Yet another panel show

Is all Australian TV comedy now a lame panel show with next-to-no laughs? Seemingly thousands of such programmes have either returned or started-up in the past few weeks, with only Hungry Beast and Clarke & Dawe suggesting there’s an alternative approach to getting laughs. In this climate I’m almost pining for that STITCH thing 13 schoolyards mentioned in his last blog – at least it’ll offer something different.

Apart from Clarke & Dawe’s (excellent as usual) return, Channel 7’s new show The White Room provided the only real potential for Australian comedy excitement this week (clips of Sleuth 101 released on YouTube before the series began told you everything you needed to know about the show – it’s a play-along detective mystery which is fun viewing, has a few laughs and will probably run for years, soaking up money which could be used to make something far better); if you’ve followed Tony Moclair and Julian Schiller’s work on such programmes as Restoring The Balance, you’d assume they’d make a good fist of a TV panel quiz, right? Especially one that looks (from the set and the two-host format) a bit like the UK panel quiz Shooting Stars.

Unfortunately The White Room makes the same mistakes that every Australian comedy panel quiz seems to make – the show’s too long for its timeslot, the focus is on the quiz rather than the comedy and the guests mostly suck (you know you’re in trouble when the guy from Home & Away is getting in more zingers than most of the comedians).

Another problem here, as so often in Australian TV, is that executives see a successful show on another network and panic-commission something similar. The White Room is clearly Seven’s answer to Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation, yet without the element that makes TBYG just about watchable – the unpredictable, surreal, sketch-style humour Shaun Micallef brings. There were some small attempts to ape this in The White Room, like the finale mocking the clip of John Laws singing which was shown during the episode, but overall the show had the same atmosphere as a very dull episode of Spicks & Specks. And that’s very dull indeed.

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