When Mark Latham gave his great raging, unhinged performance at the Melbourne Writers Festival — one of those “wankfests” he makes a great deal of effort to get to — it reminded many a film buff of something, couldn’t quite put their finger on it … of course! Crazy Howard Beale, played brilliantly by Peter Finch in the 1976 film Network — in which a burnt-out newsreader, sacked in favour of a new brainless schedule (featuring a proto-reality TV show focused on a cell of violent Maoists), has a breakdown live on air and tells his viewers: “I want you to go to your window, open it and shout ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’” The event is such a success that it becomes a regular part of the schedule until (spoiler alert) the Maoists shoot Beale live on air, in the final episode of both shows.
With The Verdict tanking worse than The Bolt Report, it’s clear that the producers should rewatch Network. Or watch it. Or watch any movie beforeTransformers 3. Because who wants a pseudo-Q&A, with none of that show’s genius for ceaseless invention? We want Crazy Mark Latham! Piff off those other five and the host, and just have Latham in a chair, fed topics, either by an interesting antagonist — thinking Helen Razer — or simply by a workie, or even with a topic coming up on screen as a subtitle.
In this new format, Latham simply expiates against the clock on a range of topics — women, selfie sticks, imputed stamp duty, women, Kevin Rudd, breastfeeding in cafes, #illridewithyou, women, teal as a summer colour option, women, women — without drawing breath. Charities run sponsor campaigns (“can Mark do two minutes on meals being served on a board, to help Punchbowl High get a badminton court?”), with side bets on: total collapse, confession of being a North Korean agent, punching out the camera guy, etc. The audience could have cards, like diving judges and give him an overall rating.
You’d watch that? Hell yeah, you would. So would we. So would Mark, later, on Betamax (“a real western suburbs video format!”). Would there be any concern that he might be shot? Ha, no Mark. You’re not getting out that easily.