The Chaser -- in the headlines again - outrages viewers
The ABC has cut a skit featuring terminally ill children from a scheduled repeat of the controversial program The Chaser's War on Everything.
The program outraged viewers last night with a segment featuring a fictional 'Make-a-Realistic-Wish Foundation' which ended with cast member Chris Taylor saying there was no point in making "extravagant" and "selfish" wishes come true as the children were "only going to die anyway".
Child actors wrapped in bandages and with sickly looking make-up were given a stick and a pencil case instead of their wishes to go to Disneyland or meet teenage heart-throb Zac Efron.
The Chaser's Julian Morrow and ABC TV director Kim Dalton this morning apologised for the skit, which they said was "satirical and black comedy".
"The ABC and The Chaser did not intend to hurt those who have been affected by the terminal illness of a child," the pair said in a statement to the media.
"We acknowledge the distress this segment has caused and we apologise to anyone we have upset."
The skit will be censored from tonight's repeat episode and from ABC websites.
Make-a-Wish Foundation spokeswoman Janita Friend said Taylor had rung the charity, to offer an explanation for the sketch.
"All he wanted to do was say to us he wasn't specifically poking fun at Make-A-Wish,'' she said.
Ms Friend said Taylor's apology had been accepted by the foundation's chief executive officer.
ABC viewers vented their anger on the broadcaster's website this morning, with one describing the skit as the most appalling thing to be aired on television.
A father of a terminally ill seven-year-old boy said he had always been a fan of The Chaser but was shocked it would make light of the foundation, with which his family had been involved.
"I will now have to go and accompany my wife who is presently consoling our son in his bedroom about his pending fate and agonising death which this show did nothing but exacerbate the issue,'' he wrote after the show aired.
He said he would try to have the taxpayer-funded show cancelled.
"I couldn't believe it when the `make a realistic wish' skit came on the show tonight, and particularly the closing line of `they're going to die anyway'," he wrote.
"What on Earth were the people involved with the show thinking? Not only the morons that came up with the idea of the skit but also all the people down the production line who approved it."
Another enraged viewer said the skit - which this morning appeared as a highlight from the show on The Chaser's website - should never have been aired.
"My God. It's utterly unfathomable that these arseholes could be that callous and unfeeling in the search for a cheap laugh," the post read.
Another post said the ABC should immediately end The Chaser team's contract.
"The 'make a realistic wish' skit was the most appalling thing I have ever seen on TV," it read.
"Are these idiots so insensitive that they would send up children in such a sad situation."
One post simply said it was a "chase too far".
"Preying on sick kids and their families for a laugh? Utterly, utterly, utterly repulsive," another read.
Other viewers who said the rest of the episode was funny still voiced concerns about the controversial skit.
"Yes, I found it so funny that I had to remove myself from the room to breathe as I was laughing so hard,'' one viewer wrote.
"However, I think they shot themselves in the foot with the make a wish (skit). Death can be funny ... but this wasn't funny, it was way too raw."
Health workers have also hit out at what its union has branded an insulting sketch that made fun of dying children.
Australian Workers' Union Queensland president Garry Ryan said carers of children with a terminal illness were disgusted by the show.
"Our members know the heartache of the families who have child with a terminal illness," he said.
"Our members share this pain. Nothing can be said about these tragedies that is funny. There is no humour in the illness, pain and death of a child.
"We have many members, not just working in healthcare, who have suffered through the tragedy of losing a child to illness. This is an insult to all of them."
The Make-A-Wish Foundation's Ms Friend said she was concerned about the skit's affect on sick children and their families.
"We spend quite a bit of time with families of children making them feel comfortable about applying for a wish,'' she said.
"Many have a psychological barrier that if they apply for a wish the child might pass away.''
Ms Friend said she feared portraying the foundation as granting `dying wishes' had traumatised some children.
"If you put yourself in the position of a family or a child who is having a wish granted, a lot of our children do not pass away, and the child might be at home watching saying `Oh my God, I'm having a wish I'm going to die','' she said.
"It's pretty horrific.''
She said she believed The Chaser team had helped the foundation in the past and if an opportunity arose, she would call upon them.
"I have every confidence that if we needed their help they would help us,'' she said.
Last night's controversial Chaser episode also featured a skit about Austrian incest dad Josef Fritzl and the Brady Bunch, which was followed by a mock viewer writing a letter of complaint to the ABC about the program.
And it's not the first time The Chaser has poked fun at the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
On its website in an article dated from August 2003, a satirical news item said a 17-year-old leukaemia sufferer had wished to be "painlessly killed,'' surprising the charity.
In an Age Online poll, readers were split on the return of The Chaser's War on Everything to television, which attracted 1.5 million viewers last week.
Of the 2026 readers who responded to the question 'Is The Chaser's War on Everything still funny?', 56 per cent said it was still funny and 44 per cent believed the show had lost its laughs.