Ben Elton vs The Twitterverse

So Live From Planet Earth returned last night, and while the changes made were for the best it wasn’t like there was a whole lot of them. More Elton stand-up and less shoddy sketches was a good move, but it still felt like tinkering around the edges of a now-proven dud. What, they thought last week’s show was a success?

[It does make you wonder what it takes to change a show over at Nine, considering the equally live Hey Hey it’s Saturday went an entire year sinking in the ratings without any real changes (apart from the timeslot) being made. Is there no-one over there who can say “this isn’t working – change it?” after all, isn’t the ability to rapidly change things pretty much the only benefit in the 21st century of going out live?]

Anyway, forget all that crock from the haterz about there being “no decent Australian sketch comedy since 1989”. There’s been loads of good stuff – The Late Show, The Micallef P(r)ogram(me) to name two excellent local examples – it’s just that networks seem trapped in a world where The Comedy Company is as good as we can ever hope for. Which wasn’t even true back in 1989.

That said, it’s a shame that LFPE is now headed directly for the scrapheap, if not immediately then in a few weeks when it finishes up its allotted run (of either four or six episodes, depending on what you’ve heard). There’s still potential for it to become at least watchable – maybe if it was only a half-hour, maybe if there was some actual variety going on, maybe if it was more obviously based around Elton’s stand-up – and maybe if Elton’s stand-up was fresher, though to be fair much of the used material he’s been doing isn’t exactly common knowledge out here.

But let’s be honest: it doesn’t really matter about potential when there’s no will (or ability, or time) to change. And having Elton take a swipe at the show’s Twitter-based critics made that pretty clear.

It might have seemed a little odd that Elton would, on the one hand, say that Twitter was basically “giving a moron a megaphone” and on the other wrap things up with a request to send out positive tweets if you liked the show. Good or bad, which one is it? But dipping his toe in the Twitter waters after the drubbing the show took there last week was a smart damage-control move whatever the result.

Now that he’s interacted directly with the Twitterverse, Elton can say (with some justification) that it’s impossible to take what happens there seriously. The hate posts can be written off as coming from people angry at what he said rather than real haters of the show (and hey, at least they were still watching, right?); the positive ones (and there were some) are only going to make him look good even if he had to ask for them directly.

It’s not going to save the show – only good ratings* or apathy at Nine can do that now – but after a week where Twitter comments were used to paint the show as a massive, stomach-churning failure, being able to dismiss at least one source of negative feedback has to be seen as a plus. For Elton, if not for audiences hoping for some half-decent comedy on our screens.

*last night’s figures: 384,000 viewers nash. Not good.

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1 Comment

  • Kerti says:

    Looks like it’s needed, given that cmoment on your post about it being under the radar! Still, rather that than being like poor old Les Murray I had lunch with him once in Carlton years ago, and it was like walking down the street with Brangelina!