The Hollowmen: articles

Hollowmen drew inspiration from Paul Keating

Going on the campaign trail with Paul Keating in 1996 provided the inspiration for ABC TV's new political satire The Hollowmen, says one of the show's creators.

Santo Cilauro, who writes, producers and stars in the new ABC comedy about the goings on inside the prime minister's office, was following Mr Keating for a documentary when he realised it would make great material for a TV comedy.

"It probably began in about 1996 when I went out with Paul Keating for about 35 days," Cilauro said.

"I did a documentary on his last electoral campaign. And that's when I started getting interested in politics, what happens behind the scenes."

Despite drawing inspiration from Keating, Santo says the prime minister character is also a little bit John Howard, and a lot of current PM Kevin Rudd.

"There'll be a lot of things in the series that you'll go 'That's got to be about Rudd because that's what Rudd's like'.

"And then you'll look at it and go, 'Rudd's not like that, what's this show about?'," Cilauro says.

The Hollowmen was put off for years, as Cilauro and his Working Dog team Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch worked on projects like The Panel and Thank God You're Here.

A year ago the team, who were also behind Frontline, decided that it was "now or never".

The final product features a chief of staff, private secretaries, political advisers, a media adviser, party directors and a market research analyst, helping the prime minister to get re-elected.

Interestingly, the prime minister is never seen but is heard in one episode yelling in the background.

"There's a lot of things going on in that office and we all know both Howard and especially Rudd they're across all things," Cilauro says.

"But they're out and about visiting, you know dried-up lakes in South Australia while the office is still working - so there's plenty of scope to show the office working without the prime minister there."

The first episode, which premieres on Wednesday, is about the prime minister getting caught on the hop about childhood obesity on talkback radio.

He surprises himself with how good he is and gets his office to champion the cause, but comes up against obstacles, such as limiting ads on TV, and big business.

"It's the prime minister going off on his own on a childhood obesity campaign," Cilauro says.

Cilauro plays a number crunching pollster, who's latest project involves a poll asking "is this government too poll driven?"

"He likes wearing sleeveless V neck jumpers that's the main thing about him," Cilauro laughs.

Nova radio presenter Merrick Watts is a standout as a political adviser.

"It's the kind of office that I'd like to be in because he's there, he (Watts) adds a great fun and mischief flavour," Cilauro says.

Cilauro knows political satire is not "everyone's cup of tea", adding that Working Dog have been around long enough to know to move on if it isn't successful.

But with ideas they believe everyone will relate to, he hopes The Hollowmen provides amusement to audiences, just as Frontline did in the 90s.

"It's like a communal expression of the word sprung," Cilauro says.

"We all realise that this happens and we're all laughing at it and that's what this show's about."

July 08, 2008