Also milk prices, toothpaste, mobile phones, packaging and natural medicines. In short, they’d like you to check out The Checkout, where they’ll be analysing the issues in all of these purchases and more, in the unique Chaser fashion.
“We don’t look at one product and go, ‘This is the correct product to choose’. It’s more about: If you’re going to go and try and buy this, here’s how somebody will try and scam you, here’s how you respond to it, here’s where you go to get the right information,” Craig Reucassel says, before adding: “In the end you’re going to have to choose your own washing machine. OK?”
The show certainly respects the old mantra of caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. “The whole show’s in Latin, obviously,” Julian Morrow jokes.
The team are just happy to provide the buyer with as much awareness as possible. “When I was growing up I used to watch The Investigators when Helen Wellings was on it,” says Morrow, a self-described frustrated consumer. “The Checkout is kind of a return to what I think is one of the strongest areas of the ABC’s broadcasting history, which is a consumer affairs show.”
Of course with the Chaser’s background, that still leaves the question of how serious it is. Can the Chaser play it straight?
“We’re still figuring this out a little bit,” Reucassel says. “It’s definitely more factual. It’s an enormous amount of research going into it, which is a massive pain and we regret totally this decision. I think it’s going to be presented with a bit more humour than we initially expected. It’s going to be a mix, I think. There might even be the occasional stunt or whatever but there’s certainly a lot more information than maybe you see in a usual Chaser show.”
“We’re quite lucky in the sense that in highly advanced consumer societies, reality is farcical,” Morrow says.
As ever, the show will use satire to make serious points. “We’ve got Kate Browne from Choice presenting a segment called ‘As A Guilty Mum’,” Morrow says. “It’s a parody of a Brand Power presentation that cycles through all the different products sold to parents that kind of press the guilt button.”
The boys are confident they aren’t wading into the same waters as Gruen, either in terms of the show’s format, which is segment based without a studio audience, or the subject matter. “We’re not so much interested in the strategies of the advertising,” Reucassel says. In fact, he says they were more worried about being too similar to two television shows that have traditionally been the victims of their comedic analysis.
“They do do some good stories but they generally do it from the perspective of one person who’s being shafted,” Reucassel says. “We’re trying to do it more for everybody.”
Not that their old sparring partners won’t get some attention. “We occasionally might cover the bits where they get it wrong and I’m sure if we get it wrong they’ll cover that, too.”
It’s not the only area in which the boys’ reputation precedes them. “People don’t necessarily take you seriously when you’re from the Chaser,” Reucassel says. “For instance going down to Canberra and sitting down with politicians and just talking to them about milk regulations … I think that surprises them because generally they think you’re going to be dressed as Noddy or something.”
Fans need have no fear though – the boys will be back in costume in the capital, soon enough. “We’ll do the first series of The Checkout, then we’ll do an election special,” Morrow says. “That’s why as a production unit, we are supporting Julia Gillard for the leadership of the Labor Party because an early election would be bad for us.”