As the Nine Network investigated who leaked the Amber Sherlock video, the rest of Australia – and a good chunk of the world – feasted on #whitegate, #jacketgate, even #jacketsforjulie.
There were plenty of laughs to be had, but my favourite featured Star Wars storm troopers with the caption: “Ok. Someone is gonna need to put a jacket on!”
‘Julie’ is Julie Snook, the hapless Nine colleague who copped the wrath of Sherlock – which, come to think of it, sounds a little like a Star Wars instalment – because she dared show up for a TV appearance wearing the same white as the host and the talent.
Snook was actually dressed in light blue, but that didn’t seem to soothe Sherlock. The reporter ultimately donned a black jacket to placate the ornery newsreader.
The incident has no doubt lifted the profile of both ladies – in good and bad ways – and, to a lesser extent, that of guest Sandy Rea, a psychologist who maintained her dignity throughout, even offering at one point to make her own wardrobe switch.
Critics have been quick to condemn Sherlock and TV generally for being too concerned with appearances. But I think we need to cut her – and the medium – some slack.
In that context, I have two words for anyone who thinks appearances don’t matter in television: Naomi Robson.
The career trajectory of the talented Seven current affairs host nosedived after she fronted the Steve Irwin tribute edition of Today Tonight in 2006 wearing a khaki get-up and … a lizard.
TV news strives for wardrobe that is interesting, even eye-catching, but never distracting. Nine’s whitefest failed the first test by being bland, while Robson failed the second by being, well, ridiculous. (She’s always said it wasn’t her idea.)
So I give Sherlock points for trying to make her segment more eye-catching.
What I can’t forgive her for is the weight she appeared to attach to this or, more importantly, the disdain she appeared to show her colleague.
Sherlock’s body language, tone, choice of words, even the pointed use of her mobile phone, all counted against her, I’m afraid. That she did all of this in front of ‘the talent’ was inexcusable.
Her likeability quotient will almost certainly slip as a result. Snook’s, conversely, will probably go up, if only for the grace she showed under considerable pressure.
I was left wondering what would have happened if it was Karl Stefanovic in his blue suit sitting between two other men in their blue suits. Would anything have been said? Would anyone have cared? I suspect not.
That is partly explained by the double standards viewers apply to male and female presenters. But it also comes down to what presenters prize more – form or content. As with so many things, it’s not a black and white issue. Pity Sherlock thought it was.