Finally, a news satire program worth watching. On last night’s effort SBS’s Newstopia it’s the best new comedy/satire of the year — if you missed it you can watch last night’s episode on the SBS website here. Shaun Micallef has done stand out work on Ten’s Thank God You’re Here and works as the host. It made last night’s Chaser look off the pace and a bit weak, even though 1.536 million people watched that. In fact, it’s a more natural fit at 10pm on the ABC, after Spicks and Specks, The Chaser and then Summer Heights High. Only 221,000 people watched last night, on the ABC it would have been watched by five times that and it deserved to be. There are another nine episodes, which will provide competition in the news satire stakes for The Chaser on Wednesday nights. And on last night’s effort Newstopia is sharper, nastier and better written. It was a deliberately clunky production abounding in clichés and studied, serious looks down the camera lens. The false sincerity so well practised on TV, was well captured. And it didn’t shirk as it sent up news and current affairs TV, including SBS. Of course there is a reason for the crisp writing: a few notable writers in Michael Ward, Tony Moclair and Dave O’Neill, so there’s some talent behind Micallef. Newstopia is the sort of program that Nine were groping towards with Mick Molloy’s The Nation, and what Andrew O’Keefe aspired to in a pilot for Seven (in a milder fashion). It’s also a good example of how Nine had no idea about harnessing Micallef’s talents on his aborted Tonight Show-style program a few years ago. Newstopia is produced by Fremantlemedia’s boutique production house, Crackerjack, which has previously produced two Chaser specials. Fremantlemedia’s Australian boss (and former Crackerjack boss), Mark Fennessy’s name was down as a co-EP of Newstopia, so he obviously knows a good one. It’s the sort of program that the Nine Network could use next year instead of the tired Nightline format. Fennessy and David Gyngell are close. Could it walk? — Glenn Dyer

Shockjock 101: How to grab people’s attention. Today’s lesson comes from veteran broadcaster Derryn Hinch – listen here.

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: 16 programs with a million or more viewers makes Wednesday the best night of the week for viewers. And thankfully, not many repeats last night! For the second Wednesday in a row a win to Seven won for a second Wednesday in a row, which is a bit surprising given how the network had no programming worth watching (the viewers’ response) after 8.30pm. Ten’s fresh ep of House again topped the most watched list with 1.570 million, with The Chaser second with 1.536 million, then Seven News with 1.499 million and Today Tonight with 1.490 million. RSPCA Animal Rescue was next with 1.484 million, followed by Spicks and Specks (1.4709 million as Adam Hills fought off Andrew Denton’s attempted takeover), Home And Away (1.467 million), Medical Emergency (1.459 million), Nine News (1.203 million),  Summer Heights High (1.192 million), Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader (1.164 million), A Current Affair (1.126 million), Life (1.115 million), the 7pm ABC News (1.112 million), Temptation (1.102 million) and McLeod’s Daughters (1.076 million).

The Losers: For the third night in a row Nine did poorly from 7.30pm onwards. McLeod’s Daughters battled manfully (girlfully) in a Mills and Boon way but Cold Case was DOA with just 878,000 watching a fresh ep. Seven’s Las Vegas was very dead at 8.30pm (748,000) and Prison Break might have been fresh off the satellite but who cared? Only 795,000 watched. It won’t be back in prime time in 2008. Nine’s Damages is past death, its now aboard a small boat somewhere in the afterworld after averaging just 463,000 last night at 9.30pm. And that was a shame, although the program is far too bleak. Rain Shadow on the ABC on Sunday nights could head the same way if there’s not a break in the chill we saw last Sunday in ep 1.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market as did Today Tonight, but before Seven goes the full gloat, more people watched the 7pm ABC News in Melbourne than watched either Nine, Ten or Seven. Different timeslots I know, but 410,000 watched the 7pm ABC News in Melbourne last night, 394,000 watched Seven, 371,000 Nine (hence Seven winning the 6pm slot) and 206,000 watched Ten News. Is there a message in that? Don’t know but it was such a notable achievement, its worth recording. But it didn’t carry over into the 7.30 Report. Ten News averaged 781,000 nationally (the later evenings are hurting it); Late News/Sports Tonight, 495,000. The 7.30 Report, 905,000; Lateline, 294,000; Lateline Business, 150,000. SBS News, 129,000 at 6.30pm (low); 195,000 at 9.30pm; Dateline, 187,000. Sunrise, 422,000; Today, down to 254,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 27.2% (27.0% a week ago) from Ten with 26.1% (25.6%), Nine third with 22.0% (23.8%), the ABC with 20.7% (19.7%) and SBS with 4.0% (3.8%). Seven won everywhere bar Adelaide where Ten was a big winner (House, Life and 5th Grader all did very well. They were the top three programs in Adelaide last night). Nine’s effort last night was worse than a week ago, which is hard to believe or understand, and they used fresh eps of McLeod’s and Cold Case, plus Damages. But it was a different result in regional areas where WIN/NBN averaged 27.2% to win from Prime/7Qld with 25.8%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 24.7%, the ABC with 17.7% and SBS with 4.6%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Now, this is not banging poor old Nine just for being, well Nine. It’s an observation based on last night: the Network is in deeper trouble than many people think. The last two nights have seen fresh eps of CSI Miami and Cold Case used in an attempt to staunch the losses. Viewers didn’t want to know and at this stage those two programs will form the core of next year’s drama schedule, along with CSI (which is also dying) and the near terminal CSI New York. Seven can afford to lose a Prison Break from its main schedule: it should’ve lasted only two series. But Nine has no back up to replace CSI Miami or Cold Case. Its the constant juggling, switching and repeating that has peeved viewers, and the fact that there’s better programming elsewhere, such as on Ten and the ABC last night. Tonight Seven has Bionic Woman and Heroes off the satellite again, and good old Ghost Whisperer (Jen Love Hewitt is looking like a veteran these days). Nine brings back Missing Persons Unit at 8.30pm, it should do well, and starts The Gift at 9.30pm, which is all about organ donation. Nine has stripped a new series of RPA Where Are They? into 30 min eps at 10pm and with Amazing Medical Stories at 10.30pm, Nine goes the medical overkill. Ten has two hours of So You think You Can Dance; the ABC has the usual suspects.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports