NO MORE cat videos purloined from YouTube, more analysis of the media and politics - does the Chaser team think its making Media Watch? Not exactly, although it was clear from season one of The Hamster Wheel that they're savvy connoisseurs of the media, even if they like portraying themselves as lowbrow muck-rakers.
The show, which returns for another eight episodes this week, is very much the baby of Chas Licciardello, its roots going back to the ''What Have We Learned from Current Affairs This Week?'' segments he and Andrew Hansen presented on The Chaser's War on Everything.
''All of us consume endless amounts of the media,'' Licciardello says. ''We have this love-hate relationship with it. We're both the media's greatest fans and its enemies and we're neck deep in it, so there's a certain amount of self-loathing going on in The Hamster Wheel.''
The timing of last year's episodes were a gift, coinciding with another chapter in the Julia Gillard-Kevin Rudd leadership saga, the anti-carbon-tax rally in Canberra led by Alan Jones and the appointment of blowhard conservative Paul Henry to lead Channel Ten's (failed) assault on the breakfast market.
A year on, ''the political scene is still fascinating and the media hasn't got less silly, so I think we're on pretty solid ground'', says executive producer Julian Morrow, also noting the ascension of mining-turned-media magnate Gina Rinehart, who in the past year has added a significant stake in Fairfax Media, owner of this paper, to her shareholding in Ten.
Needless to say, the struggling Ten Network looms large on The Chaser's radar. ''If A Current Affair was the gift to us in 2006, Paul Henry is the gift to us in 2012,'' Licciardello says. ''He's an interesting media performer because he's both intentionally and unintentionally funny … You can watch him on different levels.''
Since June, the team has been logging every Australian news and current affairs show, compiling databases of topics they might cover as well as ''funny stuff'' that might score a joke, be it ''a pompous git to some technical f--- up''.
Sometimes Media Watch beats The Hamster Wheel to the punch, but Licciardello and Morrow deny there is any friction between the two shows. ''Our role is to take the piss and their role is to do something serious,'' Licciardello says. ''If there was a conflict between us and them we would defer to them.''
Despite its popularity with viewers, ''Politics With Cats'' is unlikely to return this year, having reached the end of its shelf life, while the takedowns of online news will also play a lesser part. ''There's a reputation out there that online news is a bit crap,'' Licciardello says.
''Everyone knows that and so if you're going to sit there and make jokes you need to bring out something that's more extreme than people's expectations. But when their expectations aren't very high, it's impossible to exceed that expectation.''
Politicians and sections of the Fourth Estate might solemnly contemplate the decline of newspapers and traditional media, but eulogies won't be part of The Hamster Wheel. ''If you're suggesting that there's a gravity where humour is not appropriate, the Chaser has a very poor track record on that,'' Morrow says. ''If we see fish in a barrel, we're going to have a shot at them.''
For his part, Licciardello isn't pessimistic about the state of the media, despite the shake-ups at News Ltd and Fairfax. ''People are having more choice and choosing what they want, and I personally do think there is enough of a market for 'quality journalism' if people want to pay for it, which eventually they're going to have to do.
''I think there's enough market out there for crap journalism like the tabloids. I don't have a problem with that, with people reading newspapers and gossip for a laugh. I think there's room for all kinds. I'm not pessimistic at all. But it doesn't stop me being a hypocrite and making fun of people [with whom] I don't have any problem at all.''
Licciardello believes Australians take their media very seriously, unlike the British, who have a seemingly insatiable appetite for ''Nude Harry''-style tabloid scoops. In TV terms, it's the difference between reality shows such as Made in Chelsea and the local version of the formula, The Shire.
''When the Daily Mail generates all this shit copy, no one is meant to read that and think 'This is news'. They're supposed to have a laugh. They have this entire culture of not taking them seriously and Made in Chelsea is very much in that culture.
''Whereas in Australia, people are meant to take The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Sydney Morning Herald online seriously. Obviously there are comedy articles, but the news, the front page, is serious. That's what makes it a bit discomforting from my point of view as I watch the direction the media moves in as it comes closer and closer to the tabloid style in England. We're copying their journalistic techniques when it's not meant to be journalism - it's meant to be entertainment.''
By a quirk of programming The Hamster Wheel will air during the same period as The Unbelievable Truth, a TV version of a BBC radio show that Chaser members Morrow, Hansen and Craig Reucassel developed for Channel Seven. ''It means we can spend our time doing gratuitous cross promotions for Channel Seven, watch it and then take the piss out of it on The Hamster Wheel,'' Morrow says.
Asked if The Unbelievable Truth will be skewered on The Hamster Wheel, Licciardello prevaricates. ''On the one hand, we think to ourselves we'd love to go there because there's nothing safer than burying the hatchet into each other. But, on the other hand, is it going to look like advertising?
''If it dies, like pretty much every other new TV show has this year, then we'll be all over it. But if it's successful, I think we might be a bit embarrassed to get too deep into it.''
The Hamster Wheel
ABC1, Wednesdays, 9.05pm