It was probably inevitable that we’d never find out how Girl Flat ended, nor indeed did many want to, but to axe a show that was improving (if not in ratings then certainly in quality) because it didn’t bring huge audiences after it was bumped at the last minute into a late-night slot to allow Nine to cover the Christchurch Earthquake seems a little unfair. What happened to all that “give it a chance” stuff Nine were pushing after that disastrous first episode?
Having said that, it’s hard to feel sorry for a show put together by experienced people which had as many flaws as Live From Planet Earth. Elton’s stand-up was good, there were some good guests, the Elaine Front character was promising, but the sketches…were they really by the guy who wrote Blackadder, The Young Ones and “Double seat, double seat, gotta get a double seat”? Elton’s failure to see their terribleness is surprising, even when you consider that he’s been responsible for a string of high-profile failures in his homeland over the past decade (the 2000 film Maybe Baby, the 2005 sitcom Blessed and the 2007 sketch show Get A Grip).
Even weirder was that while Elton was writing joke-free sketches about female bodybuilders, his topical stand-up was actually pretty good. While Live From Planet Earth was on air, Elton was one of the best local satirists on TV (second only to John Clarke), doing material a million times more cutting and incisive than the panellists on Good News Week were coming up with.
Perhaps if Live From Planet Earth had been more about Ben Elton and less about his supporting company of proven duds and wide-eyed newcomers then it would have been better, but a format change that big would have required a lot of guts…easier to give up and get out before ratings plummet below 100,000, perhaps? After all, that Hamish & Andy deal wasn’t cheap.
Speaking of which, remember how during their negotiations with Nine Hamish & Andy let it be known that they wanted to sign with a network which gave comedy a chance and didn’t axe things hastily? Could it be that Nine kept Live From Planet Earth going to make sure Hamish & Andy signed, then axed it once the deal was done? We can’t be the only ones wondering that today.