Sensory Deprivation
Today, Tonight, Whenever


By Tim Howard

There's a rumour around the traps that Today Tonight host Naomi Robson has the words "Fuck me harder" tattooed just above her coccyx. This according to a friend of a friend whose sister's husband works at the shop next door to the tattoo parlour where Naomi allegedly got herself inked. Now, loathe as I am to dispute such a credible source, I suspect the story is nothing more than a vicious calumny perpetrated against a clean-cut young woman simply doing her best to keep Victorians outraged at the un-Australian antics of dole bludgers, dodgy tradesmen and other enemies of the common good. Perhaps it is true, though - I mean, to make it up would require deliberately imagining a naked Robson "presenting" in a rather different manner than her viewers are accustomed to. And that's not an picture I can imagine too many people relishing.

One night about six months ago I caught the end of Today Tonight and I could have sworn Robson winked at me. The next night I tuned in and she did it again. I thought I was cracking up, becoming one of those people who thinks the TV is beaming them personal messages from the mother ship. If my eyes weren't deceiving me, the implications of the gesture were far too frightening to consider.

Happily, it turns out that Robson's wink was merely an attempt at diversifying her nightly sign-off. A simple "Good evening" just wasn't cutting it anymore - it needed something extra, something stylish yet intimate, some personal acknowledgment. The wink was intended to make Naomi feel like a friend. Of course, she actually came across like a slightly lecherous, tipsy housewife attempting to pick up a stud half her age in the carpark at Flemington race course. The wink wasn't working for Naomi, and it certainly wasnt working for me.

I checked in with Today Tonight last week to discover that the wink has been retired, or at least put on hiatus. Robson is a lot better for it. She still seems like your best mate's divorcee mum after a night at an over-40s nightclub, but at least shes stopped trying to grope you on the sly.

The whole thing got me thinking about the nature of TV news. Obviously, it's a personality-driven medium, so getting the right presenter is key. But being clean-cut and well-spoken is only part of it. To be truly successful the presenter has to be welcomed into viewer's homes each night like an old friend, as much a part of the household's evening as a hot meal, a chat about the day, and a domestic dispute between dinner and dessert. It's a process of ingratiation more necessary to ratings success than, say, quality content, and its something the commercial networks are well versed in.

The problem with Naomi Robson is that she doesn't appear to have much personality to begin with. Shes nice, I suppose, in a nondescript way, but "nice" is a fairly insubstantial foundation upon which to build a Gold Logie bid. So she winks and nods, and she tries to come over all caring and concerned. She tones down the giggle, ups the Mike Munro-style soft-voiced smugness...yet nothing works. Things are getting desperate for Robson. Today Tonight is a pretty awful show; if it's to survive, it needs a star bright enough to light up an entire galaxy of tabloid crap. In short, it needs Ray Martin.

What Naomi Robson should do is develop her bad girl image, provide an alternative to the goody-two-shoes suits who dominate her industry. She could easily cultivate a few choice rumours while perhaps adding substance to those already doing the rounds. Start swearing on camera, smudge her make-up, and ram a three inch nail through her bottom lip, bring a bit of industrial skank to prime time. Most important of all, Robson must let the viewing public know that here is a current affairs host who wants to be fucked harder, because that is the kind of detail not commonly put across in network promo material and is bound to create a stir. Hey, it's the only way she's going to distinguish herself from the pack, and there's no question her show's ratings would improve. And that's what it's all about, after all, so you do what you gotta do. Right?