A Pus-Filled Boil on the Face of Australian Entertainment

There’s two ways to look at the 20-episode return of Hey Hey it’s Saturday: either it’s a soul-crushing reminder of just how low television can sink in this country, or it’s a great opportunity to kick Daryl Somers in the balls (you could also see it as an easily avoidable hunk of forgettable lowest common denominator entertainment, but where’s the fun in that?). Remember how angry and sulky and petulant Daryl was when Hey Hey was axed eight years ago? Imagine how pissed off he’ll be if, after all these years of striving, his dream comes true – only for shit ratings to snatch it away again? Hope someone remembers to film that meeting.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that axing Hey Hey a second time would kill Daryl: these days Daryl doesn’t seem to know where he ends and the show begins. Take a recent article on Hey Hey in The Age‘s Green Guide: “Everyone’s entitled to their opinions,” sez Daryl, “you can’t hope that everyone is going to like what you do. But I think I’ve been targeted quite a bit. Over the years I’ve copped quite a bit of stuff and sometimes I do wonder what I’ve done to upset these people so much.”

Daryl wonders why people don’t like his show. Golly gosh. Was he watching during the blackface sketch? Doesn’t he look around occasionally and go “gee, why is the only woman on this show a glorified barrel girl?”. Does he ever stop to think that a show that stops to talk about how popular the show currently is on the internet might be, you know, just a little self-indulgent?

But hang on a second – Daryl isn’t actually talking about Hey Hey it’s Saturday there, is he? “I’ve been targeted quite a bit… I’ve copped quite a bit of stuff… I wonder what I’ve done…” Which is a little bit of a puzzle because I’ve been, well, pretty much the opposite of a Daryl Somers fan over the years and yet I really honestly can’t remember Daryl personally copping much of a serve at all over the years.

Certainly when Hey Hey was first axed we were living in a land where old fart TV reviewers were the norm and pretty much all of them felt that, at worst, it was maybe just slightly possible that Hey Hey could have conceivably run its course. Perhaps. In contrast, The Mick Molloy Show – one of the shows Nine trialled as a possible Hey Hey replacement – got headlines like “Get This Rubbish Off the Air”. And once Hey Hey dropped below the horizon Daryl kept a fairly low profile, so there wasn’t really much of a chance for people to take shots at him. Dammit.

Then when he came back to host Dancing with the Stars most reviewers thought he was doing a decent job in a role that suited him, when he left it was seen as a bad thing for the show, blah blah blah – the point is, for him to have a whinge about “being targeted” is pretty funny when you compare the gentle stoking with a damp cloth he’s received to the constant attacks the Australian media’s capable of dishing out. Lara Bingle: being targeted. Kyle Sandilands: being targeted. Daryl Somers: would you like a glass of warm milk before we tuck you into bed, sir?

The important point here is that as far as Daryl’s concerned, he and Hey Hey are one and the same. Take the start of the first instalment for 2010: while it’s traditional on a talk show for the host to monologue when he comes out at the start, Daryl came out, thanked the audience for all their support in bringing the show back – oddly, he didn’t thank the executives at Nine who actually did bring the show back – then started talking about how you could send emails to the show and follow it on twitter. This is how you introduce the show? I don’t recall the old Hey Hey starting off with the GTV Nine mailing address being held up on a card for the first five minutes.

It’s not like he hasn’t seen and addressed at least some of the show’s other glaring flaws. There seems to be a lot more live music in Hey Hey – The Second Coming (though having a couple of guys playing acoustic guitar is the kind of thing you’d expect to see at 11.30pm on ABC2), and the wacky comments from the old-favourites are kept to a mildly tolerable minimum. The “comedy” segments often seem to have a script – or at least, an actual idea – even if they do go on way, way too long (did we need five minutes on Daryl’s new phone app that detects deodorant and turns people into cartoons? Only unless you’re Apple lapping up the product placement). Even having Jet as the opening band has to count as an improvement from John Farnham.

Make no mistake, it’s still a pus-filled boil on the face of Australian entertainment. But at least now if you squint your eyes and smack yourself in the head with a hammer a few dozen times you can almost maybe sorta kinda see how it could, after some massive and radical alterations, be turned into something actual living human beings might want to watch without having to be strapped to some kind of hi-tech bondage stool.

