Something I have strangely not ranted about at this point is... John Safran. I know, I'm well behind the times here. But hear me out - I watched an episode of John Safran's Race Relations... okay, not quite an episode, maybe two-thirds, and there was nothing in it to make me laugh. So why is it exactly that The Guide was hailing him as Australia's best comic genius, rating him head and shoulders above the Chaser, who ended up having their funniest year by some margin.
To sum it up... John Safran wants to find out why he likes Eurasian women. Maybe talking to sociologists, psychologists, people in modelling and plastic surgery and other people with knowledge to the cutlural construct of 'beauty' would make sense. Exercises in assessing what aspects he finds particularly attractive, cross-comparisons with his peers as to what they find attractive, etcetera. Sure, it would only last 30 minutes at best and wouldn't make any headlines, but it would address the issue.
The truth is Safran wasn't interested in the slightest in actually answering the question. He came up with a button to press - the big race card for people all round the world - and wanted to jump up and down on it. He didn't have a reason so instead he settled for an excuse. No matter how hard they try, even the people who avidly watched his show, could make no logical progression from "I'm curious as to why I find Eurasian women attractive" to "I'd better dress like a ladyboy, make out with the mothers of past girlfriends, crucify myself and encourage my cameraman to masturbate over videos of Barack Obama" It cannot be done. And without that logic you're left with the world's most deranged sketch show.
A sketch show that... isn't funny.
The episode I saw was possibly the second most infamous stunt of the show, where Safran used Hollywood cosmetics to 'transform' himself into a black man. The interesting thing was the episode showed the genesis of the idea, when Safran was talking to a white American culture expert about the race issues in the United States - she in passing mentions the seminal work Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, in a specific kind of you-should-read-this-because-you'll-never-do-anything-near-as-good.
The book is very famous for the fact that the author, without the use of Hollywood, transformed himself into a black man (er, superficially - he was not able to re-write his genetic structure and nor was he a superhero) and travelled the deep South of the US for six weeks and just wrote down all of his experiences - the absolute unbiased truth followed.
The interesting thing is that this idea is so well known it has already been duplicated in massively unsuccessful form - I can't remember the title or author but a lesbian woman disguised herself as a man and worked in a car factory or some such for a month. The review I read of this book was absolutely scathing of both the deliberate angle for marketing and the fact that all the effort was wasted - she understood so little about men that the only 'revelations' she included was stuff about men 'being less outwardly emotive'. MY GOD, SURELY THIS CANNOT BE SO??? Anyway, back to TV land..
Safran took this as his cue to say "SO, you're saying I should do that - I should become black just like he did??" Causing the talking head to mirror the audience's reaction by staring at him for a moment and saying "No... why would you want to do that? It's been done already..."
Cut to Safran walking around as a black guy. First stop - a black militant headquarters! Specifically the friendliest black militants in the world. Who show up the problems right away as a) one of them is an amateur anthropologist who is saying within minutes that Safran looks "almost like a white guy who's painted himself black" and b) Safran is the worst interviewer ever. Or simply the fact that what results is an interview in the first place.
He makes no effort to connect, to actually talk and try to convince them that he is a genuine black person - using the fact that he is from Australia as cover to not even do anything with his thoroughly nasal Jewish-Australian drawl, and asks clumsy question after question starting with "Do you find, being a black person", making no effort to segue at all. He also shows that he has no quick wit at work at all - every attempt at a joke comes via the post-production voice over. Which is itself not funny. The only faint whiff of humour comes from the two black guys presuming that every black dude on the planet can freestyle resulting in a truly embarassing display.
Following on from this Safran decides he needs to experience racism. A logical course of action, to me, would be to just walk around for a few days as a black guy. However, he clearly only has three or so days to work with and this is television - you don't WAIT for things to happen you MAKE em happen. His idea of experiencing racism, and understanding it, though was truly embarassing. Go to a hotdog store in New York famous for tensions between the black staff and the white customers, encourage the woman behind the counter to abuse the customers more and more, until one guy says variations on "Shut up", "You're so ignorant" and "Are you actually cooking food here or what?" and drops the N-word as he goes to leave.
Safran is like an eagle onto a lame mouse as he practically jumps the counter and races to the guy, demanding "Why are you so racist??" and "Why are you calling us niggers???". The scene is awkward because this is barely even a racist display and small fry for this story which has a well-established reputation for it. The white guy he attempts to button-hole for his accusations looks worried that Safran will break into tears if he doesn't apologise, such is the whining nature of his voice in the scene.
Then Safran went to a black people-only speed dating night, and spent the night, with his usual subtlety, asking every woman why they didn't want to sleep with white guys instead and what they thought about interracial relationships. Jesus.
The biggest problem was that the show offered glimpses into an interesting culture that is alien to we of the isolated white middle class, and these remained only glimpses because some tit with pretensions to either comedy or journalism kept getting in the way with bloody stupid questions. Not only was he spoon-feeding the audience facts, he did so without a message. And without any jokes.
For me, John Safran's Race Relations was The Worst Show of 2009.
Sorry, I actually found TVBurp to be a guilty pleasure. And do bear in mind I don't watch much TV...