There’s a long tradition in post-apocalyptic film and literature where the shattered survivors of a world after some unimaginable holocaust desperately attempt to escape into the past. From A Canticle for Leibowitz to 12 Monkeys to Wall-E: when things turn to shit, people (and robots) escape into the past. But the return of Hey Hey it’s Saturday to Australian screens tonight must be the first time where the holocaust that wipes out civilisation and the nostalgia people turn to as an escape from the nightmare that remains turned out to be THE EXACT SAME BLOODY THING.
There’ll be time enough for a detailed dissection later – or not, because who in their right mind would want to go through two and a half hours of Daryl and company congratulating themselves on how amazing they are? Not so much an actual television show as yet another congratulatory lap of honour – and let’s not forget that Daryl turned the last few months of Hey Hey into a non-stop barrage of “you’ll miss us when we’re gone” – the smugness radiating off the host was enough to power a small death camp full of a nation’s dreams that entertainment might one day no longer involve a televised version of Celebrity Head.
Long time readers of this blog are probably thinking “but you would say that, wouldn’t you? You’ve been hating on Daryl and the Hey Hey team since day one – can’t you just let the fans enjoy a brief trip down memory lane?” Firstly, who knew that memory lane abruptly stopped at a thousand mile drop into a churning lake of flaming lava where the souls of the damned burn for all eternity? And secondly, what was the first complete sentence out of Daryl’s mouth once the show proper began? Not “great to be back”, not some smutty gag, but “There should be a show that showcases some Australian talent.”
That’s right: the same tired line we’ve heard from every no-talent, rightfully unemployed hack trying to guilt a nation into giving them a career as a public service rather than making them earn one through talent and entertainment. But maybe he has a point? After all, television exposure is the kind of thing up and coming acts desperately need. So what was the first act showcased by this much-needed venue to highlight Australian talent? That struggling young artiste Jimmy Barnes. Who got a gold record after his song, and then promptly gave Daryl one in return.
What word means more smug than “smug”? MegaSmug? Smug 2.0? Doubleplus Smug? The guys down at the dictionary will be working overtime trying to coin a word that can cope with the strain Daryl’s putting on plain old “smug”, and the show’s barely into the first ad break. It might sound like snark and maybe it is, but for years and years Daryl has run hard on the line that Hey Hey shouldn’t have been axed because it provided a showcase for Australian talent. So his dream came true: he got his show back. And when it was time to shit or get off the pot as far as showcasing Australian talent, we get Jimmy Barnes. Oh, and Akhmal Saleh. And The Amazing Jonathan. And John Farnham. And some Aria-award winning band who’s name Daryl fluffed three times. And Kylie Minogue. And an a cappella band singing Stayin’ Alive, which I guess wasn’t something you’d see anywhere else.
And a live cross to John Farnham’s concert? What in the name of… well, all the clearly hefty deities that Farnzie’s eaten over the last fifteen years? If they wanted to love-up Farnzie that much, why not just forget about reviving Hey Hey and just show his concert? If Daryl just wants to cut to people who aren’t even on the damn show, why not cut to an episode of The Mick Molloy Show? Daryl doesn’t even want to put on a show, he’s just sticking his mates on the TV now. So I guess that hasn’t changed either.
There’s plenty of other grounds to sink the boot in, from doing the Great Aussie Joke with a CGI Morrie Fields (aieee!) and then making sure no-one was actually laughing by getting all emotional over the digital resurrection of Morrie (hey, it wasn’t the Great Aussie Eulogy) to having the enjoyably funny Lavina Nixon around pretty much solely to make a joke about her being pregnant to Plucka Duck and then read emails. Actually, the whole audience participation stuff was as creepy as all hell: Hey Hey always cut away to the audience, and they’re the ones to thank / blame for its return, but if they’re so important that we have to hear from them every five minutes why not just do the show to them without the cameras? Or just put up the facebook fan page address for two and a half hours so the fans can high-five each other there? Oh wait, now they’re telling us that Hey Hey is the number one topic on Twitter. Gee, that’s gripping news. Wasn’t the show’s increasingly insular appeal aimed solely at rusted-on fans the reason why the show was axed in the first place?
At the start I mentioned the nostalgia theme running through a lot of post-apocalypse fiction. The best riff on that theme turns up in the first Terminator movie, where during one of Kyle Reese’s flashbacks to his past in the future (hey, it’s a lot easier to follow than anything in T’s 3 or 4) we see a couple of children huddled together watching a television set. What show could they possibly we watching that could distract them from the devastation all around? How could a television set even work in the ruins? The joke, of course, is that they’re watching a fire burning in the remains of the broken set. After tonight, I envy those kids.