Hungry Beast has very quickly established itself as an entertaining, informative and challenging look at precepts and issues facing all of us in today’s society. It also adopted an intentional cross/social/new media approach to distribution as much as engagement with it’s audience way before it was cool. Marc Fennell would know, too, being an official “winner” of a place in the cast for Hungry Beast season one and managing to receive a call back for seasons 2 and now 3. “Well, we’re gen-y, we ARE on social media it makes sense that we would be the show to interrogate the role of that technology in our lives without the moral panic so often seen by other shows. We all manage the shows twitter and facebook accounts because we enjoy connecting with people that follow the show.”
The series, imagined by Zapruder’s Other Film’s bosses Andrew Denton & Anita Jacoby, hasn’t disappointed. Sure, it has an intentional comedic slant for parody or emphasis, but it’s the story at the core – A lesson well learned from the much lauded host of Enough Rope (and this generation’s Michael Parkinson) and clearly passed onto his Beastly charges. Fennell ofers that “Denton, Jacoby are amazing brains and big hearts – which is rare in tv.” Adding Gruen Transfer co-creator Jon Casimir to the mix this year and Andy Nehl (series producer of The Chaser) not only adds further depth to the creative leadership, but Nehl “tells the best Aussie TV history stories of anyone (Fennell has) ever met.”For Marc it’s a special opportunity (on top of an already full schedule as film reviewer for Triple J and Ten’s The Circle, among other commitments): “HB is the only show that lets me cover all of the different stuff I love doing: media/tech/culture/film in a funny/serious way – it’s a dream gig.”
A gig with a pretty serious brief. Fennel offers the goal for Hungry Beast is “to sit a little outside the news agenda. We do pay attention to the news cycle, but try to see what we can inject to it, rather than always react to it. When we are reacting to it, we try to find a fun/unusal/left-of-centre way of doing it.” (At this point it was jokingly suggested he was confirming the ABC as a cabal for leftists – we laughed, we sighed – the moment passed).
Season 3 builds on a slightly tightened format for Season 2, with Dan Ilic, Kirsten Drysdale, Monique Shafter & Nick Hayden still presenting, though the wider team has shrunk a little due to ABC News 24 cannibalism. “Elmo Keep, Kirk Docker, myself, Lewis Hobba, Veronica Milsom, Scott Mitchell, Nick McDougall are all still writing and presenting and reporting,” adds Marc, “So its still a pretty packed show.”
Packed indeed. The strong thematic approach to building the show allows for audiences to chew at some of the meat offered – for example, the first four episodes are themed as “Secrets”, “Captivity”, “Faking It” & “Waste” (in that order). But it’s not all beer and skittles, but some broad genres have proven to work well so that helps in fleshing out the requirements for each ep.
“After 20 eps of s1 and s2 we realised that there were some “genres’ that the audience really responded to:
1) the serious investigative story;
2) the ‘fuck me’ story filled with bizarre information (*ie my favourite offers Marc);
3) the deeply human story; and the
4) short sharp comedy bits.”
Having a theme to work with resonates well with the now-seasoned content creator and presenter. “When you have parameters to work within, you are forced to be lateral and creative with them and for me, thats really exciting and fun to play with. Also, it gives us lisence to do all of the different tones/ideas, because the audience have that ONE binding notion for it all. ”
The Beasts are understandably proud of their work, as not only does it stand up to scruitny when it first airs, it lives a second, longer lasting life thanks to their inclusion of YouTube as a dedicated transmission platform. The discussion shifts to this Avatar parody:
…and all the fun associated with filming it. “I will always remember standing in a Darth Vader outfit next to Lewis in full body makeup, standing in some urban rainforest and then… the police rock up. Apparently, the rainforest we were shooting in was a well known gay beat and a bunch of neighbours had called 000 cos they thought there was something dodgy going on and there was… just not sex.”
The cast are part school-camp-escapees, part new-media-trendsetters, 100% committed. That they share a rich history before Hungry Beast almost suggests a setup on Denton, et al, at the initial casting. Fennel joked the opening titles had to be changed “cos it was a little TOOO close to the truth.” Ilic & Fennel met while working at FBI 94.5 in Sydney (Keep is also an FBI alma mater); Lewis Hobba and Veronica Milsom went to school together. Leftish, maybe not – incestuous, perfectly.
While Marc is passionate about media, culture & technology (“I think you can learn a lot about humanity through what we choose to take in.”), it’s when he’s given his creative head that it all comes together.
“I would make a (Hungry Beast) show about connection… online, offline, genetics, familial and emotional. To me, that theme gives you licence to examine the changing nature of online connection as well as really elemental human relationship. I know it seems a bit vague, but you can sense the possibilities are there.”
Given this level of depth from just one cast member, it seems that the Zapruder camp have opened a creative seam that will play very well in the third season of Hungry Beast.
(Extracts taken from tweeterview with Marc Fennell & SteveMolk on 22/03/2011. View the full conversation here.)
Hungry Beast – Wed 9:30pm, ABC1
Image/Video sources – ABC.