It took me a long time to come around to watching The Checkout – now I can’t look away. Finally a program that does for shopaholics what Media Watch has been doing for news junkies.
The Checkout is the brainchild of Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel of The Chaser fame, with Kirsten Drysdale, Zoe Norton Lodge and a team of comic consumer hounds. Each week this magazine-style program takes a look at the trials and traps laid out for the Australian consumer. I was tempted to say ‘light hearted’ but though The Checkout often leaves you chuckling, it’s not at the expense of the issues covered. After my first episode I walked away with a clear picture of my consumer rights when it came to home services, a better understanding of what ‘Australian Made’ actually means, and – finally! – the hints I needed to make sense of my credit card statement. Its various segments also include opportunities for third party consumer rights groups to contribute, as well as an avenue for normal shoppers to contribute their frustrations. In short, The Checkout is the usefulness of Choice Magazine with added giggles.
I’ll admit it was Morrow and Reucassel’s involvement that initially turned me off the first season. The Chaser had built its success on a style of humour that was more mockery than satire. So initially I thought this consumer-oriented program would be heckling manufacturers and making light of complex sales law in much the same way its predecessor had harangued politicians and mangled complex social issues. But whereas The Chaser crew failed to demonstrate any real interest in their topics other than as targets, The Checkout takes a more thoughtful approach that is as entertaining as it is informative.
The Checkout still has a few issues when it comes to humour – audience participation includes a video segment called F-U-Tube – but that’s the least attractive side of viewer involvement that goes well beyond the ‘vote for your favourite starlet’. The audience not only feeds back on products and services that don’t live up to scratch but also contributes whole segments like Product Vs. Packshot. In this short but powerful section viewers send in videos or photographs of what a product looks like on the outside, and what’s actually contained within – it turned me off Uncle Ben’s pre-made Asian meals for life.
Christians can get behind a program like this one because five minutes leafing through the book of Proverbs reveals we have a very consumer-conscious God:
“The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.”
Of course it doesn’t amount to endorsement of The Checkout but it does remind us that for our God there aren’t just big moral issues to contend with. When the day of reckoning comes he’ll be just as concerned with the company executive that decided to deliberately confuse shoppers by creating a packet of chips that was two-thirds empty. Which, actually, extends a warning to the watcher as well as the watched. God is just as concerned with the ‘minor’ moral areas of our lives – the overstayed parking meters, the failure to pay the right price, the unpaid for breakages – because justice is not a sliding scale. If we’re to reflect His character then we have to do it in the shopping centre as well as the church.
Release Date: Thursdays, 8:00 PM