And so Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation 2018 died the way it lived: as a show that was probably too good for Channel Nine, and so didn’t do enough good for Channel Nine. But if the show itself was good – which in its own way it most definitely was – then why did it fail to click?
Let’s state the obvious: putting any kind of quiz show on at 7.30pm on a Monday night is a pretty big gamble. It’s the primest of prime time, the point where commercial networks have trained audiences to expect high stakes reality television, not a load of strange piss-farting about presented by a host gurning away while wearing wacky costumes. The logic of commercial television is that the more expensive the show, the bigger the return on investment; TAYG was too expensive for Nine to put in a crappier timeslot, but a crappier timeslot is exactly what a comedy gameshow needs to succeed.
Not that this version of TAYG didn’t succeed, on creative terms at least – Micallef was as manic as ever, the team captains actually had smoother chemistry than the originals (how strange is it that Amanda Keller was on the original TAYG? She made no impression whatsoever), the games were entertainingly bizarre in a “kids television” way, there were some decent guests on (Tim Rodgers and Aaron Chen in the final episode were two people nobody expected to see on Nine any time soon), and there was enough going on with the questions that if there are any families who still sit down to watch television as a family they would have been able to compete among themselves in a moderately entertaining fashion. There’s something for everyone!
And yet… maybe it was the lengthy run time (no comedy game show needs to go longer than an hour, even with commercials), maybe it was the short series order that meant everyone felt like they had to generate chemistry instantly, maybe it was the general feeling that Channel Nine simply isn’t the place to go for comedy that moves even slightly outside the mainstream, but this revival never quite captured the old magic. Even if that old magic almost certainly only exists in our nostalgia-addled minds.
With Have You Been Paying Attention? currently going gangbusters – this year it would usually rate at least 200,000 viewers more than TAYG, despite screening an hour later – it was no surprise Nine wanted to get in on the comedy game show action, and bringing back a proven success was easily the smartest way to go about it. Micallef is still firing on all cylinders – no Hey Hey it’s Saturday revival here – and the show itself did pretty much everything right that it got right the first time around. And yet, here we are: waving goodbye to a ratings fizzle (one week it came in fourth in its timeslot) that we’d be very surprised to see return.
Still, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, which really feels like something they should have turned into a segment on TAYG. We got eight more episodes of one of the more off-the-wall shows in recent Australian television history, and for eight weeks (well, seven) the biggest commercial network in the land put local comedy on in prime time on the biggest night of the week. Sure, it wasn’t a ratings smash – but neither were the last two seasons of the original TAYG, and we all know they were the best ones.