THERE aren't many TV shows that get me excited these days, with the exception of Downton Abbey, anything with Shaun Micallef, and repeats of Carry On Abroad. But if there's one program that really gets my blood pumping when it rampages onto our screens - not just my entertainment blood, but also my politics blood - it's Q&A. It's back on Monday, and that's the best sign you could have that the holidays are over, and it's time to sink our teeth into the meaty political hamburger once more. The first Q&A of the year is the moment when Stuff Gets Real on TV.
There have been a lot of criticisms levelled at Q&A over the years, and some of them have been perfectly valid - I'm as upset as anyone that they haven't invited me on yet. But even if it is at times shallow, and vapid, and pointlessly adversarial, and overstacked with charisma-less political time-servers, fringe lunatics and carefully planted Young Liberal audience members, you can't deny it's a rambunctious hour of political thrust, sociological counter-thrust, and loud shouting. At least, you could deny it, but then go watch something else, geez, stop whining, right?
As a vehicle for drilling down to the heart of matters, for putting our most influential people under the spotlight and discovering their true thoughts, Q&A is not exactly perfect, in the same way that The Newsroom is not exactly down-to-earth. But it's a lot better than much of the dire, depressing dross that passes for political interviewing in Australia. At least we get to see a pollie occasionally squirm. At least the fools out themselves as fools with their inability to depart from carefully rehearsed one-liners, and there's generally someone there to break in with an immediate what-a-load-of-cobblers comment when a load of cobblers is deposited.
But the gift that Q&A gives us isn't really the gift of analysis, of reasoned discussion of policy or illumination of difficult issues. It's an hour a week with five people all hopping in for their slice - how in-depth are we really ever going to get? No, what Q&A gives us is an outlet. Whether you're in the studio audience, jeering every time Christopher Pyne turns a question about teenage pregnancy into a discourse on the carbon tax; whether you're on Twitter tapping away furiously about the way everyone's ignoring the Nobel Prize winner on the end; or whether you're just sitting on your couch screaming at Bob Katter, the show is a wonderful way to unwind of a Monday evening, by venting to your spleen's content at the ignorance, the duplicity, the prejudice and the greed that rules our lives.
Because the fact is that most people are, in the final analysis, pretty much impotent when it comes to improving society. We're at the mercy of powerful, uncaring forces, and nobody is likely to do very much to change this. Certainly Q&A is not our saviour: it'll take more than a TV show to make our leaders accountable.
But at least it puts them up front and centre for us to seethe at, and we'll never have any trouble knowing our enemy. And maybe, if this bleating, bellowing blunderbuss of a show gives us a safety valve to relieve a bit of the bile building up within, it is making the world a little better after all.