In a result so unsurprising even we predicted it weeks ago, Channel Seven’s Peter Helliar-hosted AFL footy show The Bounce has been axed. Well, not exactly axed – the technical term is “rested” as supposedly it’ll be back during the finals. It’s a move that makes no sense – how is a dud show now going to magically become worth watching during the finals? – and so it makes perfect sense for Seven, who seem to have lost all touch or clue when it comes to live and live-ish programming over the last decade.
There’s plenty of reasons why The Bounce tanked. Having most of the writing staff walk out after the first week is rarely a good sign after all, and while Peter Helliar is supposedly the nice guy of Australian comedy, maybe hiring the funny guy of Australia comedy might be the way to go next time. And pranks? Really? Prank TV hasn’t worked in Australia (unless you’re The Chaser) for a decade or more, and having (for example) a footballer facing off against a fan brandishing mildly creepy collages isn’t going to change that.
Even the idea of a big budget “family friendly” football show seems a little suspect: Nine’s footy show rates in part because it’s one of the few shows on Australian television that’s indisputably male (though its version of masculinity is, er, somewhat limited). Meanwhile, Before the Game has the comedy and family friendly angles sown up: despite what sports fans might think, could it be possible that the footy market on Australian television is saturated?
Whatever the reason, shed no tears for Helliar just yet. His romantic comedy I Love You Too hits cinemas in a week or so, and by all accounts it’s not half bad. Interestingly, those same accounts suggest that, as romantic comedies go, this one’s firmly down the sappy end of the scale, with not a dry eye in the cinema at some stages. So, in an example of the wild speculation we love to indulge in here, here’s a question: could Seven have axed The Bounce when they did because they realised its host had written and starred in a movie that was just too girly for (stereotypical) footy fans?
Seriously, it’s one thing to make your footy show “family friendly”; it’s another entirely to have the host tearing up on the big screen because his mate’s lost his girlfriend or whatever. Australian television is notoriously blokey, after all, and to date Helliar’s on-air persona has been about as blokey as you can get this side of Mick Molloy (who never cried in either of his movies).
Okay, sure, in the real world it’s hardly likely to have been the main reason why The Bounce got axed – at the end its ratings were worse than The White Room was doing in the same timeslot when it was axed, after all – but if The Bounce had lasted a few more weeks (as its’ NRL counterpart on Seven seems likely to), we would have had the unusual event of watching a blokey footy show hosted by a man who wrote and was currently starring in something of a tissue-heavy tear-jerker. That’s not likely to happen now until Sam Newman puts out a romantic comedy of his own, and chances are those tears will be of a very different variety.