Ten’s experiment turning the tried and tested and tired Good News Week into the shiny new sketch-tastic Good News World worked out pretty much as well as you would expect. If you think you’re detecting a little sarcasm there, well done: Good News Week was stale, worn out hackery when Ten bought it back as a stop-gap program in 2008 when the US writers strike looked like it was going to cut off supplies of cheap US shows, and while it was initially greeted as the return of a long-lost friend ratings-wise, viewers soon started drifting away.
[sidebar: If television networks had the slightest clue as to what they’re supposed to be doing, the initial ratings success of both the GNW and Hey Hey it’s Saturday revivals would be a massive blaring signal that there’s a market out there that wants to see live or semi-live comedy built around people just messing about – and their rapid ratings decline would be just as big a signal that people want to see fresh faces doing the messing around. Funnier faces wouldn’t hurt either]
And so we get Good News World, which is basically the exact same GNW / Glasshouse / Sideshow / GNW again jokes we’ve been yawning through since 1998, only now some of them are told in sketch form! Still, the format is a good one – it should be, considering it’s pretty much the same one used by every show of this stripe in this country since at least The Late Show in the early 1990s (if not the 70s and Saturday Night Live) : opening monologue, news desk parody, fake interview, sketches, a musical number or two, rinse and repeat until the end credits come up.
Unlike Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year, which often feels like it features five or six segments all doing roughly the same thing, this format breaks things up enough so that even when the jokes are pretty much all the same at least the setting is different enough to make them feel kind of fresh. Fresh turds in this case, because in case your eyes glazed over back at paragraph two, THEY ARE THE EXACT SAME JOKES GNW HAS BEEN DOING SINCE IT STARTED. And we’re using the term “joke” advisedly here, considering they’re almost entirely stale political references combined with the word “knob”.
Don’t worry though, because the three GNW regulars are back and if anyone knows how to sell this tired hackwork passed off as fresh material… they abandoned this ship a long time ago. Claire Hooper still looks like a rabbit stuck in headlights – if she and Dave Hughes had a baby together they’d have to keep it in a lead-lined box because its gaze would turn men to stone – Mikey Robbins is a jolly fat man who’s no longer fat or jolly or able to do anything that falls into the category of “comedy” and Paul McDermott is a decent musical comedian promoted way above his abilities.
Let’s be generous here: as a host, McDermott can deliver a monologue well and his musical numbers are… okay, they’re all the same but he has a nice voice. He’s just not a generous performer by any stretch: when he’s on stage he wants the laughs and he works with the audience (eye roll? check. knowing smirk? check), not the other performers. So doing sketches and fake interviews as the new format requires him to do results in a bunch of scenes that only serve to remind us that gee, Paul McDermott is really smug for a man with not that much to be smug about.
As for the new cast members, Cal Wilson is rapidly using up the goodwill she earned by being funny once upon a time on Get This, Tom Gleeson provides the same level of pointless “I’m here everybody – surely that counts for something” he does in everything, and Akmal Saleh must have fans somewhere but we’ve never met them. Or anyone who has met them. Or anyone who doesn’t visibly sag upon being reminded that he exists.
At least – a very, very least – Sammy J and his puppet sidekick Randy work well together and present material that goes (a little) beyond the GNW tradition of tired political dick jokes. They can’t save GNW, but they do provide a slight uptick in quality when they’re on-screen together.
But who cares? GNW and its variations have been stinking up Australian television for well over fifteen years now and if this version fails another one will pop up on the ABC within a year or so and feature the exact same tired faces gurgling out the exact same shithouse jokes ripped off from all and sundry. It’s not that the audience actually wants to watch these shows – they all fizzle and die in the ratings soon enough – more that television executives seem to think that a): Australians want political comedy, and b): political comedy involves people putting on shit wigs and telling crap “children’s stories” about whatever the current scandal / crisis is. Satire!
So let’s set the record straight. Australians don’t want political comedy. They just want comedy FULL FREAKING STOP. Telling a shit joke but changing “an irishman” to “Tony Abbott” doesn’t make it funnier, it just makes you look lazier. Good News Week / World / Whatever uses its topicality as a crutch – “of course our jokes aren’t that great, we’ve had to rush them out to keep them topical”. Right. Because Tony Abbott’s speedos and Osama Bin Laden are topical.
There’s no reason why a topical weekly political sketch show shouldn’t work on Ten. Simply sack every single person involved with Good News Week and start from scratch. Unless you’re willing to do that – unless you’re willing to say “we actually want to make a show that isn’t just the same old crap served up in a slightly different bowl” – then all you’re doing is taking the piss. And shouldn’t that be the show’s job?