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Mike, Brooke & Marty
"Mike has the network's one hundred percent support right up to the day we sack him."
Brian Thompson (Frontline Executive Producer)
(Better known as Breaking News
in the USA) is a satirical Australian sitcom that looks at the unscrupulous manipulation that goes on in the high-pressure world of current affairs
T.V journalism. It ran for three seasons from 1994 to 1997. (Coincidentally, Frontline is also the title of a long-running American documentary series on PBS
.) It was created by the team that would later become known as Working Dog Productions
Just like any other current affairs programme on commercial television, Frontline
has its share of sensationalism, controversy, and cynical manipulation of the truth. It combined actual current events such as the First Gulf War with a funny and thought-provoking analysis of topics such as how the media treats people and events and how people are stereotyped.All in the pursuit of ratings.
Not to be confused with the aforementioned PBS
news program - the show is called "Behind the Frontline" when broadcast in North America for this reason. Also not to be confused with a different series called Breaking News
that aired in 2002 on Bravo, nor with a flea treatment for cats and dogs.
- Mike Moore, Frontline's host. Mike considers himself a serious journalist. He is alone in this opinion, as everyone else thinks he's an egomaniacal half-wit with absolutely no grasp of current events at all.
- Brooke Vandenberg, reporter. Brooke is rumoured to have had a string of affairs with celebrities (stories largely started by herself) and never lets the truth get in the way of a story.
- Marty Di Stasio, reporter. Marty is the ultimate cynic - he knows what he does is immoral, he just doesn't care. He inevitably gets along with the EP brilliantly due to this clarity of vision. One of his favourite hobbies is making Mike look as idiotic as possible.
- Emma Ward, line producer. Emma is ethical and caring, and is the character the audience sympathises with. She is frequently horrified at the lengths the rest of the crew will go to distort a story to make it considered newsworthy.
- Elliot Rhodes, Frontline's resident "Friday Night Funnyman". He is neither funny nor musical, which is a bit of a problem given that he does a topical song every Friday night.
- Brian (Thommo) Thompson is the manipulative Executive Producer during season one. Thommo is a likeable sort, and gets people to do what he wants by by jollying them along. Due to the tragic death of actor Bruno Lawrence, the character was replaced by:
- Sam Murphy, season two's Executive Producer. Sam is a besuited and smooth-talking manipulator, who is outstanding at making Mike think he has come up with an idea that is useful to Sam's agenda.
- Graeme (Prowsey) Prowse, season three's Executive Producer, is far more blunt and rough. He is also more openly sexist, at least at first. After a few episodes, though, he mellows, and actually gets on rather well with Emma.
- Geoffrey Salter, weatherman. Geoff is Mike's best friend with whom he regularly chats with in his office. Geoff is often the reason Mike decides to question the producer's claims that the story of the moment is ethical.
Contains examples of:
- Almighty Janitor: Geoff the weatherman works in a secluded office and is actually banned from the Frontline set, and only Mike considers him a friend. Mike goes to Geoff for moral guidance which he then ignores.
- Because I'm Good at It: Marty, and arguably Emma.
- Black Comedy - Season 1 episode The Siege ends with a hostage-taker calling Frontline and executing his hostages live on air.
- Brainless Beauty - Brooke but Mike fits this trope more so.
- Break The Motivational Speaker
- B Roll Rebus: Mike explains the concept to his Genre Savvy niece, who asks if that's why everytime they do a story about gay people they splice in footage from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. later in the episode, the show does exactly that, preceding a story about a gay teacher allegedly sacked based on discrimination.
- Character Outlives Actor- Following Bruno Lawrence's death prior to the filming of Season 2, his character Brian was fired due to the show's sagging ratings.
- Convenient Replacement Character - Probably justified in that no TV show would get rid of its executive producer without having someone ready to step in and take over.
- Deadpan Snarker - Marty.
- Dreadful Musician - Elliot.
- Dumbass Has a Point - Mike's occasional foray into ethics. He generally has a point, but is so easily manipulated, he can be talked out of his concerns.
- Ear Worm - "One Big Family"
- Even Evil Has Standards - Marty is as unethical as anyone else on the team, but "Judge and Jury" he shows reluctance to cover an unsubstantiated story about a priest accused of rape. When Emma asks him, he admits that he, like her, is Catholic.
- Faux Documentary
- I Can't Believe I'm Saying This - On one occasion, several stories have fallen through, and Emma is horrified to find herself suggest Elliot be allowed to perform a particularly horrible ten minute composition he has been begging to do for ages.
- Genius Ditz - Mike is given the answers to a gameshow's questions prior to going on. He wins the gameshow by over 100 points. At the end of the episode, he returns the envelope containing the questions, un-opened.
- Glad You Thought of It - Sam regularly uses this technique on Mike.
