Reading the Tea Leaves

Is Q&A a terrible show or what? Answers accepted only in the form of a snappy tweet that we can run across the bottom of the screen as we co-op social media into not realising that the ‘debate’ we offer is nothing more enlightening than the dregs of the letters page in your local News Ltd publication. Y’all do realise Q&A was basically foisted on the ABC by the Howard government as a way to create “balance” on the left-leaning ABC? Yay Howard government, right guys? Guys?

Q&A isn’t really a comedy program, so usually our total loathing for the way large sections of the internet act like it’s somehow something more than an utterly pointless gab-fest designed solely to entrap the chattering classes in a vortex of vapid self-absorption is neither here nor there. But occasionally they do have comedians on, which presumably only further enrages the Q&A fans: if this really is a conversation-shaping debate show that tackles the real issues with figures of national import and interest, what the hell is Charlie Pickering doing there?

Which is what we’ve been wondering over the last week or so. It’s not like he has anything to plug, which is usually the great explanation behind pretty much everyone’s appearance on someone else’s show, and it’s not like he could do anything on Q&A that he couldn’t do on his own news-based panel show The Project. He did an alright job, all things considered, but it’s been roughly a geological age since turning up on Q&A gave anyone’s career any kind of boost and again, he’s already doing this shit five or so times a week on his very own show. So we have a mystery.

Of course, it could be your usual garden variety no-mystery mystery: Q&A could have been after Pickering to appear on their show because he’s a fresh face (to them) who already does a similar-ish show so he’d probably do a good job on theirs. It’s not like Q&A doesn’t already have a long and proud tradition of dragging onto the panel pretty much anyone they think can string two sentences together and suddenly we’re back to ranting about how fucking stupid you’d have to be to take anything that happens on this idiotic show even remotely seriously we mean goddammit-

[ten ranty minutes later]

And we’re back. So it seems Q&A have a history of getting on board comedians who can talk news (as in, at least half The Chaser have been on panel): they reportedly spent well over a year wooing John Safran before he finally caved and made an appearance in 2011. Though if you check wikipedia’s list of panellists here, it doesn’t seem like Q&A goes out of its way to give air time to comedians working on other networks*… even if Ten entertainment reporter Angela Bishop did turn up one week and we are totally spewing we missed what must been world-class insights into having a mum who’s a politician. Unless she was hosting their short-lived “celebrity gossip” segment. Which wouldn’t surprise us in the least.

Anyway, so maybe they just had Pickering on for shits and giggles. But what if there’s more to it? What if this is him putting a toe in the government-funded water to see how he likes it? Ten is cutting staff left right and center and The Project has to be looking a little shaky, not to mention Pickering’s been hosting that show since the begining and five(-ish) nights a week of television every week has to be taking a bit of a toll.

Also boosting our case, former Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation castmates Shaun Micallef and Josh Thomas are now over at the ABC, even if Thomas’ sitcom seems to be always a day away from going to air (baseless speculation based on nothing but hate and past experience: because it’s awful), so it’s not like he’d be walking in a stranger. And with Adam Hill’s career supposedly taking off yet again in the UK while the second series of In Gordon Street Tonight didn’t even rate a DVD release, the ABC just might be in the market for someone new who can make chit-chat with celebrities from behind a desk.

Who knows? We don’t. Do we want to see Pickering at the ABC? Not particularly. He’s not quite as painfully smug as he was in the golden age of TAYG but he does still have the aura of the know-it-all-fucknuckle about him (of course, this could be a big plus at the ABC). More importantly, he’s been a straight host / panel guest for so long – the days of actual comedy on The Mansion with his sidekick Michael “Chambo” Chamberlin were 2008 – that we’d be slightly more than averagely surprised if he turned up on the ABC with a six-part series about his experiences in the world of, oh, we don’t know, inner-city Melbourne hipster hangouts. Watch as he finally re-grows his beard!

None of this might happen. All of it might happen, up to and including a paragraph we deleted where Pickering somehow gets the lead in an Ugly Dave Gray biopic and becomes a sensation in the US a la Eric “Poida” Bana and Chopper. Only one thing is for certain: Q&A remains an astoundingly shithouse excuse for a television show.

 

 

 

*Yeah, we know there aren’t really any other comedians working on the other non-community networks, outside of Paul Fenech on SBS and The Project team.

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3 Comments

  • SimL says:

    When Gore Vidal died the ABC put a 1974 episode of “Monday Conference” he appeared on up on iview. It was startling how much it appeared to be a non-hatable Q&A, in which people actually asked and answered questions and real issues were discussed without people shouting over each other. It had real depth to it compared to Q&A, and it’s sad to think we’re moving furthar and furthr away from that on TV.

    The episode isn’t available anymore, but here’s an article about it – http://www.abc.net.au/arts/blog/arts-desk/gore-vidal-in-australia-abc-monday-conference-120808/default.htm

    Would love to see the ABC putting more vintage material on iview.

  • EvilCommieDictator says:

    Honestly, there should be a special level of hell for those who watch The Drum. In a subsection of that, should be people who think Q&A actually means anything.
    Each week, the same old right wing pollie, right wing hack, left wing pollie and artist who has no idea take turns throwing slogans at each other prompted by questions from the studio audience, who it seems have been bussed in from the closest mental correctional facility/Liberal party function (on occasions, the same place).

    I did see a touch of Pickering (having reached the epitome of drunken indifference after my weekly dose of Meeja Watch) – and given his “reach” with the “younger” audience on the (alledged) “show” “The Project”, perhaps that was why he was on, looking somewhat less smug than usual without the assistance of an autocue (which, also happened to Corinne Grant, appearing on late night news for some baffling reason).

    I use the word “show” alledgely, because in my opinion as a free thinking member of the species homo sapien, any “show” with the unhinged rantings of extra-intentestineal A.B.olt and S (Angry Dwarf) Price, I deem to be an intentional attempt to destory humanity

  • Billy C says:

    I don’t think there is any toe dipping going on. I don’t think the ABC commissioners, or channel controllers call up the producers of Q and A and say “Let’s get that guy with the hair who we sacked from Triple J to be on.” In fact your assuming that the ABC tries to woo anyone. I think it’s more people approach the ABC and say can we make a show and sometimes they say yes. They’re not out actively developing anything. There’s too many people coming to their door.They just respond to requests rathe than shape their network.