MC Scat Chat

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a show that’s just a jumble of unrelated parts, but there is definitely something wrong with The Weekly. No, we’re not talking about the way its listed as a comedy yet features straight news segments asking why isn’t dentistry covered by Medicare (hilarious!), or the fact it was allowed to go to air this week without Kitty Flanagan, AKA the only part of the show worth watching. We’re talking about interviews.

Everybody knows the celebrity interview is bogus. It’s an act: the guest has something to sell, the host needs to fill time, and the funnier and more entertaining the end result the further it’s gotten from the truth. Which is fine, because entertainment is what the celebrity interview is all about. But you have to decide up front what kind of entertainment you’re going to provide.

Each week The Weekly provides viewers with two diametrically opposed forms of celebrity interview. Charlie Pickering usually does the “straight” interview, where he plays nice with the guest and in return the guest gives lengthy, seemingly open replies to his softball questions. It’s cuddly, pointless TV: even when the topics are difficult, the interviews themselves never are. As for finding out anything exciting or new… you’re watching The Weekly; get outta here.

Then The Weekly serves up Tom Gleeson’s segment Hard Chat, in which he asks supposedly difficult questions and milks it for all the awkwardness he can. This week’s installment with Andrew Denton – there to promote his own interview show – was the kind of edgy television that seems edgy right up until the moment you actually think about it. Asking Denton about getting Rolf Harris to sing Stairway to Heaven? Reminding him of Randling? Suggesting he tries to make people cry on his interview shows? Does anyone really think this was the first time in his life that Denton was asked about this kind of thing?

But Hard Chat – a one joke segment that stopped being funny two seasons ago – does serve one minor purpose: it points out how tame and ineffectual Charlie Pickering’s interviews are. Hard Chat isn’t edgy television designed to make us squirm: more often than not it’s the bare minimum a legitimate interviewer should do. Denton trying to make guests cry has been a running joke for a decade – any serious interview with him about his current show should cover that area, and the fact that kind of question is shunted off into a joke segment shows just how pointless and soft most “serious” celebrity interviews are.

Boring interviews are as much a part of television as hair spray so we’re not blaming The Weekly for that. But when you run a soft puff piece interview back-to-back with a segment making fun of soft puff piece interviews, there’s something wrong with your show. What, holding up a sign that says “this segment is bullshit” during the interview was too difficult?

You could perhaps argue that this is what internet-era television looks like: discrete segments that bear no relation to each other aimed at an audience savvy enough to accept this disconnect as the equivalent of scrolling through Facebook. Or you could argue it’s the result of a sloppy, slap-dash show latching onto literally anything that seems even slightly entertaining and throwing it all at the wall to see what sticks.

You don’t need us to say which side we’re on, do you?

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