We owe Aussie TV guru Mitch McTaggart a debt of gratitude.
He’s taken one for the team and watched every terrible piece of television made this year, all in the name of research for his hilarious end-of-year TV round-up, The Last Year of Television 2021.
“I was doing some calculations and got thinking — every day of television broadcast is actually 30 days of television, because of the number of channels there are, and just the sheer volume of stuff that’s out there every day.
“It’s almost unfathomable — and that’s just Australia. You almost go insane thinking about how much content there is out there.”
Bad reality series (we’re looking at you, Ultimate Tag), suspect Aussie dramas (helloooo Eden) and teary TV tell-alls by actors accused of serious crimes (you can work out who that one is) — it’s all covered.
“I still haven’t watched Mare of Easttown, and I am told that it is sensational,” says McTaggart, who also wrote and produced three TV specials, The Back End of TV, also for SBS.
“I’ve also not got around to watching Succession yet. Like, the whole year has been watching Australian TV for work, and I haven’t had any ‘tune out’ shows.
“It’s all been really quite exhausting.”
But McTaggart’s chronic TV fatigue is our gain.
And after watching his snarky, hilarious, sometimes troubling look back at this year on TV, we feel we owe him a giant “thanks.” He’s been able to articulate so much of what we find askew and not-quite-right about Australian TV.
So the question is — how did he find the time?
“Lockdown,” he laughs.
“It was mostly just me and my computer, looking through stuff — so much clicking of the mouse! But on those kinds of “bunny hop” clicks you are like, ‘that might be something,’ then you flag it and push to one side.
“The first half of the year was doing all of that stuff.”
McTaggart wrote, edited and produced both The Back Side of TV and The Last Year of Television with only one other person, his creative partner, James Westland, to help him.
“The most heartbreaking thing that kept happening was that you’d watch a whole series of something, or watch a whole bunch of content about specific subjects, then realise it wasn’t worth pursuing,” he says.
McTaggart, who studied, then taught TV and film theory at Deakin University before going on to work in a production house and produce comedy specials for Channel 31 (the first Last Year of TV was actually produced for them, before being sold to SBS), wants everyone to know that he’s not slating Australian TV simply for the sake of it.
“I feel like there is an appetite for this honest criticism,” he explains. “I hope it is all coming from a place of love, because I really do enjoy Australian TV.
“I am very interested in making a show about TV on TV. I think there is a good opportunity for Australian TV to be held to account.
“A lot has gone unchecked sometimes. I am not saying I am the police in any of this, but, essentially there is a gap in the market, and the standard media review stuff, or even satire like The Weekly, The Yearly or Micallef’s Mad as Hell, they have all got an area that they are catering to. No one really bothers with Australian TV, which is fairly . . . disappointing.”
Enter his TV specials, which serve as a kind of companion Media Watch — but with a lot more swearing.
“We were up against Media Watch (with The Back Side of TV) — they were both on at about the same time,” he says.
“I feel like we are more unashamedly cowboyish about (our commentary). It’s more like, ‘Here’s this thing, f… you.’”
And it’s absolutely hilarious.
“That’s the thing, the show is not about pointing out typos and stuff, or here’s a s…ty five second clip that sucks,” he adds.
“Those kinds of shots are easy. And I think that there is so much more to examine.”
The Last Year of Television 2021 screens on New Year’s Day at 8.30pm on SBS VICELAND.