Whadda know? Turns out The Unbelievable Truth isn’t half bad. The jokes are funny and there’s a lot of them, the dodgy panel format is constantly being broken up by cutaways and in studio antics, and… oh wait, maybe we should actually describe the show first: Craig Reucassel from The Chaser is your host, there’s a four-person panel, and each round one member gets up and spouts off a whole bunch of rubbish about a topic – for example, Toby Truslove tackles beards in episode one – in the hope that the occasional nugget of real-world fact will sneak by the panel. The more truth you get by the panel, the more you “win”. Yes, it’s another comedy game show, right down to the wacky celebrity cameos (ep 1 it’s Khamal) and a set that looks it was found in an abandoned business park. So wait, why are we saying it’s good?
Well, at least on first viewing, it’s doing its best to be funny. Put together by The Chaser in conjunction with Graeme “Yes, from The Goodies and he’s going to be on episode two” Garden and based on a UK radio quiz, it’s twenty odd-minutes of at least moderately funny people getting up and talking complete rubbish. That’s a pretty solid basis for getting at least a handful of laughs, and in a world where Randling continues to exist even a handful of laughs doesn’t look that bad. Even better, the cast seem to be having fun with the idea of spinning shit – again, Randling for contrast – and in at least the case of Kitty Flanagan (who’s tackling pregnancy while being actually pregnant) we get the feeling she might be bringing some material she’d prepared earlier. Again, not a bad thing. When you put Sam Simmons on your show you want him to do his Sam Simmons thing.
Of course, it’s doomed to fail. Wait, you thought being moderately entertaining was all a show needed to do to survive? Well sure, and if you’re The Block or The X Factor even being entertaining is optional. But if you’re a comedy panel show on Channel Seven, home of the failed comedy panel show since The Late Report in 1999, you simply have no chance of survival. Maybe you’ll make it to the end of your run if you’re lucky. Maybe you’ll even get a consistent timeslot. But the weight of failure after failure means that even if your show is the best darn panel comedy show ever made, Seven viewers just don’t want to know. Neither, judging by their idea of promotion, does Seven management.
So why does Seven even bother with this half-arsed commitment to the blandest form of comedy possible? Could it be that they have neither the guts to fully commit to an actual proper full-on comedy show nor the willpower to admit they’ve failed Seven’s once proud legacy of comedy and it’s time to just give up and bury the dog once and for all? From anyone else this rock-solid commitment to at least the idea of comedy would be admirable: from this collection of stiffs who seem incapable of actually putting out a comedy product without also giving off the impression they have no faith in it whatsoever – whatever you might think of Nine, at least with Live From Planet Earth they were fully committed to promoting the damn thing – it’s just getting pathetic.
Sitting on a halfway decent product for months (Truth was announced and filmed six month ago) then releasing it in a dud timeslot – 9.41pm on a Thursday – to try and cash in on the hosts’ more high-profile show on an other network is not the work of a station putting their full weight behind a show. It’s not even the work of a station allowing their shadow to fall behind a show. And audiences can pick up on this lack of commitment, which is, as you might have gathered here, something of a shame. Because despite everything Seven has done to promote it – or more accurately, “promote” it – The Unbelievable Truth is still worth a look.