Summer of dim content
My Kitchen Rules hosts Manu Feildel (left) and Pete Evans are waiting to serve you up another season of their theatrical cooking show... After the tennis.
IT'S AN unprovable truism that January barely exists. Sure, on paper it looks like a legitimate month and fulfils the seasonal and Gregorian calendar stipulations, but January always dries and shrivels before you can get a proper taste of it. Too many joys are compressed into too few weeks; the sun and tennis and cricket and guiltless plodding about the house explode and then vanish, leaving you feeling spoilt yet strangely hard done by.
It's the weeks of the year when watching TV during the day can have a greater restorative effect than any do-gooding dose of vitamin D. January is precious, and I am perhaps overly sensitive to elements of a sports broadcast that, on the wrong day, compel me to thrash my remote against the ground repeatedly as if it were a disobedient tennis racquet.
A significant cause of viewer cringe is the frequent and often awkward promos for TV shows that are coming soon. Indeed, some of these programs have been ''coming soon'' since November. Anybody who has watched even one rally during the Australian Open will, on their deathbed, be able to recite the 2013 start date of My Kitchen Rules and, tragically, the colour of at least one team's aprons. Anyone except Todd Woodbridge, that is, who during his Channel Seven commentary mistakenly promoted MasterChef. Such a professional faux pas would usually be cause for a reprimand, but it's hard to punish a guy who commentates mixed doubles for a living.
As well as the constant teasers that air during ads, Seven breaks new ground by incorporating promos into the coverage itself. The creepiest effort is an ostensibly live camera shot showing the back of spectators' heads. Suddenly, two fans spin around in their seats and reveal themselves to be MKR hosts Manu Feildel and Pete ''activated almonds'' Evans. Later, the two men wander on to centre court during play to spruik their cooking show. You can tell it's all green-screen trickery because they exit the frame without being booed and pelted with alkalised water bottles and half-eaten emu meatballs.
Another promo features a bevy (or should that be bevvy?) of bogans in the stands singing substituted lyrics to the Home and Away theme. They belt out a lame, ''No matter where you are/You're a tennis star'' and the umpire's voice-over chimes in with his poisonously bad rejoinder: ''Quiet please … we know you can't wait for Home and Away to return.'' That's the quality we can expect from an industry that recently advertised for unpaid interns to do ''highly skilled'' promo producing.
More nauseating are the segues from presenters who, by trying to be seamless from promo back to play, end up highlighting the vile dissonance of the whole enterprise. A crowd cutaway resulted in one commentator saying: ''That is Demi Harman, who plays Sasha on Home and Away. Home and Away is back Monday 7pm. Mum will be very pleased - never misses one. Feeds the dogs, puts the chooks and chickens away, stays in for Home-y … and Maria Sharapova is heading for home …'' One match was reduced to a split screen to accommodate a court-side interview with an Aussie soap actor who is, no, ''not very good at tennis'' and who, yes, ''always wanted to act''. You can't be serious!
At Channel Nine, in between the fried chicken and gambling ads, cricket viewers are being bombarded by promos for The Block All Stars, which promises to be ''Blocktacular'', feature ''favourite Blockheads'' and air at ''7 o' block''.
Other ads shown ad nauseam include one about a show starring Kevin Bacon; an ''I can't believe it's not Downton Abbey'' period drama; Charlie Sheen's horrible sitcom; The Big Bang Theory; more of The Footy Show; The Big Bang Theory; and a reminder that while Peter Hitchener was there for everything from Whitlam's sacking to the twin towers' collapse, he can't be held personally responsible.
A Current Affair also gets a promo starring an angry bloke yelling: ''I've had enough of that sheila! She's nothing but a pain in the arse!'' which I thought was an unusual way to welcome back Tracy Grimshaw.
January is the perfect time for us to recharge batteries and for channels to reboot fortunes. As the individual identities of networks dissolve, it falls upon marquee sporting events to reflect the tradition of a station. The goal of promos in any medium is to inform as many people as possible without pissing them off. We expect promos, but saturation can get to a level where it feels like waterboarding.
Follow Daniel Burt on Twitter: @trubnad