Well, our worst fears came to pass: despite starting at 7.30, Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation ran just long enough to overlap with the start of Have You Been Paying Attention?. Comedy fan crisis! Fortunately TAYG is being repeated this Wednesday night (weird that HYBPA? is currently one and done screening-wise though), plus there’s all the various online catch-up services that may or may not work depending on the mood at the network.
And the show itself? As host Shaun Micallef pointed out, Nine wanted back the exact same show that aired on Ten almost a decade ago – only with a different logo, different opening, different set, different team captains… and maybe different host, lets wait and see on that last one. So despite a lot of the core elements remaining consistent with the previous version (same producers, same host, same writers), this definitely felt a little like a show finding its feet.
Back when TAYG began on Ten, there was a mildly spirited discussion around the comedy traps as to whether we should be a): glad to have Micallef on our televisions in any form, or b): annoyed that Micallef was wasting his time on an otherwise fairly average comedy game show. As the show became wackier over the years, the b): fell away a little, but there was always the sense that out of all the things Micallef could be doing with his time, hosting a game show wasn’t the top of the list.
So not bursting out the gate like a maniac was a bit of a problem with this revival, because TAYG is a pretty basic gameshow at its core and what made it work the first time around was that the creative side of things were confident enough to go very big and very crazy. So a version of TAYG that’s playing things relatively restrained is not the best TAYG.
Yes, this episode did feature Robyn Butler licking a window blindfolded while revealing that the most exciting letter to lick is “G” and the whole thing wrapped up with a tractor cleaning contest that largely featured Andy Lee throwing eggs, but compared to the Golden Age TAYG things were barely rolling downhill.
Obviously there’s some bedding in to take place. The original TAYG had a surprisingly strong dynamic between Micallef and the team captains – strong enough to give both Josh Thomas and Charlie Pickering substantial career boosts, which is even more impressive considering we’re talking about Charlie Pickering and Josh Thomas. And this version has a stronger foundation: Robyn Butler and Andy Lee are both proven comedy quantities who’ve worked with Micallef before, while Gen Z captain Lawrence Boxhall will presumably be ruthlessly mocked for being an infant just as soon as is reasonably possible.
On the plus side, the show does have (in common with HYBPA?) the feeling that pretty much everyone involved is having a fair amount of fun. Micallef himself has sharpened his skills as a host after all that work in front of the live Mad as Hell audience, so there’s more going on than just fake keyboard skills and answering fake phone calls from Eddie McGuire.
And to be fair, coming down more on the side of the basic quiz stuff was probably a good move for the first episode back after an extremely long break; we might have wanted it to be zany right from minute one but throwing in a few basic quizzes based on pop culture history first didn’t really hurt.
The thing with TAYG is that it’s always a bit of a high-wire act. Unlike HYBPA?, which really just needs a group of funny people to get comfortable shouting out news-related quips, it’s a show that has a lot more moving parts. It took a fair while on Ten before it really became something special, and this run doesn’t have that long to get up to speed. It’s still a fun show and Micallef is a great host, but when you’re up against Have You Been Paying Attention? fun alone isn’t enough.