The Comedy Channel’s first local production for the year premiered on Thursday, a remake of the British panel show You Have Been Watching. Like TV Burp before it, it was a disappointing view if you like the original.
The original is hosted by Charlie Brooker, a former TV critic for The Guardian who’s made a number of fairly sharp series about TV for the BBC. Developed by Brooker through his production company, You Have Been Watching is very much tailored towards his interests and his style. Somewhat inevitably, parachuting Peter Berner into the host’s role and barely changing the format doesn’t quite work.
Berner may share with Charlie Brooker a dryness of tone and an intelligentish wit, but he’s not a TV critic (or, as those who remember his satire series BackBerner know, a particularly good critic of anything else), and in this series he largely seems to be going through the hosting motions as he would on The Einstein Factor.
As for the rest of the show, it feels rushed. The panel (who in episode one were Meshel Laurie, John Wood and Aamer Rahman of Fear of a Brown Planet) were shown the briefest possible clips of a series of cop shows, including the ludicrous US series Poochinski, and asked to comment on them. They got in a few good lines, but there wasn’t much for them to work with. Where the British series got this right was by showing more clips from each series being discussed and allowing Brooker to comment on them before opening the discussion out to the panel. The fact that our version of the series has a much shorter running time than the original didn’t help here.
To be fair to You Have Been Watching, we’re judging this on the one episode that’s made it to air so far and it could improve over time as those involved get used to making it. On the other hand, it’s fairly clear that the makers haven’t put much effort into changing the format to suit the shorter timeslot or the talents of the host they’ve hired (he presumably has some), and worse, there’s been no attempt to adapt the show for this country, other than to take a look at shows like Prisoner and Underbelly.
Imported formats can work, but after the failure of TV Burp it’s surprising that no one in Australian television has worked out that when you’re buying a show designed by a comedian to suit their personal style, it may need some adapting to suit a new host.