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Turning a ‘national obsession’ into an ‘analytical art show’: ABC launches Screen Time

ABC launches new show Screen Time this evening, aiming to create an “intelligent conversation” around the film and television industry.

Hosted by The Chaser team member Chris Taylor, with a cast of regularly panellists, the show will review films and television shows from across the world, and discuss broader issues and themes across the respective programs.

Host Taylor says the show will turn Australia’s ‘national obsession’ into an ‘analytical art show’

For Taylor, it seemed strange that conversations around film and television were not anywhere on television.

“For a TV addict like me it’s really nice to do something in this space where I feel vaguely qualified and the other thing is, it’s impossible to go out now to a BBQ or dinner party or workplace and people aren’t talking about they are watching. It’s literally Australia’s favourite conversation right now,” Taylor told Mumbrella.

“It seemed to be a missed opportunity not to turn this national obsession into a more analytical art show and I thought the ABC was really well placed to do it because rather than be a Gogglebox approach where there’s a lot of onus to be entertaining and comical about TV addiction, this was a chance on the ABC to really drill down and have a reflective analytical discussion about this glass of content that surrounds us all.”

Taylor said he felt like a natural fit for the show as he spent most of his spare time watching films and TV shows.

“I am a TV addict to the great shame of my parents, I spent most of my hours after school sitting down on a couch watching television and I loved the movies as well. So when the ABC approached me asking if I’d be interested in working on a show that was about TV and film the initial response was that it sounded like a dream job.”

Hell's Kitchen | Screen Time

In our new show Screen Time, Chris Taylor sets his sights on the world of film and television. Here's a little something he prepared earlier… #ABCScreenTime

Posted by ABC TV on Monday, 9 October 2017

While Taylor is known for his humour, he said he hopes the show will not “shy away” from analysis and criticism.

“The beauty of doing it on the ABC is it’s a place where you still can have an intelligent conversation. It sits in a proud tradition of ABC shows like Q&A and Gruen where smart people can sit around a desk exchanging opinions.”

The show will review one film and one television series each week. It will include the opinions of the panel but will also feature a “Gruen-like” discussion on industry related questions.

In the first episode, Taylor and the panellists will look at the Blade Runner 2049 and TV series Broad City.

Taylor explained the show will differ to Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton’s At The Movies, in that it will not preview forthcoming releases, but rather films which have been running for a few weeks which they audience would have seen.

“The panel discussion will be more inclusive of the audience and the audience can compare their own opinions with that of the panels,” Taylor added.

Asked about what some of his favourite TV shows and films at the moment, Taylor told Mumbrella: “I think Transparent’s the most intelligent, beautiful show that’s come along in ages, I think it’s a really lovely piece of writing and incredible ensemble cast.

“I love Curb Your Enthusiam. Very pleased that Larry (David) is back at the moment and has lost non of its form.”

“The new David Simon’s show on HBO The Deuce I think is really really good and he’s someone who’s always interested me ever since The Corner and The Wire because I love that he takes a journalistic approach to drama. There’s a real rigour and he’s not just interested in telling stories, he’s really interested in exposing systems and explaining how structures and systems in society work.

“My absolute favourite in a total different genre is David Attenborough. He is the great television maker of our times and his contribution to the TV medium is unsurpassed in any other genre.

“There’s a bit of the Old Chaser boy in me who still enjoys John Oliver and Stephen Colbert all those short of shows. And I love Shaun Micallef locally and I’m a huge fan of Get Krack!n.”

But he admitted he does often “despair of film”.

“I find the hit rate on films a lot harder these days and I guess one of the conversations we’ll be having on Screen Time is why – I think there’s a perception that the quality of Hollywood films has declined in the last couple of decades, and we’ll be exploring that but it is true and it’s because of the economic desperation of the studios and their attempt to stay afloat are really on very safe old ideas which is why we see so many reboots and sequels and remakes and films that are tied in with toys and all that kind of stuff.

“The movie I’m most looking forward to at the moment is made by my idol is Armando Iannucci who makes Veep and The Thick of It and he’s done a new film called The Death of Stalin and it has had amazing reviews overseas and it looked like a brilliant piece of work.”

However he added: “I do still have great faith in the medium of cinema and I just keep waiting for those little gems when they arrive.”

While the show will assess films and television series from across the world, Taylor said Australia does have it strengths, predicting more partnership deals with America and companies like Netflix.

“Australia is incredibly strong and world class in the factual genre, I think something like You Can’t Ask That is as good a TV show I’ve seen anywhere in the world. A show like Masterchef is sublimely produced and holds its own and sets the standard for how reality TV shows can be story-edited and shot,” he said.

“Our drama regrettably does lag behind what they are doing in America which is more a comment on just how strong America is than any specific comment on what Australia is producing but that an absolute undeniable bi-product of smaller budgets, smaller lead times, smaller writers rooms and all of that.”

“It seems that the world is getting more globalised and that might be a good thing for Australia because we are seeing a lot of Australian shows doing co-partner deals with America or American companies like Netflix,” he added.

“The upcoming ABC comedy the Letdown is co-produced with Netflix so I think rather than Australia changing its funding models what will happen is we will start getting more into bed with these globalised multinational entities so we’ll be seeing more Australian Netflix shows I expect down the track – we’ll more seeing more Amazon and Hulu shows because they are global brands. So rather than Australia taking the world, the world will come to us.”

  • Screen Time airs tonight at 8pm on ABC and ABC iView.
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