Problem is, every imaginable watchable version of Hey Hey would be Hey Hey with all traces of Daryl removed. Good luck with that. Remember the strange way Daryl keeps talking on and on about how “the fans” and “the public” brought the show back? Out in the real world it’s a combination of Daryl’s persistence and Nine’s desperate need for local content that brought Hey Hey back – take either of them out of the equation and it wouldn’t matter how big the “bring back Hey Hey” Facebook group was, they couldn’t buy enough shovels to dig open that grave. Shit, even Good News Week admitted they were brought back because they were cheap and Ten needed content.

Daryl keeps thanking the public for the same reason that he opened the show with a plea to the public to get in touch with him over the internet: for Daryl Hey Hey is a venue for you, the public, to show him your love. This need to connect with the audience should make him a great entertainer… well, a better entertainer than the thousands of tools out there who seemingly don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. Problem is, Daryl doesn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks either.

For all his comments about thanking the public for bringing him back, the large segment of the public who were rightfully disturbed and angered by the blackface skit on last year’s specials are dismissed as “targeting” Daryl while he’s left “wonder[ing] what I’ve done to upset these people so much”. When you love him, you’re “the public”; when you don’t, you’re “these people”.

Hey Hey is Daryl Somers, and Hey Hey is only interested in three things: music, Daryl Somers, and toadying lackies (on screen and at home) sucking up to Daryl Somers. And the music’s only there because he’s an ex-muso who likes to think of himself as someone helping up and coming bands – so long as they don’t cross him (remember that late 90’s controversy when Reef played the “wrong” song live and Daryl banned live music from the show forever?). So forget music: Hey Hey is a showcase for Daryl and the worship of Daryl.

Which is fair enough I guess – it’s his show and no-one’s making anyone watch – but it does leave one question: if the band plays music, Livinia is attractive, and Russell Gilbert and John Blackman make the jokes, what exactly are we supposed to be worshipping Daryl for?

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  • Inset witty name here says:

    While there may be some valid points made in this post (feel free to point them out), it seems that this is yet another anti-Daryl tirade (sigh) from the tumbleweeds site. Just when you think a forum is able to offer an objective, well informed and trenchant critique of the current Australian comedy scene, we get the following: a contention that the show would be watchable without any Daryl traces (failing to see how this would be the same show – despite your criticism, he is not the worst presenter ever to grace our screens…); host being chastised as “odd” for failing to acknowledge the executives who allowed it to happen (because of course all hosts should make a point of doing this – didn’t see this from Rove, Micallef or McDermott etc. – it is not “odd” to not do it, and if he did I would not be surprised if this was reported by you as a sycophantic suck up to the execs he greased up just to get his out of control ego back on TV – oh, and you must have hypertension not to take the so-called ‘admission’ by GNW without a grain of salt); a repeat of the overblown beatup about that blackface segment (because the point of the sketch was really to make light of the oppression of the African-American people and not the fact that M.J had changed skin colour, and obviously Daryl as ‘the show’ approved it, the arrogant insensitive racist bastard!); and that live music acts should be allowed to play whatever song they want regardless of prior agreement (although I acknolwdge such agreements stink of corporate control over artistic expression, welcome to the music business! Also, it is not clear that this was 100% Daryl’s policy despite the way he and you presented it).
    While from most reports I have read and heard (which of course is not that many, but enough) Daryl does possess narcissistic, arrogant and grandiose traits, this critique comes across as a cheap shot based on a pre-existing bias rather than an analysis of the current offering and fails to incorporate any existing or even possible positives that Daryl may have. For instance, his annoyance at being targeted over the years is belittled with reference only to the recent comeback specials. Further, it seems like there is no room for him move here: either the show is bad and all of its negatives (and none of its positives) should be attributed to him because it fits with the (pre-existing) assumption that he is a prick, or there are some parts of the show that he presents (and by your reasoning obviously is in control of and demands) which are good but at are nothing to do with him and therefore can’t be tied to his ability. As an analogy, do you blame Rove for all the (overrated) crap that he presented?
    Also, you seem to infer that the sexism on the show is Daryl’s doing, but is this really so? (it is not really clear whether he can be implicated in this, however it is another negative that fits with your view of him so why not?).
    In any case, the show is back on, it is being watched, and whatever that says about Australian viewers, Daryl and the current state of TV in this country, a more balanced critique may be warranted – if you are going to kick a man while he is up, you might be best served wearing bigger shoes.

