For all the tough questions being asked on Hungry Beast, one seems to have been overlooked: why is it that, when producer Andrew Denton says “The whole point of this was to bring new people into the industry”, this third series sees the same faces back in the ring for yet another swing?
After all, by this time these guys are no longer “fresh young faces” – they’re just the Hungry Beast team. A team that, judging by the first episode at least, has pretty much given up on comedy in favour of relatively straightforward investigative journalism with some snark sprinkled on top.
This seems to be the fate of ‘news comedy’ in Australia: over the course of a year or so The 7pm Project went from a news-based comedy show to a news panel show with a few smart-arse comments thrown in. It’s hardly surprising considering scripted jokes cost money and require talent, while investigating news often requires little more than a google search or putting a call out on Twitter. And as a straight-up news show, it’s certainly at least as worthwhile an effort as anything on the commercial networks (not that that’s saying a whole lot). It does mean it’s slowly drifting out of our remit though, thus sparing Dan Ilic the dubious pleasure of our sniping.
Still, when one of the bigger selling points of your news show is that it’s giving fresh young faces and voices a shot (without that angle, why not just watch one of the many other in-depth news programs the ABC currently puts to air – they have trained professionals doing the same job without the distracting snark) it seems fair enough to ask why none of these fresh new faces have gone on to work on any of the ABCs many other in-depth news programs yet.
Yes, Marc Fennell is now reviewing movies on Ten’s morning show The Circle, and alumni Veronica Milsom went on to appear on the short-lived Live From Planet Earth. Otherwise, zip*. And after two series surely some of these big talents should have moved up to the big leagues – especially as with each series the team’s numbers are whittled down, like a internet pundit interview-heavy version of Musical Chairs.
In the Green Guide interview quoted at the start of this post, Denton says “This third series has been an evolution but it’s not like they’ve reached their peak now. They’ve got a lot of learning to do and a lot of possibilities to explore”. Really? After two series? At what stage does someone say “ok, playtime’s over”?
There’s nothing wrong with training – new talent has to come from somewhere. But if your show’s point is that it is all about training, at what stage does ‘the talent’ get kicked out of the nest? And if they’re here to stay – if they’re going to be judged as qualified television makers rather than eager newcomers – how long are we expected to wait for them to reach their peak?
*Oscar has since let us know that “Jessicah Mendes and Kieran Ricketts, from the first two seasons of HB, are now working at ABC News. Daniel Keogh has gone on to report for the ABC’s Science Show”. Which makes it five success stories (if you count Live From Planet Earth) out of HB’s original team of nineteen.