Todd Sampson, Wil Anderson and Russel Howcroft star in the TV series Gruen.
Todd Sampson, Wil Anderson and Russel Howcroft star in the TV series Gruen. ABC TV

Gruen returns to our screens after two-year hiatus

AFTER an almost two-year hiatus, Gruen is returning to the small screen just in time to shake up the "super September" ratings period.

Hot on the heels of Channel 7's controversial Cats That Make You Laugh Out Loud programming decision and ensuing ratings storm, host and co-executive producer Wil Anderson, who returns with industry panellists Russel Howcroft and Todd Sampson, insists the timing was less by design than by his availability.

"There are no expectations; the timing is because I was touring earlier in the year, so there's no grand plan, they haven't been saving it for a ratings period or anything like that - in fact keeping us away from the big shows could have been the good thing," he told APN.

"We might have to replace Russel and Todd with a cat and a dog (for more ratings)... advertising does use cats and dogs a lot of the time to be honest, which may even be something we explore in the first episode."

That said, the show's ongoing popularity is hard to dismiss.

"We never expected that it would be popular - when we first started we expected to make something interesting that hopefully a small amount of people might like, but the truth of it is that we thought we'd be lucky to get eight episodes let alone eight years."

Wherein lies some of its appeal, according to Anderson.

"The strength of it is that we've never made a decision about the show in order to try to be popular.

"I would suggest that there's never been a show in history that has been popular and that has changed and evolved and adapted so many times within a short period of time like we do - normally if you're on a winning formula you stick to it but we've never done that. We always try to make the show better and maybe audiences have responded to that."

The core of the show, however, is still a sharp and witty analysis of advertising.

"At its heart, it's all about why we buy what we buy, it doesn't really matter if we're talking about politics... or pet foods, the whole point is examining what we are being sold and how successfully it is being sold to us."

Along with new segments, such as Worst Regional Ad, some old favourites will also be returning to the agenda.

"Every year we like to take someone who we consider to be a master salesman and have an ongoing thing and this year it was a very easy choice - so we have the What Would Donald Trump Do? segment - he will be our running guy."

The Pitch is also back, albeit it with a little twist.

"An interesting thing that we're doing this year is that a little over half of the pitchers will be some of the biggest advertising agencies in the country but this time they will be going head to head, so their Melbourne office up against their Sydney office for instance."

"In the past it's been hard to get the super big agencies, so it's great [they] are coming on board and can use it as a project internally in their company as well, which I think will lead to some of the best pitch advertising that we've ever had."

Gruen returns to the ABC on Wednesday at 8.30pm.

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