TV Review: The Agony of Modern Matters

TV Review: The Agony of Modern Matters

I’m a bit of a fan of this self-made genre

By Mark HadleyFriday 28 Mar 2014TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

“My wife licks the knife – awwww …I hate it!” 

“Strutters – there’s something arrogant about a strut.”

“I get annoyed if I don’t get the wave back. If I let someone in, and I don’t get the wave?? That’s what I’m doing for!”

Welcome to the ABC and another series of Adam Zwahr’s Agony Aunts and Uncles. This time around their topic is The Agony of Modern Manners, a TV everyman’s guide to how to behave in a bevy of social situations. 

Mark Hadley reviews, The Agony of Modern MattersI’ve got to say that I’m a bit of a fan of this self-made genre, though of course I couldn’t ascribe to everything that’s said. But the collection of comments from ‘Australia’s brightest and funniest’ combined with Zwahr’s laconic tones and an assortment of archive seventies television footage creates a fairly humorous half hour. Add to that the fact that it’s also a fairly easy way to hear what passes as today’s conventional wisdom. Do you want to know what passes for right and wrong in modern Australia? Forget that expensive market research. Just train your DVR on the ABC.

This new series targets what passes as best (or at least acceptable) behaviour in a range of social circumstances including everything from basic rudeness to right and wrong, beginning with the office. You’ll find a lot of situations you instinctively recognize, like the politics associated with coffee cups and the office fridge – what Lawrence Mooney refers to as, “… an example of why people can’t live as a collective.” And it turns out that food thievery is not the worst thing that can happen with that bloated white behemoth. One clue: don’t store your urine sample in that public space.

It’s interesting to see what people are morally irritated about – phone conversations, desk etiquette, office fashion – and also what they’re not. Gossip, despite all the warnings supplied by the Bible, old wives and common sense, is unavoidable, even helpful:

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“That’s the whole purpose of going to work!”

“It’s what makes the world go around.”

“It’s a unifying thing – there’s always one idiot who bonds people together.”

Nothing new there…at least until I reached host and comedienne Kate Langbroek, who actually wonders whether gossip might not actually be the sign of a healthy, caring workplace?

“Gossip is God talking through women. When we discuss our colleagues it’s actually a way of monitoring how everyone is doing.” 

The common denominator to all of this sage advice, be it concerning lifts or lavatories, is not so much wisdom as utilitarianism – what do I have to do to get along? Mooney says that the key to dividing and conquering an office can be as simple as remembering “… the name of the dog of the woman in accounting.” But what’s missing is the sort of behaviour that might actually be defined as service.

When Jesus passed on his advice on how to behave, he began by suggesting we first keep an eye on the God who created the people around us, and then consider how much you’d like to be on the receiving end of our words and deeds:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

It makes social manners pretty easy when you think about it. What should I do when I go out? Start by taking God with you, then ask Him.

Rating: M
Distributor: ABC1
Release Date: Wednesdays, 9:00 PM