Fenech: The posh wanker brigade has taken over Aussie TV

Paul Fenech Housos

Fenech: Brain behind Housos

The Australian TV industry has been taken over by the “posh wanker brigade”, Housos creator Paul Fenech has complained.

His comments – in which he highlighted his “love-hate relationship” with SBS – came in a live video chat with Mumbrella readers on the weekend that the Housos fim opened in cinemas.

Fenech also spoke of his antipathy to working in the advertising industry again and said that the lengthy process involved in getting Screen Australia funding has made him go his own way in producing films such as Housos which he partly funded out of his own pocket.

A nine-episode second series of the housing commission comedy will follow on SBS in the new year. Previous Fenech series on SBS have included Pizza – which he followed at the cinema with the Village Roadshow-funded Fat Pizza – and Swift And Shift Couriers.

Fenech highlighted his tensions with the broadcaster. He said: “SBS and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. They love the success but they are always a bit worried about the content I give them because it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

“But you cant argue with numbers and results – we’ve always been their number one show that they make, since Pizza, for ten years.”

He said that the change from MD Shaun Brown to former ABC marketer Michael Ebeid as the boss of SBS had not helped Housos. Fenech said: ‘The regime at the time were happy with the idea. Then there was a regime change. When they saw the final product the new people were very reluctant – swearing , domestic abuse.

“Everything was against it, it was on at ten o’clock at night and that’s almost the kiss of death for most TV programs but luckily enough people found it through social media.

“I’ve never understood it. Since Pizza, there’s a weird inhouse, maybe it’s a personal reluctance. There’s a lot of middle class people that work in the media in general, not just SBS. Out stuff is very  – working class is the wrong title – but underclass kind of humour. Maybe some people call it lowbrow but I just think it’s general Aussie humour, so I’m dealing with posh wankers the whole time.

“In the last 15 years the posh wanker brigade has taken over more of TV and there’s less and less real film makers and TV makers actually making TV. We’ve been overrun with people who’ve come out of all sorts of corners but not actually production so it’s a real struggle.”

Fenech was scathing about the current crop of Australian films. He said: “A lot of Australian movies don’t find an audience because a lot of the fim makers are making films for themselves and not for the audience.

“To be honest, most of the producers and directors I know, they are irrelevant to the Australian landscape because they don’t get out there and they don’t see what’s happening. It’s really shifting and changing. Most producers and people in the media these days it’s all about some bloody marketing report and that’s how they understand society. Bullshit, go and meet people.”

housos poster

Asked about working with funding bodies such as Screen Australia and Screen NSW, Fenech said: “They are so slow, I don’t. With Housos I wanted to make it quickly and I knew if I went the government route it would take forever. There’s nothign wrong with that and I’ll probably work with those guys eventually maybe.

“But all the films I’ve made have been independently financed just because I’m impatient. I hate the time and paperwork. I’d rather just go and talk to somebody who’s up for it.

“The government agencies, there’s a lot more onus on you to jump through a lot of hoops and I’m just impatient. As a producer I like things to happen quickly.I’d rather be working than stooging around doing thousands of meetings.”

Asked about his previous career in the advertisng industry, Fenech said: “All the ones I made were for KFC and stuff so they weren’t exactly my favourites. Advertising is a bit boring because it’s just about selling people chickens at the end of the day. It’s all a bit forgettable.

“I consciously try and stay out of that. The work I make is very anti-media. You get some advertising clown telling you to change it three times.

“I find it so painful, I’d rather put my balls in a vice than make TV commercials any time soon.”

SBS declined Mumbrella’s invitation to comment.


  1. Biting the Hand
    4 Nov 12
    3:45 pm

  2. Posh wanker brigade? That would be the people who make TV and Film that isn’t the same joke told three painfully, pathetically, unfunny ways.

  3. Mikey M
    4 Nov 12
    5:19 pm

  4. SBS’ number 1 show? I don’t think your 200k viewers compare to Go Back, Once Upon a Time in fact most of SBS’s shows. What an arrogant kn*b. I’m sure he’s saying some of this to get a bit of publicity for his film. What a loser.

  5. anon_coward
    5 Nov 12
    9:27 am

  6. There’s a strong element of truth to what he’s saying ya stooges. A lot, not all, of TV production at the ABC and SBS are conceived by and created for the socially liberal Sydney and Melbourne educated middle class audiences who aren’t especially well connected to the realities of life outside of inner ring urban suburbs, or in a lot of cases hold them in contempt. Take for example Redfern Now, well produced and executed, but for folks who have any experience in front line services to the south sydney indigenous community so completely removed from the reality of the area. It’s like a liberal’s fantasia of what Redfern should be, not what it is.

    Another example for me would be The Slap, I watched the first episode and I couldn’t fathom why any of these people were friends. It was like someone looked at a demography report and assembled a list of characters based on that, none of it felt genuine or real.

