Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Safran's Race Relations Ep 1 - the verdict

It's been one of the most hyped and controversial Australian TV shows of the year, and led to calls from conservatives for it to be banned before it had even screened. ABCTV executive Kim Dalton even took the unusual step of advising the easily-offended to switch off rather than watch it.

So was John Safran's Race Relations it actually worth watching?

Honestly, it was pretty good. It didn't rock my socks off. But it was daring television. Depending on your perspective, it either blazes new territory or plumbs new depths.

Obviously some will be offended by it. But given that it was common knowledge that this was likely to be a controversial and offensive program, I have little sympathy for people who tune in to such a show and then complain about being offended.

Perhaps it was the preceding hype that followed the show, but it didn't strike me as particularly offensive. But I'm not offended by that much. I can't say I gained a whole lot from the experience of watching Safran's Palestinian boom-mic operator masturbating from behind. Although Safran's enthusiasm for the process was kinda funny. The highlight, and I can't believe I'm saying this, was Safran making his own contribution to a sperm bank, inspired by a picture of Barack Obama, and repeating to himself "Yes we can" while in the act.

I must say that my favourite incarnations of Safran were earlier in his career; as a host of Radio RRR's Breakfasters program, and in the ABC series that kickstarted his reputation, Race Around the World. But in all of his subsequent series, he has always managed to produce the odd moment of transcendent brilliance.

It will be interesting how the next episode is received - Safran apparently puts on makeup and tries to pass himself off as black in the US - given the recent hullaballoo over blackface on Australian TV. I'm sure someone will accuse him of racism for something that happens in the show, but I'm not sure that that is a valid accusation.

For all the moral outrage the series will no doubt bring, we should remember that Safran is rarely cruel to others; he invariably ends up looking like the loser. Sure, stealing the underwear of Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) and other Eurasians for the purposes of sniffing it in a bizarre scientific experiment is pretty disgusting. But the ultimate joke is on Safran himself, who is unafraid to make himself look way creepy.

The main question for me was: how does a guy as incredibly annoying as Safran manage to land all those beautiful ex-girlfriends? Sure, he's funny, but I don't think I could have a conversation with him without wanting to give him a wedgie or flush his head in the toilet; his uber-geekiness would just bring out my inner bully.

If you missed it and want to know what the fuss is about, the episode is downloadable at the website, which is worth looking at in itself.

Related post: Yes, Eurasians are hot - just ask science.


  1. Why are there no comments here?! I just watched this ep and I'd agree with you that those who want to be offended, will be. I thought it was great TV - not particularly insightful, but high in 'omigod, he wouldn't...' moments. Perhaps I'm too impressionable, but I sat there with a typical girly hand over my mouth going, "oh no!" and being happily shocked by his antics. I've never been a particularly strong Safran fan but I think this series could easily make me one.

    Like you, I'm very interested in how the next ep will go.

    And no underpants from Penny Wong? Outrageous.

  2. ^
    Safran doesn't shock me anymore, really, but I certainly didn't know where to look while all that masturbating was going on.

    I can't imagine why Penny Wong wouldn't want to donate her underpants. BTW, I didn't realise she was Eurasian!