DESPITE WRITING LAST year, “If you enjoy watching celebrities eat their own vomit tune in on Sunday night to watch the Logies”, and then describing television’s night of nights as “four hours of nauseating self-congratulatory wank“, I was offered a job writing on this year’s Logies.
So my advice to writers is: do shit where you eat.
For people familiar with my writing, which relies heavily on crude generalisations, involuntary swearing and my motto “Go in swinging”, don’t get too excited. I can assure you that this year’s Logies will be the safest in living memory.
Television executives employ clever, creative people brimming with passion and say, “We love your work. Just make it safe and fun.” Then they dilute the creatives. Which in turn dilutes us all.
As a television viewer, television writer and television reviewer being asked to write for television’s best and fairest pie night is like being asked to eat your own vomit.
I have written for the Logies, the Arias and most hilariously, the 2005 AFI awards for Russell Crowe. I love award shows. It’s like watching a tightrope walker. Half of me hopes they get to the other side safely, and the other half is rooting for them to plummet to their death.
So back to the Logies. Or as the “international stars” here to plug their latest cry for help or resuscitate their flagging careers call them, the Lergies, Lodgies or Looggies. Their appearance is meant to make us feel that we have a vibrant and exciting industry that the rest of the world aspires to. It doesn’t and they don’t.
The show is sponsored by TV Week, a magazine read by people who think that Home and Away is a documentary. The awards fall into two categories. The Most Popular awards are voted by 14-year-old girls with mobile phones. The Most Outstanding awards are peer voted. There is not one single nomination that appears in both categories.
This is how planning for such a show goes. Six weeks out there are loads of great ideas that promise to make the show the most exciting and memorable ever. Sketches and stunts come up such as having the casts from Neighbours and Home and Away in a scrag fight. Other ideas are thrown around: video packages of the nominees taking the piss out of television; how to control the boys from The Chaser; and suggestions about how to convince Eddie to do something. Anything. Producers generally use words such as “new”, “fresh” and “edgy”. Everyone’s excited.
About three weeks in, the wheels fall off as celebrities pull out of anything considered funny, irreverent, edgy or all of the above. They think about it too much and get scared. Or their pimp, sorry, I mean manager, decides that it won’t help their career by appearing to have a sense of humour and a healthy disrespect for the industry. Which is hilarious when you realise that many of these rising stars have a use-by date of three months and will probably be seen at next year’s Logies serving the guests drinks. That’s if they are not in rehab or recovering from a vaginoplasty.
Suddenly footage is unavailable, network execs are scared of “burning people” and the last three weeks is spent cobbling up an awards show that can only be described as “not as bad as we thought”. The nominees and presenters who have agreed to scripts suddenly get bored or scared, want more alternatives then end up coming up with their own stuff and if it doesn’t work, blame the writers. The producers will then lament that they probably shouldn’t have given “the talent” the script, just told them on the day in order to “get wood”.
Knowing this means that you try not to give out all the lollies at the start of the trip. You see, if you give them all the best lines a month before showtime comes around they’ll be “over them” because they’ve heard the lines hundreds of times but they forget that the audience hasn’t. So you need to keep something up your sleeve. I suggest cocaine and a Maurie Fields joke book.
The Logies, and indeed all commercial television, is like dealing with a three year old in a cot. They want every single toy in with them just so they can throw them all out then scream for something new. Which they then throw at your face. They tell you that even thought they liked that thing yesterday, they don’t like it now. Because it’s not new.
Television is about quantity and not quality. When handing in scripts you’re always trying to go right to the edge but not over it. Because if they pick out one little something too racy, too expensive or too “out there” they’ll pull the pin on the whole thing instead of working the idea, no matter how brilliant the idea is. But you never know where that edge is, because it keeps shifting. I’ve seen writers floor a meeting with a genius idea and then a week later you ask about the idea and “Oh, we’ve had second thoughts and we don’t think it will work.”
During this process the fine people who actually work on the show almost die from stress, exhaustion, lack of sleep and self-medication through alcohol. The writers, editors, producers and directors are dedicated, devoted and expert at what they do. Even people from overseas say that.
And I cannot stress how narrow-minded, gutless, sexist and bigoted your average studio executive is. These BWMs (Bogans With Money) are only one link in the food chain up from the creeps who run commercial radio.
The pre-taped video packages and sketches are written first and the obituary package is always done last. The writers sit in the writer’s room flicking through magazines waiting for a list of stuff to write. You are given a brief of what to write and start cracking on it either alone or with another writer. It will be a friendly wrestle to come up with something that fits the brief. A good writer knows their strengths and weaknesses and therefore knows when to concede and when to push their line. The most important thing is to find the right voice for the task and the person who will be saying it.
It is well known that no one wants to host the Logies. Last year three presenters opened the show and this year they have three key presenters. If the show goes down like a lead balloon no one wants to be known as the one flying it. The hosts, or key presenters generally write their own stuff, often with their own writer. Occasionally the writer’s room is asked to come up with some alternatives. These lines generally don’t get up unless they are killers.
This year, while discussing the list of potential presenters, I said, “It’s a bit light-on for women,” to which people snapped back, “Well, it’s the same as last year and no one complained.” Any woman I mentioned was kyboshed with “not up to it”, “divides the audience”, “loose cannon” or “not in Melbourne”. So look forward to about one female to every two males on stage. And none who looks over 35.
You know those, “I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight but I’m thrilled to receive this award”, schticks for the nominees abroad? All nominees tape them if possible. I always thought they told the winner beforehand and got them to do it. Not true. No one knows the winners until the last moment, not even the people who work on the show. They want to maintain the magic.
There is an enormous and ridiculous amount of cloak-and-dagger secrecy involved in television. And a massive amount of fear. Much of the stuff I have written in this article is considered secret but common knowledge to people in and out of the industry. While writing for the Logies I was constantly told, “You can’t say that/ write that/ do that.” I’d reply, “Everyone knows so why not?” Silence. Then, “You just can’t.”
No matter what a joke every single person in the industry thinks the Logies are, due to the tiny size of our industry we are forced to buy into this mediocre festival of mediocrity because an appearance, nomination or win can pay your rent. And a call from Eddie can convince even the most well respected and highly regarded person in the industry to do almost anything.
So why am I writing on the show? I am a work slut. That’s the thing with our tiny industry. Hopefully, if you just keep getting work, one day you’ll end up getting your own project up or end up working on something brilliant.
The Logies are not a celebration of excellence; they are a bizarre reality show. The Popular awards diminish the recognition that the winners of the Outstanding awards deserve because they have worked hard, taken risks and listened to their hearts not demographics, focus groups and ratings.