The Checkout’s ‘crazy dream’ of being sued in every state and territory

The Checkout, ABC1’s satirical consumer affairs program created by the team from The Chaser, is back for a second series. This time there are 20 episodes instead of 10, meaning, presumably, even more companies ruing the day the show started poking its nose into their cushy little business affairs.
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Thankfully, this is something series creator and executive producer Julian Morrow has no problem with at all. After all, he has plenty of experience with people baying for his blood.

“Back when we were doing (The Chaser’s) War on Everything, you’d turn up and there would be security guards just assuming they were about to be filmed, and that something would go wrong,” Morrow says.

“So I suppose (like back then), if we’ve done our job, then by the end of this series people will be deeply suspicious of us, and think that we’re unpleasant and out to get them.”

Jokes aside, unlike commercial tabloid current affairs shows, all well-versed in the ”What do you say to these claims?” door-stopping of shonky traders, The Checkout has no interest in setting up its victims. Just explaining the facts, informing consumers of their rights and attempting to present what might otherwise be dry-as-toast consumer law in an entertaining fashion.

“You probably won’t remember, ‘Oh yes, that is under consumer warranties in part four of the Australian consumer law’, but you might remember a particular scene (from our series),” Morrow says.

“I have always thought of the purpose of the show as packaging useful information in a way that’s entertaining.”

And if they get sued along the way – as they are currently, by the father of the chief executive of Swisse multivitamins, Avni Sali, who claims he was ”severely injured in his reputation and standing” by the program – then so be it.

“One of our aims for this series is to get a legal action in every single one of the states and territories in Australia,” Morrow says. ”We are two down and five or six to go. It seems like a crazy dream, but I believe we can achieve it.”

Going hard on pollies, men in suits and faceless corporations in the pursuit of a giggle has been on the agenda for Morrow and his Chaser alumni for more than a decade.

With The Checkout – a co-production with the ABC and Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder – in production, a stage show starring Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen, and a new ensemble series with them all (working title, ”We Will Have to Leave it There”) slated for later in the year, they obviously have no intention of backing off any time soon.

But, as Morrow says, lately there’s been a feeling that it’s time for the next generation of upstart troublemakers to move on through.

“One of the great things about (The Checkout) is there is a new generation of people who have been working with us as writers, performers and researchers, who have a strong presence in this show,” he says.

“Chaz and Craig and me, who are the three guys from The Chaser team who work on the show, get a huge amount of satisfaction out of, shall we say, exploiting the talents of more enthusiastic, younger people in order to comply with our contractual obligations.”

So they’re generously passing the baton to the next generation?

“You could say that, but you would be mischaracterising it – we’re just running a sweatshop, basically,” he laughs.

Morrow says he does feel a sense of history repeating, and he’s pleased there is no shortage of people willing and able to pick up where they left off all those years ago.

“I find myself saying things to various other people in the production,” he explains, “And I remember when Andrew Denton said pretty much the same thing to me. And how daggy and outrageous I thought it was. Now I’m the person saying it, so it’s that classic full-circle scenario.”

The Checkout, ABC1, Thursday, 8pm

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