Hamish and Andy are back! And why shouldn’t they be? Yes, their 2011 show Gap Year didn’t quite deliver the kind of gangbuster figures Nine was no doubt hoping for, but it’s not like they soiled the rug with Live From Planet Earth numbers either. Whatever you think of them as comedians, having them back on air should be cause for at least minor celebration – this country has a tragically consistent record when it comes to kicking comedy talent to the curb for even slight failings and seeing someone buck the trend is good news all round.
Though hang on a sec – isn’t there one big fat exception to the whole “your comedy show didn’t save our network, you’ll never work on Australian television again!!” rule? Sadly, yes: if you’re willing to do sports-based comedy, you can fall over a whole bunch of times and still have the networks bending over backwards to pick you up (hang on a minute…). May we direct your attention to the careers of Roy & H.G. and Peter Helliar as exhibits A) and B), with Mick Molloy’s shift into sports-based material not far behind.
Which is where Hamish & Andy have shown a bit of nous: while their first show may not have set the world aflame, their second – which sees them hanging around Europe (while being based in London) doing, well, we’ll get to that – has been pushed as a lead-in to Nine’s Olympics coverage. This is to say, Sport! Australian television’d just be a test pattern without it.
Hamish & Andy have kept what they felt worked first time around – them going out doing wacky stuff both large-scale and small – and ditched what didn’t, which is the more traditional comedy bits and pretty much all the talkshow stuff. So this is pretty much the end of them trying anything different on television for now, as the talkshow stuff was the only stuff that made Gap Year different from their earlier Channel 10 Caravan of Courage specials. Which rated their arses off, so in the “we need to be a success because commercial television will fire you in a heartbeat if you’re not” sense it makes a fair bit of sense.
(That’s not to say it’s a good thing; more of the same works right up until the moment it doesn’t, and then you’re left with nowhere to go)
The big plus here is Hamish & Andy themselves. They know what works for them – their natural charm and the chemistry between them – and they give themselves plenty of opportunity to show it off. We get Hamish & Andy going off to Eastern Europe to jump off a stupidly high bridge; challenging a pair of London cabbies to a race (they have their knowledge of the city’s streets, H&A have a Ferrari); battling each other to see who can best repeat a phrase in a language they don’t speak; and going to Sweden to compete in a rabbit jumping competition. Pretty much business as usual for the likable duo, though they at least know enough to bookend the show with the two big adventures and fill the middle with the shorter, slighter sketches. It doesn’t prevent it from feeling like more of the same, but at least it keeps things moving forward.
Hamish & Andy have, at least up until now, always shown an interest in pushing their work beyond the “and then we went here and did this wacky thing, then we went over here and did another wacky thing” formula. Even in last year’s Gap Year they gave Ryan Shelton a couple of minutes each week to do his thing. But this week’s episode confined Shelton to merely commentating (briefly) on one of their stunts; hopefully they’ll give him more to do in coming weeks.
Judging on the first episode, this feels more like a consolidation project for H&A than anything really memorable. They’ve already talked about wanting to do another show for Nine before the end of the year, which you’d think would have to contain more than just a change in location to be worthwhile. There’s only so many overseas locations they can wander around in: eventually they’re either going to have to narrow their focus and risk turning into another Safran / Leuing / Lucy type exploration of a issue, or they’re going to have to give the talkshow thing another try.
Hamish & Andy’s Euro Gap Year is boilerplate Hamish & Andy, with the hosts doing what they do best and bugger-all else besides. After five years of being the biggest comedy duo in the nation there’s nothing on offer here to recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan; presumably they figure they already have enough of those to make this show a success.