Shield your eyes, block your ears, make sure the children are safe. John Safran (duhm duhm duhm) is back on television with a show called Race Relations and he is sure to strike fear into the hearts of all good law-abiding ‘Strayians.

Nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned media shit storm to whip up some controversy and for weeks before it even screened,  media outlets were jumping aboard the potentially scandalous new Safran show. Blackface! A crucifixion! Masturbation!

Typical conservative groups wheeled out their classic lines:

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The Australian Family Association described the show as “filth”. Spokesman John Morrissey said it would be the lowest point in Australia’s television history.

“It’s offensive and it’s in bad taste and it’s certainly not something that kids should be exposed to,” Mr Morrissey said. — Herald Sun

Which is probably why the ABC is screening it at 9:30pm with an M rating. Over at the Australian Christian Lobby, managing director Jim Wallace questioned TV regulation, without even seeing the series:

Just how far are television networks going to be allowed to go before the government steps in and brings in proper regulation? Is it really good enough that a medium that is broadcast into nearly every home in Australia sets its own rules and for much of the time doesn’t even bother sticking to them?

… According to media reports it sounds like the series gets even worse at it goes on, with Safran starring in a mock crucifixion scene — trying to make a joke of a sacred part of the Christian faith. —

Brisbane Times gave an interesting, in-depth look at Safran’s show, but still ended with the potential “controversy” and the words “You’ve been warned”.

The Morning Show had three media analysts discussing the show on the morning of the day it screened, with the tagline across the bottom of the screen asking “Safran’s series sick?”, comparing it to the Chaser “Make a realistic wish” skit and saying “even before we see it, there are calls for the program to be dumped”.

Except, even the media analysts failed to be overly offended.

Di Butler, from the Courier-Mail, found it hilarious and said “it’s not mindless funny, as if you’re sitting in front of Two and Half Men” (ironic really that Two and a Half Men rated far higher).

“You’re playing into his hands by having all this controversy before it even starts. People are going to have a look, some of them, just to be offended,” said guest Susan Hetherington, an associate lecturer of journalism at Queensland University of Technology.

Only Richard Clune, from the Tele, said Safran had gone a “bit too far” and “overstepped the mark”. Which is unsurprising, since he’d published a column just days earlier, calling a sketch “distasteful”, quoting the Australian Family Association calling it “filth” and mentioning that the Chaser boys “drew widespread public condemnation, from the Prime Minister down” for their skit. Just further fuel to his created fire.

The Punch was, of course, all over it like a rash, following on from its very clever strategy of jumping aboard a media controversy and getting the main characters to write a column  (see Joyce post the Trioli crazy fingers, a Hey Hey blackfacer and Vile Sandilands).

The ABC’s director of television, Kim Dalton, gave a nice little stirring column before the show aired, continuing the ABC/ Punch love fest.

My message is this: think carefully before you settle into the couch tonight for the 9.30pm premiere of John Safran’s comedy-documentary Race Relations. If you think you are going to be offended or outraged (or want to be offended or outraged) then don’t tune in.

This ABC program is not for everyone. It was not designed to be. By scheduling the series at 9.30pm and attaching an M warning the ABC is signalling that this is challenging fare. John Safran’s Race Relations contains material that some viewers will disagree with or find distasteful.

It was a nice pat on the back for the ABC by Dalton, for being brave enough to air something that (fingers crossed!) would be controversial and water cooler worthy.

The Punch decided to live-blog the show in case there was any controversy.

Except, there wasn’t.

Despite wanking on camera to Obama, stealing dirty undies of Jewesses and Eurasians and trying to create an Israeli-Palestinian child of peace by visiting sperm banks, Safran’s show was not very controversial. Funny. Slightly gross. But nothing that really gets the public whipped up in a frenzy. The ABC only received five complaints … 93% of Punch livebloggers weren’t offended.

Is it because he sends himself up rather than children with cancer, black people or concentration camps?

The “controversy” was just “a storm in a teacup”, declared Safran.

Oh wait. That was Daryl Somers. But the same concept applies.

The Oz editorial deemed it a worthy topic today, but contrary to its normal conservative nature, complained that it wasn’t pushing enough boundaries:

“… tacky rather than offensive. Yet that’s not the reason why we reckon ABC managing director Mark Scott needs to take another look at the broadcaster’s charter. Safran’s crime was to be boring not shocking, undergraduate not challenging. Come on Mr Scott, you can do better than that with our money.

So, this week’s coveted Wankley goes to all the knicker-twisting-and-attention-grabbing media hoping to get aboard the next Blackface-gate before the public  knew it was happening. A nice piece by the media attempting to find controversy where there was none.

At least they’ll admit it:

For weeks and months we were told we would be offended, but the debut of John Safran’s new TV show last night failed to spark the predicted outrage. — The Age

Not to worry. Hey Hey is back on air next year. Outrage! Controversy!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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