A Nitro-Burning Unfunny Car

How can you seriously hate Daryl Somers – yes, strap yourselves in, we’re off to Daryl-land again – when he says things like this: “I’d be happy playing drums in a jazz trio and doing a bit of singing. That would be terrific fun, but you can’t do that and a show like this, which is a 100 per cent commitment” (Switched On, The Herald Sun, 13/10/10). On the surface, fair enough: no doubt making Hey Hey is a full time job. But, uh… hang on, if Daryl would be happy drumming in a small-time band and the only thing stopping him from taking up the quiet life is his commitment to his show, what the hell was he doing with himself for the ten years Hey Hey wasn’t “a 100 per cent commitment”?

I don’t see “drummer in jazz trio” anywhere on his resume for the years 1999-2009 – you know, when he was actually free of the shackles of Hey Hey. What I do see is a man who took every chance he could get to spriuk for the return of his TV series, even going so far as to beg for its return on stage during the Logies one year and quitting a high-profile gig as Dancing With the Stars host because reportedly his then-employer Seven weren’t interested in bringing back Hey Hey.

[If I seriously thought that steady work in a jazz trio would keep Daryl off our screens I’d sell my house and yours to finance an indefinite tour of mining pits in Western Australia, but I have a sneaky suspicion that if Hey Hey doesn’t come back in 2011 Daryl’s spare time is mostly going to be spent complaining that Nine didn’t give the show a fair chance to develop an audience while trying to get another network to give him yet another chance to do the same old sh*t all over again.]

But that’s only the tip of the comedy iceberg in this must-read article on the return of Hey Hey, AKA yet another of Daryl’s trademark shotgun sprays at all those who oppose his vision of a unified comedy state under his benevolent Kim Jung-Ill style leadership. Seriously, even if you spent years hating on Somers you couldn’t make up a better quote than this: “You know there are some shows where the cast is trying to make out that it gets on. What is great about our show is that we have this wonderful chemistry.” So… Daryl runs a show where the cast isn’t trying to make out that they all get along? Sure, often this “great chemistry” he’s talking about seems to consist of everyone else looking scared as Daryl glares at someone who stepped on his punchline, or of everyone trying desperately to get a laugh out of Daryl so the show can lurch forward to the next segment, but… well, I guess you need great chemistry to create nitroglycerine.

If I was a bit more conscientious in my research I’m sure I’d be able to dig out an old comment from Daryl in the wake of the 2009 Hey Hey comeback specials where he talked about how those shows’ smash ratings were a great sign for the show’s future success – after all, why wouldn’t he say that? The show being a hit was the main reason why it got a full run this year. But as I don’t want to embarrass article author Darren Devlyn – who writes “Only those with waste product for brains would have expected Hey Hey to reach the same heights over an extended season in 2010” – let’s move on to the best part of any Daryl Somers interview: the bit where he takes a swing at his critics.

[yes, I do realise that by this stage every journo who interviews him must know that you’ll always get a good quote from Daryl about “his critics”, but that doesn’t mean those quotes aren’t worth having a chuckle over. ]

And this one’s a doozy: “There’s still an element who want to put the show in the ancient box,” he says. “Some critics said ‘it’s the same old bloody segments’ and I say that if you get rid of Red Faces, Plucka Duck, Celebrity Head, there will be an outcry and we are destroying the show. Stuff the critics. We’ll do the show we believe is right for the audience.”

Oh, where to begin? For starters, could there be a more disdainful way to refer to your critics than “an element”? I’m honestly surprise he didn’t stick “criminal” in front of “element” and front his own “the hoons who hate Hey Hey – tonight on A Current Affair” special. As for “the ancient box” – uh, Daryl? Hey Hey started in the late 1970s – as far as television goes, it’s not so much ancient as The Thing That Wouldn’t Die. It is kind of touching that Daryl believes there’ll be an outcry if he axed Celebrity Head though – after all, when Nine axed the entire f**king show back in 1999 there wasn’t so much an outcry as a barely perceptible shrug.

But the real gold is, as always, “Stuff the critics. We’ll do the show we believe is right for the audience”. It’s a familiar line from Daryl, but it does overlook one vital point: aren’t the critics part of the audience? If a regular viewer says “hey, maybe ditching some of the old segments might not be a bad idea to freshen things up – after all, for the first 20 years Hey Hey was constantly doing new things, and Plucka Duck and Celebrity Head only came in during the last decade or so of the show”, do they stop being “the audience” and become “the critics” in Daryl’s eyes? Is it as simple as a case of “you’re with us or against us”?

More importantly, is it actually possible to provide feedback to Daryl, or is he so committed to doing “the show we believe is right for the audience” – even when over half that audience stopped watching during its 2010 run to date, shedding a hundred thousand viewers a week for weeks at a time – that any suggested changes automatically get the thumbs down? I mean, it’s not like Daryl’s showing a firm grip of the state of television with comments like these: “We went out for 10 years and nothing replaced us. There have been ample opportunities for something to replace us and it never happened.”

Really? What the f**k was Rove hosting for the ten years Hey Hey was gone then? Live show, had celebrity guests, comedians, live music, pointless segments… oh wait, it didn’t have a guy in a duck suit running around dry-humping people. Totally different thing altogether then. Maybe Daryl is right then when he says without the slightest trace of irony or self-awareness “Hey Hey is still viable. I always thought it was viable and hence why we came back”. Sure, no-one else thought it was viable, but Daryl got it back on the air through sheer force of will. And if he can do that, who’s to say he can’t erase a nation’s memory of Rove’s entire career? No-one – not to Daryl’s face anyway.

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1 Comment

  • Pete Hill says:

    I just can’t help but imagine the recent scene in the offices of the Herald-Sun in which a stern-faced Daryl, followed by a swaggering Plucka-Duck casually tapping the palm of one wing with a base-ball bat, approaches the editor. “I think we understand each other”, Daryl says calmly, as he crushes out his cigarette on an autographed photo of John Howard, “I mean it would be an awful shame if anything was to happen to this nice newspaper”.
    When the editor doesn’t quite follow, Daryl gives a slight nod to Plucka who bodily picks the editor up and slams him on the desk. Daryl, lighting a fresh ciggie, leans over until his features are hovering only inches above the man and says in a calm but icy cold voice, “your paper will support Hey Hey, your paper will worship us and convince all Victorians that they must do the same, your paper will promote Hey and Hey and myself at every opportunity and your paper will belittle every other TV celebrity and demean every single critic who dares to challenge me……you savvy?”
    The editor nods and, despite one of Plucka’s wings half-crushing his throat, manages to gasp, “what about the Age?”
    Daryl gives a sly smile, “you let me deal with them, sunshine.”
    Rising, the Hey Hey host jerks his head in the direction of the door and Plucka instantly lets the editor go and both men leave the office. The editor, gasping for breath and rubbing his sore neck, looks in bewilderment as Daryl and Plucka stride up the corridor. “Don’t forget our little agreement”, Daryl calls out without turning around.