So after all the mystery around Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year… it’s a talk show. Not that that’s automatically a bad thing, especially when you’re bringing out wacky diagrams drawn on cue cards. Still, it turned out that the cue cards were pretty much the only way that H&A – best known for radio success, not so well known for their television fizzles – actually put in the effort to broaden out their act. Not that we’re complaining: it might seem a little obvious, but considering how much of Australian television these days consists of people behind a desk talking, having the people behind the desk also pulling out the occasional visual gag (bobbleheads! photos of their mums! a robot!) is a definite plus.
That said, if you’ve seen any half-way decent Australian talk show of the last decade – Rove, Micallef Tonight, er… – you pretty much know the score here. Yes, there are a bunch of filmed inserts to break things up, and there’s a segment that resembles – Hell, is exactly the same as – their Caravan of Courage specials for Ten, but at its core Gap Year is a Talk Show, complete with desk and couch and guests and band and segments that don’t quite work.
The question then is, does the talk show format struggle time and time again in Australia (while going gangbusters in the US and ticking over okay in the UK) because of some deep-seated aversion to the format, or simply because we haven’t found the right host(s)? If anyone can make it work it’s Hamish & Andy, even if they do seem a lot more comfortable (and funnier) in the filmed segments than the show proper.
Part of that could be down to the New York audience (supposedly packed with expats), who, while clearly rev’d up, aren’t always fully on board with all the jokes. It did give the early segments a slight Micallef Tonight feel, where the jokes worked for those at home (well, at our homes) but didn’t quite work in the studio. Fortunately (not that we didn’t like Micallef Tonight), Hamish & Andy are much, much better interviewers than Shaun Micallef circa 2003, and their muck-around song with Taylor Swift was – for a nation used to the painfully embarrassing suck-up interviews seen on Rove – both a relief and pretty fun (the Neil Patrick Harris interview later on, not so much).
In a recent interview a comparison was drawn between Gap Year and Nine’s last high profile stab at letting a big name radio comedian run his own show, The Mick Molloy Show. It’s a reasonable comparison in more ways than one: much like The Mick Molloy Show would eventually figure out, Gap Year sees the guys sticking close to what they’ve been doing on radio for years: loads of filmed segments being wacky and interacting with strange customs, short but fun interviews, likable banter. And they’ve learned from Mick’s mistakes: there’s absolutely no playing a comedy drunk, being a slob, running old footage of Bert Newton hosting a drinking competition or doing anything else the tabloids could misconstrue.
By sticking very, very close to their successful radio show format (much as we enjoyed The Mick Molloy Show, one thing it wasn’t was a television version of his radio show Martin / Molloy, mostly because Tony Martin was only around for half the episodes), Hamish & Andy have failure-proofed Gap Year about as much as anyone could expect. That doesn’t mean it’ll be a success – even sure-fire formulas tank weekly on Australian television these days – and the fairly similar talk / comedy show Rove was struggling in its’ last few years. But with only ten weeks to run, Australian audiences would have to prove themselves more fickle than a gaggle of teenage girls to turn what is basically business as usual for the guys into a flop.
One question though: where was Ryan Shelton?