Andrew Denton and Enough Rope have continued to go from strength to strength in 2004.
By any measure, 2004 has been a very successful year for Andrew Denton and his show Enough Rope.
Despite the carping of critics like Gerard Henderson and others, some
of whom are failed rivals, about soft interviews, Denton’s approach of
allowing his interviewees time to talk, has gone down well with viewers.

So much so that there’s probably few shows on Australian TV that can boast a 33% lift in viewers in its second season. Enough Rope
averaged 1.025 million viewers at 9.30 to 10.30pm Monday nights, a rise
of 255,597 from the first season average of 771,356.This was a mid year
look at the program on Crikey (http://www.crikey.com.au/media/2004/07/21-0007.html)

More importantly, Enough Rope generates an enormous turn-on factor that sometimes ranges above 400,000 people from the Four Corners-Media Watch combination that run between 8.30 and 9.30pm.

Denton’s show has now ended for the year and it will be instructive to see if the audiences for Four Corners and Media Watch fall with Denton fans no longer staying with both programs after watching the equally highly regarded Australian Story.

That turn on factor as detailed in the ratings report for Monday night
in yesterday’s sealed section, shows the strength of Denton, and the
weakness of Four Corners, even though its average audience is up to just over 784,000 this year.

That’s still 240,000 viewers less than Denton for a time slot that is
supposedly better than 9.30pm Mondays when people are starting to tune
out and think of bed.

There’s a bit of an indictment there of Four Corners and of the ABC. Putting Denton on after Australian Story would be an interesting gamble. The Four Corners bleeding hearts club (many of whom do not watch) would bleat, but viewers overall would benefit.

But the move might be too radical as a swap between the programs would
probably strip out thousands of viewers who continue to watch through Four Corners and Media Watch for Denton.

Australian Story and Denton both have a similar approach to
their subjects: Wanting to hear from them, rather than the once over
lightly and ‘Look at Me, Look At Me, I’m a Star’ approach of A Current Affair, 60 Minutes, Today Tonight and sometimes, Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report.

But Kerry’s style is sometimes better to watch than Denton’s – who can
forget his grilling of ‘Sorry’ Hellicar of James Hardie about whether
she had met an asbestos victim. It was compelling TV at its best.
‘Sorry’ hasn’t been back so scarred was she by the Red One!

It may not be rocket science, but many people, in and out of television
still don’t understand that people watch current affairs and chat shows
to hear the interviewees talk , not to hear and watch the interviewers
dominate the show. It is a very fine line that people like Denton and
O’Brien must walk.

For better or for worse, Denton understands that and with shows like
his you take the rough with the smooth, the strong interviews with the
weak. No one can reach the high standards set by the likes of Gerard
Henderson every week, even Gerard, if you judge his jottings in the Sydney Morning Herald each Tuesday.

And like Denton or not, at least he is intelligent and doesn’t insult,
a) the guest or b) the viewers’ intelligence. It is the most difficult
thing to do in TV, to allow someone opposite you or on a TV screen via
satellite, to speak and say things that quite often you might not agree
with or be very interested in.

But you’ve invited them on the program and you have to make it work,
not by trying to interject and dominate, but by sublimating your ego
(and they all have considerable egos) to that of your guest (can you
imagine Richard Carleton doing an Andrew Denton?)

Melbourne remains Denton’s best market with an average of 360,495
viewers, up 37% on 2003. Denton didn’t do so well in the bigger Sydney
market in absolute (and comparative) terms. An average 308,241 people
watched in Sydney, up 34% on a year ago.

Brisbane saw 163,451, a rise of almost 50% on a year ago, Adelaide saw a 40% jump, as did Perth.

Denton saw off The Apprentice with Donald Trump, easily accounting for most of the episodes, excluding the two hour final. Sex and the City
was easily beaten in its first three outings of the last series, thanks
to the later starting time of the Nine show because of the earlier Friends episode running 10 minutes extra to accommodate all those loose ends that must be tied up in the final episodes.

But having said all this about Denton, it’s very likely next year will
be tougher. The show and its staff cannot expect another 33% lift in
the audience which seems to have peaked at about current levels.

An unkind soul would say the program peaked with its very first episode
when the audience averaged 1.32 million people for the interview with
British journalist and interviewer, Michael Parkinson. It bottomed five
shows from the end of the season for an interview with film director,
Phil Noyce, with 811,576 people.

Next year will be all about maintaining standards and trying not to let
them slip. And also overcoming the biggest factor with successful
shows, viewer familiarity to the point where they feel they don’t have
to tune in regularly.

But along with Australian Story, Enough Rope has been a
stand out success story on Australian TV this year. They are two of the
reasons why the ABC’s Monday evening performance has lifted (but we all
know ratings don’t matter to Your ABC!).

Let’s hope they do next year and continue to show up ACA, TT, 60 Minutes and that new current affairs show Seven is going to run on Wednesday nights at 9.30 pm.