  • UpYours says:

    Se unlike the person above, i have a short response.
    Shutup Dickhead and change the channel.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Thanks InsertWittyNameHere – always good to get some considered feedback. To tackle some of your points:

    *You’re right that Daryl isn’t the worst presenter to grace our screens, but he’s hardly the best. So why recycle him?

    *McDermott – or at least, a press release from GNW when it returned to Ten – did say that the only reason GNW was back was because Ten needed cheap content thanks to the US writers strike. So Daryl admitting there were factors involved past “the fans” wouldn’t have been totally unprecedented. Sure, the GNW press release was a joke, but isn’t Hey Hey supposed to be a comedy? Daryl complete lack of humour about himself is one of his biggest failings as a comedic host.

    *”overblown beat-up about the blackface sketch”. We’ll have to disagree there. I’ve posted before explaining why.

    *The problem with Reef was Daryl’s reaction – banning live music on Hey Hey forever. Clearly he didn’t stand by that, but it’s hardly the reaction any music fan would want. And how often does Daryl talk about “new acts” as a big reason for his show existing? He wants to give bands exposure – but only on his terms.

    *If you have examples of Daryl being targeted prior to 2000, please share them with us. I didn’t mention his various swipes over the years at other comedians such as Andrew Denton, but there’s little doubt Daryl’s more than happy to sink the boot into others when it suits.

    *Yes, I do blame Rove for everything on his show (and I think, as I’ve posted elsewhere here, that Rove’s show improved in its final years). Like Somers, Rove was not only the host but the producer of his show. No doubt the networks made him do things he’d rather not do, but he could always have walked and eventually did. Somers, on the other hand, fought to get his show back (including pleading for its return on stage at The Logies), so it seems fair to suggest that everything on the show is something he’s happy to go along with.

    *Daryl has plenty of room to move: if Hey Hey had come back with him as producer but not host, that would be (I think) a show worth watching. That way he could bring his love of live entertainment and music to our screens, and leave his love of himself off screen. See my post for why I doubt that will happen – even if the Herald-Sun is already starting a “make Livinia host” campaign.

    *See above re Daryl’s control of the show / the show’s sexism. Daryl could always hire more women. Or bring Denise Drysdale back. Or make Livinia host. Again, don’t hold your breath.

    *This is a blog read by tens of people. Daryl had well over a million viewers. “Kicking” isn’t exactly the word for the power imbalance here.

  • Inset witty name here says:

    Thanks 13 – nice to get an online disagreement that doesn’t involve personal attacks so thank you. I will not counter your counters and start a never-ending dialogue about this, although I believe some of your points are more valid than others. I will also say that I used ‘kick’ more as a general metaphor about criticising someone rather than to suggest your views are equally as pervasive as his 😉

  • Johnny G says:

    Well I actually totally agree with this story. Whats more, it seems that it is impossible in mainstream media to criticise this pathetic show.

    Daryl uses Facebook as an excuse for getting on air. I present an altrernative: http://www.facebook.com/search/?post_form_id=3b66427e591cae41f46da82976a61e99&q=&init=quick&ref=search_loaded#!/group.php?gid=111337625563462&ref=ts

    This is growing.

  • Lancelot Link says:

    I like hey hey past and the new version. So what aussie enterntainment isn’t perfect, its a variety show, I get a good laugh now and then and it reminds me of the good old Australia we used to be.
    Now everyone is so critical and uptight over the smallest of things. I think they just like to flame because they are negative people. I wasn’t offended by the black face skit, and Im a black, its not racist its just fun. Thats what being Australian is – to have a laugh at yourself stupid!. Why is everyone such a sensitive SOB nowdays? Bunch of sooky handbags! Not enough smacks as a kid I say!