Skip to Content

Proper Gander

Proper Gander

Know Your Onions

Tonight on In The Know: “The recession which has left thousands of American home-owners destitute for the first time may be giving rise to a new form of bigotry. Are traditionally-poor Americans being unfairly prejudiced against the Nouveau Poor?” Also, “A recent poll finds that many … lobbyists are fed up with politicians accepting their money and then not coming through with promised legislation. Are politicians failing our lobbyists?”

In these exasperating times, it’s often hard to tell what’s satire and what’s real, but, yes, the above were fake. Both were introductions to parodies of news programmes made by The Onion, the bratty little brother to America’s media giants like USA Today, CNN and Fox. The Onion began as a satirical newspaper in 1988 and has since expanded into spoof television shows, among other media. From 2007 (or “since 1896” according to the title sequence) these were only broadcast through the internet. However, last month saw the debuts of the Onion News Network and the Onion Sportsdome on American cable television. These series are expanded versions of the sketches accessible through theonion.com.

As well as spoof news and sports reports, The Onion produces In The Know, a panel discussion show for its overconfident and misinformed pundits. And Today Now’s breakfast television presenters keep everything light and frothy, whether they’re unveiling the new batch of child stars “grown in the Disney genetic engineering lab” or giving tips to help you “pretend you give a shit about the election”.

Not many gags make direct political points; examples here include “Bush tours America to survey damage caused by his presidency” and “Gap unveils new ‘For Kids By Kids’ clothing line”. Instead, most sketches highlight how the media sensationalise events, such as “Horrific crash a sad reminder of Princess Diana”. So, the jokes often come through the fake journalists missing the real issues and trying to give stories a heart-warming or empowering spin, such as “anonymous hero donates hospital 200 human kidneys” or “first female dictator hailed as step forward for women”. And in that way, The Onion’s perception of how television works is spot-on.


MIKE FOSTER