    Hey, they’re both good shows, but they adopt the veneer of being “real dramas about real people” and they’re nothing of the sort. Still, better than most TV in Australia….like that’s saying anything….

  7. John Sharples
    5 Nov 12
    10:50 am

  8. errrrr…. anon_coward…. The Slap is a novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas … and a damn fine one at that. Having read the book, then watched the mini-series it was true to the original and well worth the watching of it. I think you’ll find if you read it/watch it, it’s a book about family, and their friends, and the impact of one of them slapping a child. And while a novel, it could so easily play out in any backyard here in Ozstraya!

  9. Bem
    5 Nov 12
    11:47 am

  10. Oh please! There’s no posh wankers on TV. Neighbours, Winners and Losers, Home and Away, Packed To The Rafters, House Husbands, Underbelly, The Shire, Being Lara Bingle, My Bedazzeled Life, Big Brother, Dave Hughes, Chrissie Swan, Michelle Laurie… They’re all bogan shows/people or appeal to that demographic.. Quite frankly Australian TV is overrun by bogans! I say more posh wankers!!!

  11. Tim
    5 Nov 12
    11:47 am

  12. Of course! Because what we need is more television that appeals to – and normalises – boorish behaviour…

    Sure Fenech has an audience, but that doesn’t elevate his stuff above that of the “posh wankers”, as if his shows are somehow more “real”. It only shows that our culture (and education system) have a lot more work to do.

  13. anon_coward
    5 Nov 12
    12:23 pm

  14. I know it’s a book buddy, I’m giving you my feedback on the story (irrespective of the medium). I really couldn’t find a logic that would lead to all these people from such diverse backgrounds to all be together in a backyard bbq. It was a pastiche of ethnic and soci economic diversity that made no sense. They added a gay man to boot – do people seriously think this is the make up of a suburban backyard bbq these days??? Don’t get me wrong, I’d like it to be, but it isn’t if we’re being honest.

    Just my two cents on that aspect. I’m sure it was full of great characters and writing (in both mediums) but these characters never once felt real.

  15. Dropkick
    5 Nov 12
    12:45 pm

  16. I think he’s absolutely spot on. He tells it like it is and I’m glad he’s still around to be the voice of a large number of people who are completely ignored by the middle class media. And his attitude to advertising is 100% right – just selling chickens!

  17. nell schofield
    5 Nov 12
    1:06 pm

  18. anon_coward – love your work in calling out the Slap for being unrealistic. A great read but woefully non-reflective of australian life anywhere i’ve ever known

  19. zumabeach
    5 Nov 12
    1:41 pm

  20. The Slap, the book, was highly over-rated – totally miserable characters, but they ticked all the enthic and sociological boxes thereby pulling the chains of the ABC’s lefty luvies when it turned up on TV. Sort of Home and Away for grown-ups – not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, But please … it wasn’t The Wire, or even The Sopranos. And Fenech’s right – advertising’s about selling stuff to people who don’t know that they want it, be it chickens, alcohol, or any other over the counter drug – again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but profound art it ain’t.

  21. Sam
    5 Nov 12
    5:15 pm

  22. A movie full of swearing where every second word is F**K. Thats not comedy. Paul is not a genius nor a celebrity. Its all offensive low budget stuff. All you watch is his massive ego!!!!!

  23. Richard Moss
    5 Nov 12
    11:30 pm

  24. Draw a circle in the sand, stand in that circle and begin a work. Play an instrument, recite a poem, dance, sing or act. As soon as someone, any passer by, stops and begins to watch and listen, you have theatre.

    The problem is in the perception; most producers fail to grasp the fact, that talent and theatre cannot be cold stored and cut off by the meter as required. Operas and musicals are something of an exception, where a bunch of sparkling tunes and a few good songs strung together by a compelling story line, will have something of a universal appeal. However, legitimate theatre, TV and film drama and comedy are very different animals, requiring careful treatment and a lot of hard work and background knowledge.

    Actor managers of old knew, when wearing the manager hat, that a play that worked in one town would more than likely bomb in another, and when wearing the actor hat, they knew that a line that got a huge laugh on Wednesday night, would in all probability, die a death on Thursday night.

    Mr Fenech has struck a chord, he knows his audience, and he writes and directs accordingly. He has had success where many have failed, this alone, is worthy of high praise. Australian producers should step down from their high platform above the clouds, and open the door to the outside world, to the ideas and to the theatre artists who have something worthwhile to share. Of course, it requires a shift in thinking, and maybe that is why people like Paul Fenech and his work seem so bizarre to them.

    I do not know if he is a genius or not, but Paul Fenech is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air.

  25. rob
    6 Nov 12
    7:29 am

  26. What I can’t understand is why inner city/north shore elites try to pretend to be average battlers, it just doesn’t work. For instance the drug dealer on underbelly speaking with a north shore accent. Or the bikies girlfriend – in an ad for margarine -who said to him “here eat this, it has plarnt sterols”. What a joke.