Late Arrivals at the Comedy Boom

You probably saw the story in the Herald Sun the other day that Hamish & Andy are “close” to finalising a deal with Nine. This came as a bit of a surprise to those of us who expected them to sign with Ten (who screened their radio spin-off TV shows), but apparently what swung it was that Hamish & Andy “like that Nine is backing comedy”. And who can blame them? 2011 looks like being one hell of a year of comedy on Nine – Ben Elton’s chat show Live From Planet Earth starts next week, and later in the year there’ll be a new series of The Games from John Clarke, and Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee in the Zapruder’s Other Films-produced The Joy of Sets – who’d have guessed that just a few months ago?

Before the announcement that Hamish & Andy were coming on board you could have written these signings off as a struggling network finally catching-up with the late 80s/early 90s comedy boom (Seven, Ten and the ABC all did well out of the comedy boom – Nine made All Together Now and The Bob Morrison Show…instead of shows with John Clarke and The D-Generation, although to be fair to them Ben Elton turned-up on Ray Martin’s shows a fair bit), but now Nine’s interest in comedy is looking serious. Any network would have fallen over itself to get Hamish & Andy, and yet Nine, with several decades of comedy failures hanging around its neck, took the prize.

For Nine getting Hamish & Andy is great business because it completes a group of comedy signings that spans the key demographics – from the intelligent end of the Boomers and Gen X (The Games), through to Gen’s Y and Z (Hamish & Andy) – making their claim to be “The Home of Laughs” look pretty accurate. And for comedy fans it should hopefully be good too.

John Clarke, Tony Martin & Ed Kavalee, Ben Elton and Hamish & Andy are all solid, experienced, funny comedians. While some of them seem a little too “ABC” for Nine, they’ll hopefully get a chance to prove themselves. The days when Nine would axe new comedies after a few episodes (Rove, The Mick Molloy Show, Micallef Tonight) seem to be behind us. Mick Molloy’s The Nation struggled through its run in 2007, but made it to the end, as did Hey Hey It’s Saturday last year. Neither got renewed, but they were given a chance. Also, they genuinely deserved to be axed.

The worst network for comedy is now Seven (The White Room, The Bounce, Australia Versus), while a “source” close to Hamish & Andy is telling the world that Nine will give them “complete creative control”. And while there’s no doubt a certain element of bullshit to that quote, the solid facts of this story – that Nine has signed a large number of quality comedians in a short space of time, and is going to town to promote them – show us that they’re taking this comedy thing pretty seriously. So let’s be optimistic: it’ll be great!

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