mediocre stuff this year that wasn’t either good or bad, and thus didn’t become content for us. Disappoint­ing!”

While The Last Year of Television might be scathing about some shows, McTaggart admits it’s not all bad.

“Australia can make stuff that competes on a world stage, probably a lot more regularly than the casual viewer realises,” he says.

“I’m very excited about the direction we’re going as an industry.

“But I think sometimes Australian content gets a bit too bogged down in giving audiences unchalleng­ing or creatively tepid stuff. I’d love to see writers be allowed to let loose a bit more.”

Given that he’s spent so much time watching broadcast television this year, what programs would McTaggart actually recommend taking the time to watch?

“Big yes to Mystery Road: Origin, Significan­t Others, Fisk,

Heartbreak High, The Twelve,” he lists.

And the worst offenders? “Gentle pass on Troppo, Barons (kudos to the ABC though for doing so much drama this year), After The Verdict, Vanishing Act [and] Bali 2002,” he concedes.

“Those last two shows could double as a hate watch if you like that sort of thing. They were a bit misguided.”

Q The Last Year of Television

2022, streaming from New Year’s Eve, Binge

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