How to ruin viewer goodwill: the Nine way
Like much of the viewing public, I settled down on Sunday night with an immense packet of biscuits, excited to watch the second part of Nine's terrific Howzat! Kerry Packer's War.
(It was also fascinating to follow Jane Caro's tweets, as her father Andrew was the managing director of World Series Cricket. You can see a rundown of the Caro family responses to the show here; to cut a long story short, the producers of Howzat! got it pretty spot on.)
If you have the memory of a goldfish, here's how I felt about part one last week:
[I]t's Lachy Hulme's show, and any doubts held about his ability to embody Kerry Packer were swiftly put to rest as the show unfolded. Who knew it were possible to make Packer even remotely sympathetic, but Hulme did it, as poor old Kerry mowed anxiously through Quarter Pounders (in polystyrene boxes [!!!], see my points above) and bottles of Fanta. Crucially, however, the show didn't romanticise the era, particularly its gender politics, or its (anti)hero: all it took was for Packer to demolish Rose's confidence ("You look like a sack of potatoes") and he was straight back to villain status. It's a nuanced performance, and sophisticated writing.
The finale offered more of the same, tempered a little by too much focus on the fictional Warner character (whose torment at the hands of Packer wasn't really resolved other than to leave my Mum concerned that he was going to off himself).
The quality of the show was never really in doubt, let's face it. No, the problem I and most people who watched Howzat! had on Sunday night was down to one thing only: HOW MANY BLOODY ADS CAN NINE CRAM INTO A TELEMOVIE?!
I jumped back on Twitter to get a sampling of the commentary that abounded on Sunday:
And so on.
I was a little worried that Anthony Hayes (the absence of whose facial hair among the Howzat! cast was noted) might break something, given his ad-rage:
In other words, or in Kerry's own parlance, there were too many fucken ads.
Now, long-term readers of this blog will know I've had it in for Nine for some time: they can't be trusted to show series at the same time each week, they commission terrible content, and they don't allow good content to find its footing unless it rates through the roof in its first week.
Howzat! - particularly in the face of concern that Nine had bought the rights to make a Paper Giants sequel and would stuff it up - was a great opportunity for them to win back some viewer goodwill, by commissioning good content and letting it run free.
By cramming the two telemovies full of ads (particularly, as Hayes noted, for House Husbands), Nine undid all their good work.
And just how many ads were there?
This kind fellow - a self-confessed "internet nerd" has tallied up the number of ads throughout Howzat!, as well as comparing the length of the ad "blocs" to that of the show itself. It'd be sobering reading if we weren't still so infuriated:
Those numbers again: the shortest bloc of the show was nearly as long as the ad breaks that followed it.
Now, I've done my Wikipedia research, I know that advertising in Australia - in terms of how long between ad blocs, and how many ads per hour - is pretty much the wild west. If Nine wants to cram its flagship telemovie full of ads then we have to put up with it, more or less.
But by golly, if Howzat! had reinvigorated anybody's goodwill for Nine, that avalanche of ads came in and washed it away.
And I don't think I'm the only person who's going to give House Husbands a wide berth out of little more than pure spite. Yes, two can play at that game, Nine.