Nobody seriously expected anything startlingly original from Nine’s first proper stab at prime time “all-new” comedy in almost a decade. Once the cast details for Live From Planet Earth eaked out – name after name from Comedy inc is never a good sign – expectations for anything fresher than the contents of Elvis’ colon evaporated. But it’s fair to say nobody expected the show they’d end up ripping off would be Let Loose Live.
In case you were one of the billions of people who missed Let Loose Live during its two week run on Seven back in 2005, it too was a live-to-air sketch show with a name host (only there, they had a different host each week). And while the idea of live sketches clearly has some hold over the fossils of all ages running commercial television in this country, it didn’t take long to realise that even in the 21st century “live sketches” are basically two people crapping onto each other without a decent punchline in sight. Maybe if you’re Shaun Micallef and Stephen Curry reviving Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketches you can make it work: if you can’t bring that level of quality to the table, maybe it’s time to move into a world where Mr Show happened 15 years ago.
Oh, that’s right: Let Loose Live went for TWO WEEKS. Axed after its second outing. Which just maybe makes it a model to avoid when you’re hoping for a success. But don’t worry, Nine didn’t just rip off Let Loose Live; remember the original Hamish & Andy Show on Seven? Just like Live From Planet Earth, it featured (a) name-brand host(s), and teamed them up with a crack team of sketch comedy veterans. It too lasted two big weeks. Maybe because the “crack comedy veterans” were mostly tired sketch show hacks no-one found funny the first time.
And speaking of the cast of Live From Planet Earth, plucked fresh from the string of failed sketch shows that have littered the Australian television landscape throughout the first decade of this century, what more can we say? On the one hand, having Elton hosting a show full of young fresh faces would have made him look like an old fart, and clearly Nine wanted to go with safe hands for the live sketches. On the other hand, it’s a cast that’s been proven unfunny time and time and time again. And now, again.
On the plus side, Elton himself… ok, he made a lot of jokes about female genitalia. And when it wasn’t making jokes about poo and boobs, the show as a whole wasn’t afraid to stick it to those “bogans” we’ve been hearing so much about either. If you were wondering how “live comedy’ was going to fit in with Nine’s Footy Show corporate culture, your questions were answered by the second riff on pregnant teens. We get it, poor people are funny! You’ve got to look down on someone, amiright?
Anyway, back to the pluses. Elton himself was moderately polished, even if his material was largely playing to the cheap seats. That’s nowhere near enough to save a show like this – Hamish & Andy’s show on Seven suffered the same fate, dragged down by shit sketch after shit sketch – but it does suggest that if they ditched, say, 95% of the live comedy Elton might be able to survive on his “fuck you, I’m with AAMI” material. At least Arj Barker as the only other stand-up was funny, even if he was clearly giving old material (about last year’s Icelandic volcano) one last airing before retiring it for good.
Perhaps the saddest thing about tonight’s episode was the way Elton kept telling us that we’d be seeing more next week from each character and live sitcom-
[which was also largely arse but at least was cartoony enough to break up the otherwise uniform vibe of the show – say what you like about old-style sketch shows like Fast Forward or The Late Show, but they knew enough to break up the rhythm of the sketches. Some short, some long, some live in-studio, some filmed outside. This was all one-note – even the celebrity interview with Ruby Rose – making it increasingly difficult for any of the material to break through and get a laugh as it went along.]
– even though anyone with even a passing interest in Australian comedy (especially on commercial networks) knows that “next week” is never a sure (or even likely) thing. Chances are the ratings figures will be muddied by having Top Gear run a full 15 minutes late beforehand, which should give Nine enough cover to bring Live From Planet Earth back next week despite the caning it took on twitter.
As for the week after that? Maybe if a live sketch comedy show had lasted more than two weeks on Australian commercial television at any stage during the last decade, we’d be more confident…