Watching tonight’s episode of Rove – in which he attempted to interview 60 guests in an hour – was always going to be worth a look for comedy fans. Say what you like about Rove McManus (chances are it’s already been said by one of us) but he does seem to like the comedy. It might seem obvious, but imagine Daryl Somers trying the same thing when he comes back with his not-Hey Hey show next year. Would he have John Safran on? Sam Simmons showing off his crap drawings (bonus points to the Rove producer who had the camera cut to an unimpressed Safran during that bit, by the way)? Shaun Micallef singing “My Generation”? Three of The Chaser grabbing people out of the audience? Justin Hamilton making a joke about getting glitter in a wedding invitation? Wil Anderson wasting everyone’s time yet again? Of course not. Daryl would have a bunch of crap sportspeople, shitty musos, and members of the general public who’d grown vegetables that looked like goolies. And then Daryl would glare at the rest of the cast until they cried.
Rove might run a fairly bland talk show, but at least he seems to want it to be actually funny – he’s given Judith Lucy a regular segment, so he’s clearly ahead of the pack there. And watching his ’60 Guests’ episode was a decent reminder that there’s a hell of a lot of solid comedy talent out there who could happily appear on-camera for a few minutes every couple of weeks and get a laugh. Sure, most of the big names (The Chaser, Safran, Micallef) were there to plug stuff – and you don’t have to know the intimate working of a TV show to suspect that the 60 guests gimmick was in part a way for Rove to squeeze in all the comedians he likes who have stuff out to plug – and the rest of the featured comedians either write or have written for Rove, but so what? Nepotism doesn’t make them less funny, especially when they’re only on for a minute or two.
Rove’s been struggling in the ratings in recent weeks thanks to a crap lead-in from the flagging Australian Idol, and reportedly there’ll be less episodes in 2010 than in previous years. Which isn’t really a bad thing – Rove’s had ten years on Australian television and he’s never managed to string two good segments together – but in a year when we can expect to read countless headlines proclaiming that “VARIETY’S BACK” thanks to the return of Daryl Somers, it’d be a shame if the only variety show that features a host who actually likes comedy that goes beyond smutty roadsigns was crushed in the stampede. It could be that this time next year we’ll all be looking back fondly to a time when we thought Rove’s blandness was as gut-wrenchingly awful as variety in this country could get in the 21st century.