Magazine article Metro Magazine

What's on Aussie TV Tonight?

Magazine article Metro Magazine

What's on Aussie TV Tonight?

Article excerpt

Australian broadcasting is no stranger to American popular forms. Local radio gained Top 40 soon after it hit American milk bars (or convenience stores, as they're referred to in the US), and sitcoms, cop shows and drama from the States have long dominated Australian television. As early as the late 1950s, Aussie production agencies and the local industry were concerned that American products would simply displace Australian-produced television, and measures like quotas are still in place to help ensure that Aussie sounds and images remain on our airwaves among American fare.

In March, however, it was announced that one of the biggest institutions of American Broadcasting, NBC's The Tonight Show, would be available on Australian free-to-air network ABC2. Originally kicked off by Steve Allen half a century ago, the show and format was made famous by Johnny Carson and has been copied worldwide--even by the king of Australian television, the still-incomparable Graham Kennedy, and his In Melbourne Tonight. 'Tonight' programs have popped up at various times in Australian television since the 1950s, but we've never really nailed it with the same consistency as the US. Honourable mentions do go to Steve Vizard, who seemed to shamelessly steal from David Letterman's late 1980s Late Night show, and Andrew Denton, who, in the mid 1990s, briefly got the keys to Channel 7 and perfected the stunt/skit format of 'Tonight' programming (climaxing with the 'Chase for Skase' witch-hunt for naughty businessman Christopher Skase). Rove McManus' Sunday-evening chat show came close, and the very irregular but nevertheless fantastic Shaun Micallef likewise had a go at the 'Tonight' format on almost every broadcaster --though always just a little too brilliantly strange to achieve longevity.

Aunty picked up the American Tonight Show to tap into audiences' enthusiasm for the program's new host, Jimmy Fallon, a king of parodies, unlikely musical duets and silly parlour games with almost impossibly famous people. Clips of him performing skilled comedic stunts like his 'History of Rap' series with Justin Timberlake (five parts of almost twenty minutes each, covering several decades and dozens of songs) have regularly gone viral on social-media feeds and done the rounds on mainstream media--perfect fodder for morning and chat shows. This mixture of broadcast and viral notoriety is something Australian media has pushed for, either by lifting Fallon bits directly (for a while there, it seemed as though Channel Nine's Today program was gaining traction due to Fallon's work, as it aired clips from his Late Night show just about every week), or by emulating the schtick altogether. In their own attempt at going viral, Today's team even had Karl Stefanovic tell the Dalai Lama a joke about the, urn, Dalai Lama. But while the gag did get international attention, audiences weren't exactly laughing with Stefanovic and co.

When Fallon took over Tonight from Jay Leno in February, the news made its way to Australians via Fairfax media, with his 'win [of the] ratings' referencing the American rather than the Australian viewership. The Sydney Morning Herald, which drew the piece directly from AFP/Reuters, didn't mention a local air date or connection at all. …

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