So the Chaser boys are back on TV but this time they are not skewering politicians, the media or stupid Americans but consumer law. That’s right, you heard me – consumer law.
Consumer law is not a subject that immediately
springs to mind when one thinks of comedy and satire. But the subject proves a rich vein taped to varying degrees of success by the wit of the Chaser team on their new program, The Checkout.
The team has collaborated with the consumer advocate organisation, Choice, to present a range of consumer information in a digestible format for TV. Gone is the dry, slightly patronising tone of consumer shows of the past where we were told in straight analytical terms what it means for us. The Checkout attempts to use the Chaser’s unique brand of skit comedy, stunts and sometimes puerile humour to present the issues.
There are a number of segments in the 30 minute program, ranging from straight informational segments – but with a cynical, sharp eye applied – to skits and a regular viewer interaction section called F U Tube, where viewers are invited to send in genuine consumer gripes. Some issues covered in the first few episodes have included: mobile telephone contracts; supermarket home brands; warranty issues; return and refund rights and nutritional supplements.
The format at times feels a little disjointed and uneven with some segments falling flat. It also becomes difficult at times to distinguish between genuine viewer generated content and fictional scenarios, thus distracting from the telling of the key information.
While such a show, presented with colour and wit, is welcome in our increasingly consumer-orientated society, The Checkout may take some time to find the most effective balance between information and entertainment. For those who aren’t put off by the Chaser brand of satire it is worth watching, just give it some time.
The Checkout airs at 8pm Thursday nights on ABC1 and previous episodes can also be viewed at the ABC’s page for the show.