It’s pretty difficult to find anyone online willing to utter a harsh word against Charlie Pickering and The “nailed it!” Weekly. That’s because The Weekly is happily doing a shitload of their work for them: when The Weekly runs a segment on, say, how people who boo Adam Goodes are racist, or how rape culture is A Bad Thing, all they have to do is take that clip, slap “The Weekly nails sexual harassment!” on it, and hey presto – fresh content.
So thumbs up to Clem Ford over at Daily Life – a site not exactly estranged from the concept of praising Pickering’s work – for pointing out the obvious:
Charlie Pickering delivered a reasonably good rant about rape culture this week on his ABC show The Weekly. His scriptwriter did a nice job skewering stereotypes about how women ‘ask’ to be assaulted by the way they dress and behave. Pickering finished by suggesting that a better approach would be to tell men not to rape (a great point that’s been stated by thousands of feminists before him, none of whom are quoted in this segment). The segment finished with a neat song performed by Geraldine Quinn, Miranda Tapsell and Angie Hart called ‘Don’t Rape’.
Less than 24 hours later, the video had been written about in at least three news sources with comments posted urging for international recognition of the work and talking about how important men like Pickering are (not dissimilar to the reaction he got a few weeks ago when he said what tons of Aboriginal writers and thinkers had already said about Adam Goodes).
Ford’s point is that women – lots and lots of women – have said exactly the same thing to resounding media silence, while Pickering gets all the praise simply because he’s a dude. It’s a totally valid point, but we’d like to make a slightly different one: Pickering and The Weekly pull this shit on every single topic they cover.
Week in, week out Pickering and The Weekly not only tackle issues with clearly defined “right” and “wrong” sides – what, you expected him to come out and say Rape Culture was ok? – they tackle issues that have already been done to death by smarter, funnier people elsewhere. And by “elsewhere” we mean “elsewhere online”, because The Weekly seems to be put together based on the assumption that every single one of their viewers has spent a sum total of zero time online over the past week.
Pickering is a one-man smug-fest all on his own, but being the frontman on a show built around acting like widely-discussed internet topics are in fact deeply buried social issues they’ve uncovered all on their lonesome doesn’t help one bit. If you’re going to take that approach, it helps to actually be giving audiences something new: one of the numerous ways in which the late, lamented Hamster Wheel shat all over The Weekly is that with The Hamster Wheel The Chaser had a bunch of people actually doing original research into the Australian media. That way, even if the jokes tanked there was a pretty good chance you were being told something you didn’t know.
In contrast, The Weekly has failed to break a single story, failed to highlight an issue not already covered better elsewhere, and failed to create a single moment of comedy that might excuse any of its other many, many sins. It’s a show that hasn’t had an original thought in its life: it seems it’s really easy to nail it each week when you’re just handing out opinions your fans already agree with.
Just to make it perfectly clear, while we fully agree with Ford – and anyone else who’d like to point out that everything The Weekly does has been done better and earlier elsewhere – the biggest sin here as far as we’re concerned is that the show simply isn’t funny. It’s a series of plodding news reports with some strangulated faux-outrage smeared over the top: either be more informative and give up on comedy entirely, or take the time to come up with some real jokes about the state of the world today.
Of course, this is a problem all news comedy shows face. The more obscure the news covered the less funny the show is going to be because of the whole “having to explain what the joke is” problem, while only covering the really big stories means that your show is both dull (everyone having already heard the news) and competing with everyone else for the good jokes. It’s a tricky balancing act, and it’s one that hardly any show gets right all the time.
And yet The Weekly never gets it right. Every week it serves up generic opinions on topics covered more fully and successfully elsewhere, and then it fails to actually wring any humour out of them. Our advice is simple: if you can’t be original, be funny. And if you can’t be funny, presumably The Weekly is still hiring.