He has convinced a host of well-known Australians to talk about their lives and to dish out pieces of advice to others. But Adam Zwar says his new show, The Agony of Life, is not about celebrity navel-gazing, rather it’s a chance for Australians to start a narrative about all the various issues in our lives.
”I just wanted a show to make people feel less alone,” he says of the concept behind his Agony series on the ABC, which has included Agony Uncles and Agony Aunts, and now the third instalment, The Agony of Life.
Surely it’s not too hard to get some celebrities talking about themselves (some will do anything to get their heads on telly), but Zwar says it was a rigorous process finding people right for this bite-size style of television.
”I need to know that whoever I’m going to sit down with has got something to say,” he says.
”Generally, I’ve known these people and I know they can speak. But I really need to know they can chat and be entertaining, and say their piece in a very short space of time … It’s a tricky thing to do.”
Zwar first embarked on this project with Agony Uncles, a show based on blokes giving their opinions on a range of topics. (Zwar now admits many of the people who appeared on that show were his mates beforehand.) He had a bigger vision, though, of getting Aussie men talking.
”That was the original inspiration,” he says. ”Because men never speak about things, I thought it’d be really good to have men. So Agony Uncles happened, then the network said you’ve got to do Aunts,” he says with a laugh.
So after a successful all-female second season, Zwar is now on a roll with this style of intimate television, which has all the hallmarks of the British TV series Grumpy Old Men.
”I was definitely inspired by that,” Zwar says.
”But Grumpy is commentary, whereas Agony is confessional. That’s a fundamental difference.”
The Agony of Life has a mix of female and male guests ranging from Myf Warhurst, Judith Lucy and Yumi Stynes to Shane Jacobson, Stephen Curry and Dave Thornton musing over various questions.
Zwar has found an interesting niche for himself as a producer on this show, with promising interest from overseas for the format (including, ironically enough, being sold back to Britain).
Zwar says it’s a constant and interesting challenge to come up with ideas that get television executives interested. He loves keeping busy with new projects.
”It’s a tough thing to actually make people believe that your idea is actually going to be good for everybody,” Zwar says.
”I’ve been in with network bosses and pitched stuff and seen their eyes glaze over.”
Thankfully for him, the bosses at the ABC are enamoured with his style of production and narrative on this series.
The Agony of Life begins on Wednesday at 9pm on ABC1.
Slicing the ratings pie
Interesting, isn’t it, looking back on the fanfare that surrounded the arrival of Marco Pierre White on our television screens a couple of weeks ago? There’s no doubt Ten’s investment in the famed English chef has been a worthwhile one given the solid ratings for MasterChef: The Professionals.
But it is a Frenchman who may just have the upper hand in the battle of food shows on the small screen, with Manu Feildel’s popularity on My Kitchen Rules skyrocketing once again this year.
There’s definitely something about Manu and his understated expertise on the show. He really shines onscreen during his judging and commentary about the dishes cooked by everyday Australians.
His fellow judge Pete Evans seems to have responded to being in the television spotlight by having a mini-makeover for his prime-time role – he is noticeably thinner, more tanned and those teeth seemed whiter than white.
Viewers do notice these things.
You can bet Seven’s Sunrise host David Koch is assuming the controversy surrounding his breastfeeding comments has died down, after a backlash when he proclaimed a mother needed to be discreet while feeding. He later said breastfeeding women should, ”if necessary, be more modest”.
Did these words really come from one of the highest-paid men on national television? In the 21st century?
Seven really needs to rethink the whole ”1950s dad” positioning they’ve got for Kochie because it’s getting very awkward.
The impact of his views is still being felt. Having been on holiday leave when the comments were made, now’s my chance for a say: There is nothing worse than a man telling a woman how she should or shouldn’t use her body, especially when it comes to the most beautiful, natural act of breastfeeding between a mother and child.
Power on television does funny things to people. Especially when they have no actual experience in what they’re talking about. Have you ever had to breastfeed a tiny, hungry baby, Kochie? Hardly.
Koch believes it was an adequate response to roll out the usual excuse of being entitled to have an opinion. Actually, it is enshrined in Australian law that a woman can breastfeed anywhere, at any time she wants.
I’m pretty sure I am not the only woman who is still cringing at the sight of Kochie onscreen right now.
Buzz about Ricky
And now for some good news on television: filming for Nine’s second season of The Voice is about to get under way and there is an enormous buzz about the presence of newly hired coach Ricky Martin. As Martin is welcomed to Australia, let’s hope he adds an exciting new element to the show loved by millions of Australians last year.
Watching poor Keith Urban squirm between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj on American Idol, you’ve got to feel genuinely sorry for him for leaving the Australian show (despite the US pay cheque).
Here’s hoping there is a continued atmosphere of respect and artistic passion between the coaches on The Voice when Martin lands on the panel.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.