Last night Ten took a big-time shot at news and current affairs with its exclusive Douglas Wood interview. While it was a competent effort, viewers were strangely nonplussed, preferring both Nine’s Backyard Blitz and Seven’s Guinness Book of Records to the much hyped tell-all special.

Third in a three-horse race between the commercial networks is hardly an impressive result, especially when you’ve paid something like $400,000 for the privilege. But it’s possible Ten still believes it got value for money. Putting its name up in respectable lights when it was being pounded over its cynical approach to Big Brother just might have been worth it. And the Wood special gave Ten a fourth program in the top ten and its second strong Sunday night showing in two weeks. And it might have been last place, but it was close: an average of 1.219 million people watched the Wood exclusive, compared with 1.281 million who watched Seven’s Guinness Book of Records and the 1.395 million who watched Backyard Blitz.

So what did we learn from the Wood interview? There were lots of tears, but not much about why Wood was in Iraq, why he’d been apart from his wife for two years, and why he felt it necessary to go to such a dangerous place to make money in his early 60s. Nor were there questions about whether he’d placed himself in danger by going to Iraq, and whether any of his work in Iraq had increased the risk. Wood also displayed a lack of understanding as to why some Australians would object to his taking Ten’s money after the $3 million the Australian government had spent on his recovery. His brothers and wife seemed far more empathetic people.

They provided plenty of tears, as did Doug when his grandchildren appeared. So Ten and Sandra Sully can at least rest easy on that score: they achieved the goal of all current affairs efforts – to get on-camera emotion from the main talent.

But the interview aroused limited sympathy for Wood, at least for this viewer. It was disappointing that he didn’t thank the Australian people and the special also felt strangely out of date – it really should have gone to air last Tuesday or Wednesday night.

Finally, the Ten questions showed little evidence of research and it’s disappointing that there’s no transcript available on the Ten website. Value for money for Ten? Perhaps. But as a viewer the whole exercise was just a little too superficial to be scored as a major success.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey