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Australia, After The Commercial Break




By Andrew Biggs

I am watching the most amazing thing I’ll see on TV for a long time. Those aren’t my words; they are Ken’s.

Ken is a rapid-talking over-joyous man on the wrong side of 50, displaying signs of extreme teeth bleaching along with a probable background in used car salesmanship. He is about to reveal to me something called “nutrient infusion” on live television.

“Now watch closely Janie,” he says to the tall woman standing next to him. Janie wants to reply but she’s helpless against Ken’s verbal tsunami. “You’re about to witness nutrient infusion! It’s gonna boggle your mind!”

He flicks a switch on a gadget that resembles an oversized bullet containing fruit. There is a loud whirring sound and in a split second, that fruit is a river of centrifugal juice.

“Didja see that Janie? Did ya? Those infusion blades go at 20,000 revs per minute! It transforms ordinary foods into super infusion foods!”

Ken’s eyes are ablaze. Janie is teetering on orgasm. There is an energy from these two that could only be derived from nutrient infusion … or a few quick lines in the green room before going on air. I suspect the latter.

And me?

I’m sprawled out on the morning sofa, remote in hand, my mouth well and truly agape but not owing to anything those infusion blades have liquefied. I’m aghast at the ghastly state of Australian television.

I am back home, dear reader, although only for a week, returning to Brisbane and my ageing parents who have various health issues, none of which could be adequately cured by nutrient infusion.

The last time I was here the Australian dollar was worth more than the American one, making it the most expensive place on earth. Eccentric, flamboyant Uncle Andrew living the envious life of a high-profile Bangkok celebrity suddenly turned into embarrassing poor cousin eating Mama noodles in the Queen Street Mall.

Thankfully the Australian dollar is now around 70 cents to the US dollar and things are more affordable but not by much. Yesterday I caught a cab home from the city and in the time it took to sneeze the fare was already $25.

I used to be hyper-critical of Thai TV, with its cheap soaps, juvenile game shows and merciless advertising. I used to get on flights back to Australia thinking: “Thank goodness. Back to some decent TV.” How condescending — and wrong.

Australian commercial television has surely superseded Thai TV in its banality. Take Ken and Janie and their glorified blender. Morning TV is riddled with such “segments”, not “advertisements.”

Australia has grown slicker, more commercial — and definitely a lot bigger around the waist. Perhaps Ken’s only mistake was to demonstrate his nutrient infuser using fruit; had he used cream, sugar and chocolate, Australia would go ape over it.

“Warm Donut with a Teasing Dollop of Gelati” was a sign I saw in the Queen Street Mall yesterday, proving we have gone way past a simple donut for a snack as well as summarizing the physical appearance of the average Australian these days. And what’s with the “teasing” dollop?? Exactly what is that dollop teasing, other than your heart and arteries?

The direct result of Australia’s national corpulence can be seen on television.

The week I’ve been here the idiot box has gone nuts over The Biggest Loser, a TV show where four grossly overweight families jostle – or jiggle – for the top prize.

I was mortified. This is not simply an hour-long program once a week. It’s on three times a week in prime time.

The weekly climax is when these morbidly obese people strip down, stand on giant scales amid sinister music and long, drawn-out shots of the humiliated contestants, until a slender blonde bimbo congratulates or berates them on how much weight they have lost.

I watched this segment and felt the same as I would if I got caught peeking through a keyhole in a public bathroom. We humans are doomed and the evidence is clear – the destruction of our natural world, and the TV show named The Biggest Loser.

The biggest controversy on The Biggest Loser  — other than the love child carried by one of the hard-faced female trainers, sired by the already-married male trainer who goes by the single name Commando – is a team of three sisters where the thinnest is 130 kg. Using accents we call “bogan” here in Australia, these girls demonstrate a very strong argument for the pitfalls of the Australian education system, not to mention euthanasia.

Here’s an example of what one of the sisters said, word-for-word, while performing one challenge:

“Aw come on youse two just gimme a break will youse? I can’t do it! I can’t do it I said! Youse are shoutin’ and yellin’ and screamin’ at me but youse don’t understand! I can’t do it! So youse can just leave me alone alright?”

Australia is not a stupid country; we did, after all, get rid of Tony Abbot. In fact we’re a pretty intelligent and prosperous country (one in 20 Australians is a millionaire, according to one report right after Ken and Janie).

And yet we are transfixed with imbecilic shows. I saw one that features Australians sitting and watching their favorite TV shows. Yes, that’s right … the camera is trained on couples, families and friends, sitting in their E-Z-rockers, resembling warm donuts with gelato dollops, making comments on any of Australia’s 16 talent shows, 23 cooking programs, or the fat chicks on the Biggest Losers. So now we watch people watching TV. I swear … the end is nigh.

The world is reeling with some pretty big stories such as the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe and the ISIS threat. And Australia? Here are the top three stories that captivated Australia this week:

1. A grandfather spent six days in the Australian outback surviving solely on eating black ants. The media have dubbed him “The Ant Eater.” It’s the perfect Aussie news story because it’s about food. “Janie, 3.5 ounces of black ants provides 14 grams of protein,” a happy morning hosts informed Janie, who is interested but nowhere near the level she was with nutrient infusion.  

2. A Queensland politician was caught “sexting.” A constituent asked for information on an administrative matter, and he replied by sending a pic of his genitals. Twice.

3. Prince Charles and Camilla are coming to Australia. Their itinerary does not include Victoria or Queensland, which has caused a ripple the size of the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. “Come to Melbourne ya slackers!” is the solitary sound bite Channel 7 used for this story, spoken by somebody who is supposed to represent the feelings of the Australian general public. Are we allowed to refer to British royalty in this manner?

Morning TV also assembles panels of “experts” to comment on stories. One morning there was a report that suggested homework should be abolished for primary school kids. A worthy discussion topic – so why did Channel 9 invite the weather man, their leggy female news reader, and a motivational speaker with only the top half of his body intact to discuss it?

(The motivational speaker was the worst – born without legs, he sat on the couch supported by his arms, his only contributions being feeble one-liners about him getting “legless” the night before and his arguments “not having a leg to stand on.” Steely knives, come hither … put me out of this torture!)

This afternoon I hop a plane for the serenity and sensibility of Bangkok. Farewell, beloved home country that obsesses over black ant recipes and fat girls. Farewell Australia, where Ken tells me a device called nutrient infuser is going to be the most amazing thing I’m going to see on TV.

You know what? He’s right.



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