Good news, bad news

A few days ago TV Tonight reported the not terribly surprising news that Good News World has been bumped to 10.30pm. TV Tonight have since speculated that the show won’t be around for much longer, even in that timeslot, which seems a reasonable assumption when you take into account the program’s ratings, the cost of the production and Ten’s current cost-cutting.

Many critics and commentators have speculated on why Good News World has been shunned by audiences and consequently failed to rate. Depressingly for the state of the criticism in this country, a number of commentators have suggested that Australians just don’t like seeing Australians being funny, or that Australian audiences are too used to American comedy and don’t get Australian comedy, or that it’s tall poppy syndrome, or the cultural cringe, or that we just love to knock our own, or that Twitter’s to blame…or some variation on that theme. Almost no one has pointed out that it’s because the show’s crap.

While Good News World is capable of raising one or two laughs per episode, and even manages to skirt the shores of satire every so often, it’s not exactly chock-full of great scriptwriting or great performances. Sure signs that a comedy script needs help are when variations on the same sketch are wheeled out week after week, or when the cast are forced to shout punchlines in a loud voice whilst pulling a face in order to get laughs – you get a lot of both in Good News World. In fact you got a lot of that sort of thing in Good News Week, but perhaps audiences are more willing to tolerate weak material in a panel show?

Either way, the GNW team’s style certainly struck a chord with the AWGIE Awards 2011 judges, who gave Good News Week: Australia Decides 2010 their prize for “Comedy: Sketch or Light Entertainment” on Friday night. Which even when you take into account that all the other scripts nominated in that category were episodes of Good News Week is still jaw-dropping. Or indeed when you take into account this comment on TV Tonight’s AWGIE winners story, which states that writers submit their own scripts to the AWGIEs (which suggests that no one submitted a better sketch or light entertainment script than the three nominated episodes of Good News Week) or that the AWGIE Awards may withdraw a category from the Awards if no decent scripts are entered (which they didn’t in this case).

The AWGIE Awards website states that the awards are “judged solely by writers” and that all entrants must be “financial members” of the Australian Writers Guild (AWG). This perhaps gives some perspective on why all three scripts nominated for the sketch comedy/light entertainment writing award were from the same program. There is little call for comedy writers these days; the sketch comedy TV shows of yesteryear has made way for lightly-scripted or unscripted panel shows, or hybrid shows like The 7PM Project, where a small number of comedy writers are employed to deliver just one aspect of the program, and sketch comedy on radio is almost non-existent. In these circumstances it’s hard to imagine the average Australian comedy writer has the time or money or inclination to be a member of the AWG when they’re also having to juggle careers in stand-up, acting, radio or directing, or even temping in offices or waiting tables, in order to make ends meet.

We could be wrong about this, and perhaps there are heaps of paid-up AWG members writing sketch comedy out there, but if that’s the case, then why were all three nominees for this award from the same, not particularly well-scripted, program?

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