Vale Rove

The Tumblie awards are ticking along nicely at the moment (which big name star from the world of community television has already been in touch to complain? We’ll never tell. No seriously, we won’t – it kinda defeats the purpose if we start name dropping. So insiders and fellow diners, your secrets are safe with us), but we figured we should take time out from putting the nominations together to salute the departure from our television screens of one of the funniest men currently working in Australian television: Ryan Shelton.

Yeah, okay, so he only had a tiny and occasional segment on Rove. What else were you watching that show for (well, maybe Judith Lucy)? Not PeteSpace, unless you don’t own a radio and so need to get your breakfast-radio quips from elsewhere.  And even then Helliar’s track record on actual radio might have been a clue that you weren’t getting A-grade material there. As for Hughsie Loses It… well, they’re not making enough shoes to throw at the television for that segment, long may it rot.

Rove‘s been getting a bit of praise at the moment (even here a few weeks back) for being a great showcase for Australian comedy. Which is true. Unfortunately, the up-down ratings hinted that neither the viewers at home nor the programmers at Ten (that wildly swinging timeslot sure didn’t help any) wanted to see a great showcase for Australian comedy that featured regular segements from Peter Helliar, the inane Kevin Rudd PM and a bunch of news desk gags that must have been there solely to make Ten’s regular news look good.

Beyond the regular stinkers, most of the Australian comedy Rove was showcasing was bog-standard stand-up material (even if the performer was sitting down at the time). Again, if you’re Judith Lucy this is a good thing, and thumbs up to Rove for giving her a regular slot. But otherwise… well, if you want dull chat and laboured gags you can get that five times a week with The 7pm Project. A view clearly at least someone at Ten also shared if one rumour is true.

[sidebar: for those hoping that Rove‘s demise opens the door for Shaun Micallef to return with a tonight show, the odds don’t look good. Rove was kept on air to some extent to provide a one-stop shop for publicists to place their touring musicians and movie stars. Now that Ten has The 7pm Project – a show they seem to be insanely committed to, what with it going to an hour over summer – they have just such a venue in a much more important timeslot. That’s not to say Micallef won’t get a tonight show – you’d have to think Ten would give him anything he wanted at the moment – but they don’t have to give him one. And television networks rarely do anything they don’t have to.]

So pretty much the only thing on Rove you couldn’t get from bad commercial radio was Shelton’s segment. That’s because Shelton realised he was actually on television and played around with the medium a little instead of just reeling off news gags. The quality and frequency of his segments might have dipped a little in 2009, no doubt due to his radio gig (Shelton’s partner Jess Harris stepped into the breach on Rove, with some solid Shelton-esque segments of her own), but his monthly appearances on Rove remained both the highlight of whichever episode he was on and great comedy in general. Something that can’t be said for ABC2’s various well-meaning but barely competent efforts in this area (Beached Az? The Urban Monkey? Please).

And that’s why Rove – the show, not the man ’cause he’ll be back sooner than we’d like – will be missed.  Because whatever replaces it on Australian television – two words: DARYL FUCKING SOMERS – will almost certainly not give airtime to an (initially) unknown so her or she can mess around with a camera crew for four minutes every week or two. And that’s the kind of thing a real “showcase for Australian comedy” has to do if we’re ever going to get anything more than yet another joke about Britney Spears.

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