We’re pretty quick to sink the boots in whenever an Australian television network screws up – what, you mean you haven’t seen the results of the 2011 Australian Tumbleweed Awards yet? – so it seems only fair that we be equally as prompt to give them the thumbs up when they get something right. In this case that network would be Channel Seven, and the thing they’ve done right is picking up Working Dog’s World Cup show Santo, Sam & Ed’s Cup Fever (now renamed Santo, Sam & Ed’s Sports Fever) after SBS said they couldn’t afford a weekly sports show. Really SBS? Fine. Just keep in mind that three guys and a desk is now out of SBS’s price range next time SBS reaches into their pocket for whatever Paul Fenech coughs up.
Not that we want to go hard on SBS here either, because this is the way TV comedy is supposed to work: people start out on a public broadcaster and once they hit their stride a commercial network swoops in and picks them up, thus clearing the way for the next round of new talent. Okay, the “new talent” here consists of Santo Cilauro (who’s been around for over twenty years with at least ten shows to his name), Ed Kavalee (two shows on commercial television in the last three years) and Sam Pang (well, he did have that failed history-based quiz show on SBS), but you know what we mean. And what we mean is, at least it’s not Roy & H.G.
Anyway, to the show itself: three guys behind a desk making ill-informed jokes about sport. Hurrah! Their previous SBS effort was more sketch heavy – and had more special guests appearing in those sketches – but this version still holds up comedy-wise thanks to the easy chemistry between the three. None of whom, it’s a relief to say, is an ex-sportsman, so the serious sports coverage comes second to a bunch of jokes about tennis players texting and hearing commentator John Newcomb speak “Japanese” gibberish (which delivered the first “Me no rikey” of the series).
The hour-long timeslot (up from half an hour on SBS) presumably makes sense for Seven – it’s a live show so running twice as long isn’t going to cost anywhere near twice as much – and while it may be a little on the long side a commercial TV hour is only really 40 minutes anyway so it’s not really like it wears out its welcome. This kind of show is always going to be a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to segments, but a montage of fluffed cricket fielding can still work so long as some decent riffing takes place over it (okay, it didn’t that time).
The real comedy highlight on first viewing is seeing Santo playing a real-life version of his old comedy sports commentator character The Colonel, which alone almost makes up for the fact there actually is a fair amount of sports information (shudder) here. Much of the early comedy in episode one came from pointing out how crap a lot of sports commentary is, which is pretty much an inexhaustible source of comedy, and Santo hasn’t lost any of his skill when it comes to wandering off into odd tangents. Taking a swipe at sports gambling and boring sportspeople’s tweets and My Kitchen Rules gets you points with us, while the guests…
Look, we all know much of the charm of this kind of show comes from the fact that it’s live and kind of ramshackle. Sometimes it’s going to bring up comedy gold, sometimes it’s going to be something you’re going to need to be a sports fan to watch, and sometimes it’s just not going to work. But the cast is strong, there’s a clear and inclusive sense of humour at work here – something you can’t say about the various footy shows – and the whole show doesn’t take itself seriously. Being able to cover all sports, not just soccer, should provide plenty of material (though it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the rugby & AFL starts) and going by the first episode even the guest segments stand a decent chance of working out.
Our advice? if you’re a comedy fan you can probably wander off once the first guest comes out. If you’re a fan of the cast, their love of sport shines through strongly enough to carry you through. And if you’re a sports fan… what do you care what we think?