It’s always a bit puzzling when a network goes to the effort of making a brand new comedy show and promotes the fact that they are doing so (i.e. in The Age and the Herald-Sun), and then sticks that show on the shelf for months – because unlike cheese or wine it’s probably not going to improve with age. In situations like these you always find yourself wondering if the network is unhappy with the end product or nervous about how it will do, leading them to delay airing it for as long as possible. We may be able to take a more informed guess on why this happened to The Unbelievable Truth (shot in February) when its first episode (of ten) finally airs on Thursday 11 October.
The Unbelievable Truth is co-production between The Chaser’s company Giant Dwarf and Random Entertainment, which is co-owned by British comedian Graeme Garden and British comedy producer Jon Naismith. On paper it looks like a good pairing and a good idea. The Unbelievable Truth is a popular British radio comedy panel game show hosted by David Mitchell (That Mitchell & Webb Look, Peep Show) which airs on BBC Radio 4 and is now into its 10th series. The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen, a fan of the radio show, approached Garden about bringing it to Australian TV when Garden was in Sydney performing in a Goodies show in 2009; two years later the show went into production for Seven.
Seven isn’t exactly where you’d expect a show like The Unbelievable Truth to end up given that network’s history with panel shows (i.e. The White Room) and locally made comedy in general (i.e. Let Loose Live), but they’ve certainly made an effort to get some well-known people involved. The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen and Julian Morrow will be on the panel, with Craig Reucassel hosting, and other guests include Merrick Watts, Sarah Kendall, Shane Jacobson, Kitty Flanagan, Sam Simmons, Toby Truslove, Tom Gleeson and Graeme Garden himself.
A couple of potential problems for The Unbelievable Truth are whether it will work on TV and whether this style of comedy will work on Seven. In the radio series each of the four panellists give a short lecture which may contain only five true statements, while the rest of the panellists challenge if they spot a truth (with a point being awarded if they are correct). Judging by the promo videos the format of the TV show is exactly the same and a lot of effort has been put into making the lectures as visual as possible, with each of the panellists using props, images and footage. People who attended the recordings in February reported that the show was funny, and the promos indicate that too.
As to whether the show will work on Seven, for those unused to British panel shows of this ilk (Call My Bluff, Would I Lie To You) or who have sat through Australian comedy’s attempts to ape the likes of QI, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks (Good News Week, ADbc, Randling, Spicks & Specks), this is possibly going to look a bit like The White Room. But Seven’s decision to program The Unbelievable Truth with the British panel show Celebrity Juice and the US sitcoms Whitney and Cougar Town is probably a good approach, as is timing the show’s premiere a few weeks after the return of The Hamster Wheel. But with The Hamster Wheel looking very strong so far and this show being a co-production between its makers and a successful British comedy production house, our cynicism about the timing of this program is probably totally unfounded.