This week, Australians have been depicted as a divided lot incapable of showing nuance on a range of subjects from fuel excise to Camden’s proposed Islamic School to Bill Henson’s work.

But perhaps the problem’s not with them.

Softly, softly, in the background, they’ve been showing a fair bit of class, gradually switching off from The Footy Show as the Newman antics have hit farce level. Channel Nine — and Newman’s Footy Show colleagues — on the other hand, not so much.

When did they decide that Newman needed to “take a break”?

It wasn’t after the Caroline Wilson stunt.

3 April: “Joking” about the The Age‘s chief football writer’s dress sense, Newman uses a lingerie-clad mannequin as a prop, staple-gunning Wilson’s head to the dummy and groping it while making suggestive comments.

It wasn’t after Network chief David Gyngell received a letter from senior women in the AFL decrying Newman’s stunt.

End April: Signatories to the letter include AFL club directors Beverly Knight (Essendon), Susan Alberti (Western Bulldogs), Lynn Ralph (Sydney Swans ), Sue Natrass (Melbourne) and Janine Allis (Hawthorn).

Neither was it after Newman offered to resign — or roundly offended women in AFL.

1 May: Newman reveals on The Footy Show that he offered to resign in order to not damage the show further. Not accepted.

On the same episode, in response to the letter, he reckons that women “serve very little purpose at board level. What do they do? I’m not knocking women (but) for very little input they demand a lot of clout.” Further, referring to the letter-writers, he says: “I think if you looked up liar and misrepresentation in the dictionary, there would be a picture of those women.”

It certainly wasn’t during the Logies.

4 May: As they take to the podium, The Footy Show ‘s presenters are booed; they’re appalled at the reaction, complaining later that the audience showed a lack of class.

Garry Lyon uses the platform to defend his absent co-host : “Sam Newman is an absolute star. The thing about Sam Newman ladies and gentleman is that he puts himself out there…(he) generates enormous publicity for this show and we continue to draw great numbers, we benefit from it. He takes it on the chin for us for all of us.”

Just in case we didn’t know it already, the case for Newman is made clear: Sam stunts = ratings.

But it wasn’t long after… a bank pulled its ads from the show.

22 May: ANZ decides to withdraw its advertising from The Footy Show timeslot, as reported in  The Age

…the show’s inexorable ratings slide was revealed…

22 May: The show’s ratings have dropped from 457,000 viewers in Melbourne before the stunt to a mere 380,000 only two months after. Crikey graphs the trend below. (The audience appears to be migrating to Footy Show antidote Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation )

and a major Nine sponsor revealed its significant discontent.

23 May: Crazy John’s manager Brendan Fleiter reveals that Channel Nine is under “no illusions” about how the company feels about Newman’s original stunt and the aftermath. The company apparently feeds “multimillions” each year into the Nine Network’s coffers.

On Wednesday, 28 May, Jeffrey Browne, Nine’s executive director and GTV9 managing director, revealed that Newman had been directed to take some time off.

“This is not a stunt,” he said. “It is a serious exercise. It is about Sam’s health and welfare.” Browne noted: “As a component of this rehabilitation, I have arranged for Sam to undergo counselling to address, with professional assistance, the behaviour and issues that have attended what I now believe to be his premature return to the program.”

No doubt Newman needs more time to recover from a significant operation. If management’s decision had been taken before the ratings drop took hold and sponsors started arking up, we might have been in a more favourable mind to accept the decision’s sincerity. Forgive us our cynicism.

Timing, in such things, is everything. For that, we give the Footy Show a Wankley to sit beside its Logie.

In other matters media, no need to award Channel Seven’s Today Tonight a Wankley for running Jodie Power’s allegations against Mercedes Corby with insufficient evidence to back them up — the NSW Supreme Court handed down its own Wankley yesterday, finding Channel Seven guilty of defaming Corby. The only implication against Corby that was upheld by the jury: that she had “possessed” marijuana. That’s a story.