Thursday, 15 November 2018

TV review: Tomorrow Tonight, episode one (2018)

The new ABC show 'Tomorrow Tonight' with Charlie Pickering screened at 9pm on Wednesday, 31 October, and it was uncomfortably dull. For each episode of the show host Charlie Pickering posits a likely scenario and then lobs a series of propositions to a panel of guests who get to talk about it. In the first episode the scenario was a hacker threatening to make public the entire collection of the world's text messages, which it was supposed the US government had collected since the aftermath of the Twin Towers event.

The panel included Julie Bishop, who was previously the foreign minister, and comedian Luke McGregor as well as an expert in cybersecurity named Richard Buckland. Also on the panel was Annabel Crabb, the ABC journalist.

But beyond the obvious answers to the questions that were asked (such as "Would you pay the hacker to keep your messages private?") there was nothing much to keep you watching. Most of the drama Pickering tried to inject into the discussion fell flat because the delineations of reality demand that you can never predict what people will do in any given situation. History is often more interesting than fiction, for this reason. With fiction, the only variables available are those that are imagined in the artist's mind. This is why so much speculative fiction is disappointing; it relies on the inventiveness of a single individual to supply materials that can be used to develop a book’s plot and build its characters. With reality, on the other hand, the whole community is given free rein and anything can happen. And it does.

Pickering was jaunty and up-beat and Crabb heroically echoed his enthusiasm. McGregor was his usual goofy self, which added much-needed comedy to the palaver. But Buckland and Bishop often looked awkward because they lacked a humorous angle their personalities needed to stay relevant in the to and fro. Being basically prosaic people, they could only rely on truth to give what they said a spark, but the possible scenarios that were offered as material for the panel to discuss couldn’t animate their less inspired statements, which failed to get a reaction from the audience. In the main I thought the audience was very supportive of the discussion.

The second episode screened a week later and it was more successful. In this episode, the scenario was that people are now able to use a new technology to design their children from when they are embryos. This time the producers put on-screen the comedian Nazeem Hussain, athlete Meredith Young (who is a dwarf), and Australian ethicist Julian Savulescu who holds a position at the University of Oxford.

The third episode screened last night and it was again disappointing. The scenario this time was that Australia would run out of water. The propositions stemming from it were less than compelling and I wasn’t particularly interested in the responses from the panelists.

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