Australian TV went the full bogan on Tuesday night – and we’re not talking about the federal budget, though there was a certain serendipity in Paul Fenech’s new series taking to the airwaves the same night Canberra let rip on the working class.
As Fenech’s Bogan Hunters made its debut on 7 Mate at 9.30pm, some saw the various horrors unfolding on screen as a kind of instant social commentary on the horrors that had unfolded on the floor of Parliament a couple of hours earlier.
“The consequences of #2014Budget have already begun,” noted one twitterer, as Fenech’s televised hunt for “Australia’s biggest bogan" prodded and poked the first of it its car-loving, pot-smoking, dentally challenged subjects.
“If you want to see why welfare funding should be cut then watch Bogan Hunters,” tweeted another viewer. And another: “Hope they cut the dole of every single one of these dope-smoking, welfare-cheating dickheads.”
For most TV talent, such responses would be a worry. But not for Fenech, creator of the equally controversial SBS series Housos and a man who sounds like he would die of boredom were he ever to make a program that didn’t draw a lively response. He was well prepared to be dumped on for this latest effort.
“It’s car-crash TV,” Fenech told Fairfax Media.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be looking but you can’t help but look at it. I’m sure every wowser in the country’s going to come out with a full arsenal against me … but I guess I’ve never been known to shy away from the edgier kind of TV so I just have to take it on the chin.”
Both Seven and Fenech will be pleased with this morning’s rating figures, with Bogan Hunters topping the free-to-air multi-channels ratings list with 589,000 viewers in the mainland capitals and regionals. This makes it 7 Mate's highest rating entertainment program ever. It did particularly well in Melbourne, with 123,000 viewers – almost double the number who watched in Sydney (69,000).
Fenech defended the show’s raw and raucous content, and insisted everyone on film had taken part enthusiastically. “There are people who do classify themselves as bogans so I thought it would be a laugh because a lot of them are great characters. There’s an optimism and an honesty and there’s a real bogan culture and they seem cool with it.
“Sometimes we would drive to a suburb, get out and we’d be flocked by a range of different bogans. And then we’d just find the most obvious bogan and follow them around. There’s maybe 2 per cent jokes in the show … and the rest of it is all real.”
Fenech said that despite his recent upset Logie win in the Light Entertainment category, there was no likelihood of him going mainstream - this kind of edgy, unsettling material would remain his patch.
“It’s not going to change the way we do anything. We’re still crazy. I like to live in a constant circus, you know – the bearded lady, the fat man, the dwarf. I like to be around very interesting people. You’re not going to see me on Home and Away.”
Whether Bogan Hunters proves to be the first of an on-going collaboration with Seven remains to be seen. “I had a lot of fun working with Seven on Bogan Hunters and hopefully it’ll go well and everyone will be happy,” Fenech said. “But I’m still a bit of a gun for hire. Whoever gives me the money, I’ll make something.”