Insiders and Offsiders, both shown on ABC TV on Sunday morning, deal with politics and sport respectively. They share the same MC (Barrie Cassidy) and the same set, so the ABC is effectively getting two programs for the price of one and a half.
Considering that the two programs are only half an hour apart, Barrie refocuses extremely well between them. Although I was initially sceptical of Offsiders I've come round to it, and it's becoming desirable, though not yet essential, viewing . Much of this is because Barrie obviously is on top of his games (politics, sport and TV presenting) and is able to move both programs forward when they look like flagging (usually when a guest or panellist rabbits on too much).
The Insiders structure is now well-established and the panel, IMO the highlight of the program (though the talking pictures section isn't bad either), usually has enough diversity of opinion to provide a good feisty discussion, even though its members are drawn from a small pool of talent. What about introducing some fresh faces such as Michael Duffy, Christian Kerr or John Quiggin? That said, this morning's discussion was lively: Fran Kelly's quick-witted incisiveness trumped Piers Akerman's harrumphing. You can always tell when Piers is throwing in the towel when he becomes more obsequious (eg"Barrie, if I may say..."). Today he tried to rope Malcolm Farr on to his side by describing one of MF's recent articles as "excellent".
Today's Offsiders panel was dominated by Gideon Haigh, one person who writes and speaks eruditely about both sport and the wider world. I may be biased because cricket is his sport of choice but I'm sure he has many pertinent things about both other sports and politics. The challenge for the producers is to find other panellists who have minds approaching his in depth if not in breadth: today when he used the term "algorithm' to describe the method of assessing Ricky Ponting's batting prowess the other panellists palpably had no idea of what he was saying. They remained silent.
The ABC has done a good thing to replay Insiders, or at least its heart the panel discussion, on the radio - Newsradio - at 1130 am EST. A podcast would make it even more accessible.