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ABC's Q and A: A studio audient's review
ABC's Q and A: a studio audient's review
An interest in world affairs, production techniques and ideas, informed views and ideas gets me to many and various venues and events. The fact that I cannot keep my mouth shut gets me thrown out occasionally, and on one memorable occasion I had beer cans thrown at me.
So it was that I was invited to the pilot of the ABC Q & A show. It was streamed on the net, but not broadcast.
Arrival time 7 : 30 pm, for a 9 : 30 start, roaring 'music' the guy at the console deluded, believing he was in charge of a rock band. Free tea, coffee and biscuits and the interminable waiting.
We had been asked to submit questions by email for consideration, but they also had 'cards' which they handed out for people to submit (further?) questions.
Tony Jones came out and gave us run down on how the show would work. Those whose questions were chosen would be identified and a copy of the question given to them. Though it may not be possible to get through all the questions selected. (They never do)Questions would be taken from the audience, and from questions submitted via the web. Members of the panel would not have prior knowledge of the questions. 'Most of all, have fun'.
We file in, seating wherever we wish. The names of those whose questions have been selected are called out, and the camera operators and Tony plot their positions. Production housework is discussed. Wait for the overhead mike, don't look at it, don't shout questions out, wait until Tony indicates that you can speak. Put your arm up if you have a comment on the discussion.
Going to air live there is a lot of work getting set and the floor manager, then the producer rattle off their spiel. They work on the, to me, utterly deluded idea that the audience must be 'warmed up'. They bring on an idiot suffering from the delusion that he is funny, who is supposed to impart some information as he goes along, and people scrunch down in their seats, cringing and wondering why the hell they are there, how much more of this they can take, and thinking ' I might just go home.' Mercifully the torture ends, suddenly time is of the essence and the final hectic adjustments happen as the panel is let in, one at a time to some applause ― the odd boo ― and 3, 2, 1 second and the show is underway.
I have been now been on three occasions. ― the free tea and bickies, you understand? On one occasion they had one of the Chasers, I think, doing the 'warming up'. Informative and entertaining as opposed to trying to be funny, and I say this not being a fan of their show.
Back home I emailed the producer.
I thought the Q & A evening went well enough, but!
Observations: Your people repeatedly thanked people for their time, but the organisation of the event never reflected this appreciation or concern. The repeated apologises for the 'unfinished set' were overdone. In the first place, apart from the lack of the logo, who knew, or cared? The show will not live or die by the perceived quality of its set design. In reality, how much of the set is seen, anyway? If the show 'works', it would work if there was nothing more than the desk at which the panel sat and the seating for the audience. It is the content, or lack of it that will determine the success or failure of the concept. Everything else is frippery.
Why not have all questions emailed in so that the selection process could be already done before the people turn up? You could then have the selected questions typed up, and handed out as those who posed them signed in.
Having waited for far too long, being battered by far too loud music, ― what about some soft, background music that people can easily ignore, or talk over? ― that at best can only be to the taste of some of your audience, and being shepherded into the auditorium, more time is 'wasted'.
Obviously you have to have the floor manager's piece, the sound level tests and such, but must you show your charity by bringing in an unemployed, and unemployable would-be comedian?
I can hear people saying: he is there to 'warm up' the audience. In fact it is a trial of patience: just how much more of this crap do I put up with, or do I leave now?
I contend that people who turn up for what is hopefully to be a night of serious discussion do not want, or need, 'warming up'.
At one point the session was really animated. Everyone was involved, the questions and answers were expanding on the topic, were not repetitive and had not become polarised, yet it was cut off as: 'we need to move on'.
I make two assumptions: the show is intended as entertainment, or at least intended to be entertaining, and that if everybody in the studio was finding the discussion interesting/engaging, it is a reasonable assumption that the home audience would be equally engaged.
I do not believe that the success of the show will depend upon how many questions are raised, but upon how well the questions raised are explored, and if the answers are restricted then it will be little different from a news/Lateline interview where often enough people are cut off 'because of time restraints', just when issue seems to be moving into areas where the guts of the question might be exposed.
Thanks for the evenings entertainment.
I was invited back!
At the studio you are faced by a revolving, round, glass entrance. A po -faced individual in SS black pushes a button, the door revolves and you are in. Having been before I point in the direction of those queuing to be marked off, and given a ticket with a large, meaningless number. 'Thank you sir'. Perhaps he is not SS.
Improvements were made. Roll-ups are now 8 :20. The rock band has gone. Unfortunately the unemployed idiot was shown charity and bought back at last Thursdays show. However the bloody ABC has gone commercial! Tendered out the opportunity to inflict your music upon a captive audience, for almost an hour. An older chap sits and plucks at some stringed instrument. It is okay, below the conversation level. I wonder whether he feels he is getting his moneys worth, and how much he tendered. It seems to me that to most, he is invisible.
Joining Q & A this week are: the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, Shadow Treasurer, Malcolm Turnbull, scientist and global warming activist, Tim Flannery, businesswoman, Catherine Harris and the Director of the IP and Free Trade Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, Tim Wilson .
The panellists file in, but there is obviously something strange going on. 'Malcolm Turnbull', and in stomps an android, all smart polished paint. The woman sitting beside me mutters something and I reply: ' I've never seen him in anything but that outfit, his office is 50 metres from my place'.
The first question is a plant, a Dorothy dixer, Tony gives it to Malcolm. His operator pushes the button for one of his three poses, this one 'look presidential'. His sound system crackles and squawks, and he is off on what was obviously a wrongly load data disk. Like the babbling brook he prattled on about some person I have heard of from prehistory ― something before 2000 bc I believe, and Tony Jones failed to stop him, or couldn't stop him. He talked of 'Howard', (who?) And if they had won the election and . . The mechanism groung to a stop. Tony said: 'you never answered the question', the change position button was pushed and he moved to the 'look prime ministerial mode'.
I said to woman next to me, 'my god, that is the problem, he is a robot.'
An aside: I was of the opinion that Turnbull would make a good frontman for the Libs. I am now of the view that I the would be a bloody disaster.
Penny Wong, quietly spoken, almost never touched upon party politics. Interesting, ― the highest compliment I can give ― would love to have dinner with her.
Dinner: from the past . A fine ― and expensive ― restaurant, in after 9 :30, three or four other people, superb food, very little wine and conversation, ideas, views, conversation until finally, 3; 30 or 4 am, making homeward exhilarated and sober.
Catherine Harris, of Harris fruit markets in Sydney, but I do not know how far further afield. Intelligent, articulate, pragmatic. Little wonder that they have a very successful business.
Tim Flannery; one of those people who are in the flesh as they are on tv.
Tim Wilson, possibly another, much improved robot, who for some unfathomable reason had been loaded with either the same data disk as was Malcolm, or something from the same era.
At one point responding to a comment, Tony warned, 'my wife is in the audience!" Later, in the midst of a session on the subject of same sex marriage Tony managed to hear himself say: 'I don't see why I cannot marry Malcolm!' Embarrassed, in a frantic effort to recover he simply made the situation worse. The whole place fell apart, all except the obsolete robot that sat unmoving, holding the 'presidential' pose.
The panel is allowed escape and the rest of us file out. I find that they have abandoned the 'what do you think?' forms at the door.
Having been on three occasions and never got in a question/observation from the floor, I'm not certain if I will go again. I'm not fond of 'being in the audience'. Much prefer forums where questions and discussion flow.
That said I have a friend in the country who has indicated he would like to attend next time he is in Sydney and in a week or two Germaine Greer ― remember the self-proclaimed 'female eunuch' ― as those who bought the paper back will remember .
Perhaps they deserve just one more chance?