- Hypocritical Humour - The episode where the reporters target a statistician whose new book has been misinterpreted as racist. The episode is filled with Sam, Mike and Marty making racist comments, most notably Mike's complaint about his holiday in Greece.
- Idiot Hero - Mike, though Idiot Protagonist would be more accurate.
- Intoxication Ensues - In "My Generation", Mike has a headache, and when Shelley the receptionist looks for some Panadol for him, she finds the ecstasy tablets Marty confiscated from one of the camera dudes. The ending is hilarious.
- Is This Thing Still On? - Mike starts insulting one of Elliot's songs after his microphone has been cut off at the end of the show. Unfortunately, he forgets that the camera is still on him during the end credits and that there's a sign language interpreter next to him. His comments are translated accurately and reported in the following day's newspaper.
- Jade-Colored Glasses - Marty and Thommo.
- Mood Whiplash - In the episode Keeping Up Appearances, jokes are made of a Frontline trying to secure the rights to the story of a woman who was burned by an ex-boyfriend. Marty even comments how it was for the best because she is now $200,000 richer. Cut to the first time we are allowed to see her face in full... and it's not so funny anymore.
- Nice Guy - Mike's weatherman friend Geoffrey Salter, the only person who is both nice and stupid enough to genuinely like Mike.
- Non-Promotion - When Mike demands more responsibility on the program, the executive producer grants him the meaningless title of 'International Story Coordinator': a position that involves faxing a list of the day's stories to their sister network in the UK so they can pick up any stories they want to run. Mike still manages to screw this up, thanks to Jan giving him the fax number for Channel 9's Glenn Ridge (Mike had been trying to get in touch with him about a Sale Of The Century celebrity faceoff between himself and his rivals Stan Grant and Ray Martin).
- Not So Above It All - Marty and Brooke make fun of Mike for his vanity and naivety, but they can act just as petty and be just as easily manipulated.
- Old Media Are Evil
- Pointless Civic Project: In "Let the Children Play". The Frontline team did a community service project for disadvantaged inner-city youth as a ratings grab. Despite all the kids wanting a basketball court, they decide to build a playground as it makes better television. And then the playground is found to be unsafe and cannot actually be used.
- Ripped from the Headlines - practically every episode, but especially The Siege, The Simple Life and The Shadow We Cast.
- Running Gag - Dom's crazy hairstyles.
- Rushed Inverted Reading: A variant where Mike is supposed to be reading a book by the statistician he's interviewing that night. Dom walks in on him doing a Magic Eye puzzle, and while he manages to replace the book, his eyes are still crossed.
- Satire/Parody/Pastiche - Satire (It was an attack on all the vapid current affairs programs that were and still are showing in Australia).
- In fact, you can now stop pretty much any Australian fan from taking the current affairs show they are currently watching seriously simply by saying "Hello, I'm Mike Moore: welcome to Frontline."
- Show Within a Show - Frontline the current affairs show is the show within Frontline the satirical sitcom about current affair shows.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism - Clearly towards the Cynicial.
- So Unfunny It's Funny - Elliot's songs.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute - a different EP for every season.
- Justified as the actor who played Brian died after the first season.
- Small Name, Big Ego - Mike.
- Stylistic Suck - Elliot's dreadful songs, which are inept rhyming couplets to the same perky synthesiser tune. So much so that it is impossible to imagine something so awful actually being played on network television every week - chalk it up to the Rule of Funny.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Pauline Hanson had a surprisingly sympathetic guest spot in an episode which, instead of going after her, commented on current events shows condemning her while giving her exactly the platform she needed to further her cause, as well as being no better than her when it came to perpetuating cultural stereotypes. A man calls out Mike on the latter, saying that people think his Arab friend is a terrorist and his Filipino wife is a mail order bride because of Frontline. Later, ATSIC chairman Noel Pearson, as a guest on Frontline, makes the same accusation, claiming that cultural stereotypes are the show's stock in trade and that the show is one of those responsible for creating the very swamp from which Hanson emerged.
- Took a Level in Dumbass - Mike. In the first season he is vain and naive, but "a half-decent reporter", in Brian's own words, who was often seen trying to push genuinely newsworthy stories (such as a sweatshop expose in "We Ain't Got Dames", and a major scandal that had been covered up by half the media in the country in "Smaller Fish to Fry"), getting furious when Brian screwed him over. In the second, he manages to break his leg on a motorcycle that isn't even moving, he can't even write a letter without basic spelling errors, and it becomes a Running Gag that he doesn't pay attention to the show's stories even while presenting them.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Practically everyone but poor Emma, and occasionally Mike, when he's actually willing to persistently stand up to Brian or Prowsey on an issue.
- Wham Line: "That was Brooke. Her grandmother died." The excuse she had been told to use if she agreed to get the abortion the network wanted.