Would the last viewer to leave Channel Nine please turn out the lights?

Dating back to at least the time of the Pharoahs, powerful people have been buried alongside their most prized possessions. In light of this tradition, it may perhaps have been kindest to bury the Nine Network alongside Kerry Packer. It would have avoided the slow, painful death it’s undergoing at the moment.

The once vaunted galaxy of stars has lost its lustre. Seven’s monopoly on the best American shows thanks to its deal with ABC has seen it shoot ahead in primetime, and its recruitment of Ian Ross combined with the departure of Brian Henderson has led to the “who’s who of news” being replaced the “who?” of news. Still, better the somewhat unknown Mark Ferguson than the known but disliked Jim Waley.
Things are so bad that their own website has misspelt the name of a show they broadcast every single year – twice. Although there isn’t much point in spelling “Academy Awards” correctly when all the viewers just tune into Desperate Housewives anyway.
(And while we’re speaking of desperation, Nine’s now so desperate that the only way they can get viewers is by getting people to watch themselves.)
Nine’s crisis is neatly summarised by the change to universally unpopular new logo. It’s trying desperately hard to reinvent itself, but still looks too much like the boring old Channel Nine of old. And its efforts to get fresh’n’funky are ultimately just embarrassing.
The bizarre solution to these woes chosen by James Packer has been to take his network’s most popular personality off the air, and make him the CEO. It’s a uniquely lose-lose notion, where Nine loses its biggest drawcard and gains a CEO with no experience of running television stations. At least when Kerry used to gamble, there was a chance he’d win.
The problem Eddie faces becomes horribly apparent when you look at tonight’s programming. In short, Nine’s got nothing.
Antiques Roadshow at 5pm says it all – especially as there’s an even bigger antique at 5.30. Not Bert – though long in the tooth, he’s still brilliant in the right format. Family Feud is an awful show, and not just because it still brings back unpleasant memories of Rob Brough. There’s no entertainment in watching people essentially guess survey results. Well, unless they launched Packer Family Feud, where Nine execs guess the results of their latest lacklustre ratings surveys, and are executed with the pistol Kerry Packer used to keep in his office when their shows don’t perform. That’d be “must see TV”.
Why you’d hire Bert amid all that fanfare only to waste him on Family Feud is beyond me. Give the man a talk show immediately. I don’t care whether it’s a cheesy midday one like GMA or something in the evening. It’d be better than almost anything else Nine’s got to offer.
Continuing through the schedule… News at 6.00 – watch Seven. ACA – well, if you’ve had a lobotomy of sufficient scale to allow you to enjoy tabloid current affairs, Naomi Robson does it so much worse than Tracy Grimshaw, who still has a shred of credibility. Robson’s one of the most awful personalities on TV. So it’s no wonder Today Tonight wins hands down in the cesspool of miracle diets and pedophiles that infest the 6.30 slot.
At 7.00, up against Home and Away and The Biggest Loser, it’s actually Temptation that will finish last. There’s a wishfully-named show if ever there was one. 7.30 puts tired Getaway up against two classy imports, Smallville and Las Vegas. The only chance a travel show would have here is it if featured Jennifer Hawkins in a bikini, and she’s signed with Seven. And third place again for Nine at 8.30, with Lost blowing everything else way in this timeslot and Medium a far higher-profile contender than Waking The Dead on Nine. You’d probably have had to actually died on your sofa to still be tuned to Nine at this point.
9.30 would be a bright spot for Nine with The Footy Show, but there’s nothing bright about that show. Especially when up against Law And Order and Seven’s cult reality show The Amazing Race. You never know, the ABC might even beat Nine in this spot with The West Wing. Yeah okay, so that’s wishful thinking.
Couple this with the double whammy of losing the AFL and gaining the Commonwealth Games and you can see why rumours abound that James Packer will sell Nine. But even Alan Bond wouldn’t be dumb enough to pay big this time.
If Eddie really wants to save this basket case, he’ll do three hours of Millionaire live in prime-time every single night. It couldn’t rate worse than this sorry line-up. Because Nine’s cupboard is bare. In fact, it’s worse than bare, because it contains Magda’s Funny Bits.
Still the One? At this rate they’ll be lucky if they’ve still got one viewer.
Dominic Knight

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