Stop It, He’s Already Dead

While there hasn’t yet been an official announcement – and who knows, the way things work these days there may never be one – it seems increasingly likely that we have, finally, seen the last of Hey Hey it’s Saturday. It’s a result that should surprise no-one capable of rational thought: for all the cheering from the peanut gallery when Hey Hey moved to a Saturday timeslot after frankly disastrous ratings on a Wednesday night, a Saturday timeslot didn’t make it any cheaper to make and made it a lot harder to attract enough viewers to make it worthwhile. After all, viewers on a Saturday don’t count double ratings-wise.

For some reason, many Hey Hey fans couldn’t figure this out. Seemingly driven entirely by nostalgia cut free from any real-world constraints, they asserted that once Hey Hey was back on Saturday nights its long-lost audience would somehow rise from the dead to watch it in droves before heading out for a big night at The Chevron or The Metro (feel free to add further early 90s nightclubs as appropriate). They were wrong. Very, very wrong. So wrong in fact that anyone who joined the “bring back Hey Hey” Facebook page should be banned from any job requiring decision-making skills for the rest of their now-meaningless lives.

But it’s not entirely their fault. Strong ratings for the first few episodes of Hey Hey this year suggest that people actually do want to see live entertainment and comedy on in prime time – they just didn’t want to see the same old crap Daryl Somers has been serving up since 1992. The success of the 2009 reunion specials was so obviously down to nostalgia even mainstream TV writers picked up on it: why Nine let Daryl return with 20 episodes virtually unchanged from the show that was axed due to low ratings a decade earlier would be a mystery if not for the fact that the networks are always pulling bonehead moves like that.

As for Daryl… who gives a shit? He’s already proved he doesn’t give a shit about his viewers, constantly talking about the ways he was going to make Hey Hey into a new and more attractive show before he got on air, then claiming the fans would riot if he made a single change once he was back. Yep, Celebrity Head was that big a cultural icon. Well, in one particular “celebrity” head at least.

If you’re an Hey Hey fan, ask yourself this: by bringing back basically the same show that had been axed, what did Daryl think had changed since 1999? By the mid-1990s Hey Hey’s best years were obviously behind it, the hilarious segments and quirky sketches and a general feeling that anything could happen replaced by drawn out banter that went nowhere, Daryl convulsing with laughter at jokes no-one else found all that funny, and a man in a duck suit running around in circles for minutes on end before dry humping some stage equipment. Yep, a million people every week were going to turn their backs on downloading the latest overseas comedy and YouTube clips of wacky pranks to check that shit out in 2010.

Let’s be blunt: from day one it was obvious that Daryl felt his show was stolen from him in its 27-year-prime when it was axed the first time and by putting to air the exact same show (ok, he tinkered around the edges) in 2010 he hoped to prove these nameless executives wrong once and for all. Well, he sure showed them. Bet they’re still smarting from that one. Ouch.

So Hey Hey’s done: why dredge up the past? Well, for one thing because the past just might be repeating itself. When Hey Hey was grinding to a halt the first time, Nine – wanting to keep the variety show crown that Hey Hey had helped them hang onto for decades – commissioned a bunch of new shows hosted by promising talent. For a brief moment, it looked like Nine seriously wanted to get into the comedy business, with shows from the then-unknown but promising Rove McManus and the critically successful Mick Molloy and Shaun Micallef. Hurrah!

And then it all went wrong. Rove and Micallef’s shows lasted one series; Molloy’s show was axed after eight episodes. After that Nine gave up on comedy for the most part, handing the variety crown to the various Footy Shows. It’s not that hard to see why either: Nine’s “corporate culture” (for want of a better word) likes its comedy and variety broad, blokey, and obvious – Sam Newman in a dress / Warnie talking to his mates stuff. Hey Hey delivered that by the bucketload: whatever their flaws, Rove, Micallef and Molloy aren’t the types to let a blackface act on their shows.

So around the turn of the century you had a situation where the network was still comfortable with the Hey Hey style but the viewers increasingly weren’t there. The network’s replacements were all shows they didn’t really like, and when the ratings weren’t massive out the gate they each got the axe. Ten years later, and what has Nine lined up for 2011 light entertainment-wise? Ben Elton’s got a talk show, John Clarke’s doing a new series of The Games, and Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee are doing a show making fun of television called (currently) The Joy of Sets. See where this is heading? Anyone think any of those shows will get the 20 episode commitment Hey Hey got?

We’ve said numerous times on this blog that the reason why we hate on the bad as well as praise the good is because Australian television comedy is a zero-sum game. There are only so many timeslots to go around, and every time a bad show gets one a good one is pushed out of the way. So while some might say 2011 looks like a great year for local comedy thanks to Nine’s promising line-up, it’s just as important to realise that 2010 was a shit year because the resources that might have gone into three promising shows instead went into a pointless revival of a proven turd.

Idiots often say “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”; we say “what are we supposed to watch instead?” Having Hey Hey it’s Saturday back in 2010 meant that we couldn’t watch a bunch of new or different shows we really might have liked, because its return meant they did not exist. Make no mistake, we’re celebrating its demise now. But those suckholes in the media that talked it up beyond any reasonable level and those chumps on the internet who demanded its return shouldn’t get away scott free. A “we were wrong” note in the local paper would be a good place to start.

Don’t forget to cast your vote in the Australian Tumbleweeds 2010. You have until 31st December 2010 to register your votes and snarky comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/tumbliesvotes.

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