Frontline

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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)

Frontline (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.)

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.

Characters include:

  • 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.

Tropes used in Frontline include:
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker - Marty.
  • Dreadful Musician - Elliot.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Small Name, Big Ego - Mike.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level In Dumbass - Mike. In the first season he is vain and naive, but "an alright reporter". In the second, he manages to break his leg on a motorcycle that isn't even moving, and can't even write a letter without basic spelling errors.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: practically everyone but poor Emma!
  • Welcome to the Liberator - Probably justified in that no TV show would get rid of its executive producer without having someone ready to step in and take over.
  • Wham! Line: "That was Brooke. Her grandmother died."