A flannelled panel and a premier premiere

This time of year usually signals the start of a two month-long drought of repeats and programmes too bad to be broadcast during the ratings season. But in a surprise move both ABC1 and The Comedy Channel have launched new panel shows in the past week.

You can see the thinking behind it. 2010 has seen a number of panel shows premiere to great hype and then be swiftly axed. In the relatively low pressure environment of the summer, new shows should have an easier run.

Not that they necessarily need the help. ABC1’s offering, The Trophy Room, is basically a sports version of Spicks & Specks. Sport’s something a lot of people like, Spicks & Specks is something a lot of people like – how could it fail to run for years?

Like Spicks & Specks, The Trophy Room seems to have been designed with a variety of audiences in mind. The very knowledgeable and the almost novice can all find questions to answer in the quiz rounds, and if you didn’t enjoy that don’t worry, there’ll be a wacky party game along any second now.

Apart from that, the team captains are inoffensive, host Peter Helliar manages to get some laughs, guest panellist and very good friend of the Tumblies Sam Simmons was quite entertaining, and there are some nice little sporting touches like oranges being brought out at half time and spoof post-match interviews with the panellists running during the credits.

The problem with The Trophy Room is it’s just not that exciting. Like Spicks & Specks it’s destined to be the sort of show you don’t dislike, but don’t watch religiously. Or at all, unless someone you really like’s on.

A better watch, if laughs are your priority, is The Comedy Channel’s Statesmen of Comedy. Hosted by Trevor Marmalade this is a very light-touch panel show which is more about the chat than the games. Three comedians talk about various topics for most of the show and there’s a quick quiz at the end where the winner gets a slab.

What made the the first episode work was the chemistry. Host Trevor Marmalade and guests Shane Bourne, Jane Kennedy and Tim Smith all know and like each other, meaning the chat and the laughs flowed easily. This is quite a feat for a brand new show, as well as a useful reminder of the importance of good casting.

You can’t just stick a bunch of different people behind a desk and expect the good times to roll. Great comedy’s about timing and chemistry, and generally involves a small group of people who understand each other, working together to get laughs.

According to TV Tonight upcoming episodes of Statesmen of Comedy will feature Glenn Robbins, Jason Stephens & Greg Fleet, and Peter Rowsthorn, Rachel Berger & Anthony Morgan. They sure sound like good trios – could this be the surprise comedy hit of summer?

Don’t forget to cast your vote in the Australian Tumbleweeds 2010. You have until 31st December 2010 to register your votes and snarky comments at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/tumbliesvotes.

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