Once again the ABC has shown that gambles are rewarded in TV if they are backed by solid planning, good production values and a sound, interesting idea; not to mention one that has never been done before.

The program was made by Andrew Denton’s Zapruder’s Other Films and took two years to arrange, with the first nine of the 10 eps being fully workshopped. The final episode of The Gruen Transfer last night was watched by 1.45 million viewers nationally, the highest rating episode of this series, nationally and in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. It won its timeslot nationally at 9pm and in the Sydney and Melbourne markets. It was also the highest rating show in Melbourne last night, across all networks and it was the highest rating ABC-TV program in Sydney for this year.

It was watched by 471,000, in Sydney, in Melbourne 472,000, in Brisbane 237,000, in Adelaide 133,000 and in Perth 137,000. It returns in 2009 for series two.

Some critics wonder if the ABC should be showing commercials, even in a program like this, others chortle that the purer than pure ABC has been giving lots of free publicity to advertising in general, and specific ads and products. And still others have claimed that the program gives spruikers for companies like Telstra, Optus, etc free kicks. But having watched all the programs, and been to one taping, advertising in this country will now be looked at in a different light.

Probably around 1.8 million people watched the program at least once (and probably a bit more if all the downloads are factored in). The audience skewed heavily towards 16 to 54 year old viewers. That’s the buying public in this country — not to mention the heartland of TV advertising and programming. It entertained, it informed and thanks to Wil Anderson the host, it sent up ads and the creators, and provide a solid context to the industry and its creations and people.

Nine Network CEO, David Gyngell, was sent an idea by an advertising executive for a similar program six weeks before The Gruen Transfer went to air. Gyngell liked it, but the idea disappeared in the network’s factual department.

Nine could never have done a program like The Gruen Transfer. It would have been a clips program based on u-beaut, feelgood moments and bloopers. We have already seen plenty of those programs and they suck.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey