Here’s what we know: Hamish & Andy’s new show for Nine, Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year, starts this Thursday. It’s filmed in New York. Ryan Shelton is involved. And… that’s about it for now. Presumably when the TV listing supplements turn up in Wednesday or Thursday’s papers (depending on which one you buy) there’ll be a little more coverage, but otherwise for a big-deal program with the fate of the network riding on it there’s been remarkably little information as to what it actually will be like.
Partly that’s because hey, it’s Hamish & Andy! You know ’em, you love ’em and you’ll tune into ’em no matter what they’re up to. And partly it’s because, after doing a bunch of fairly successful specials on Ten, everyone pretty much assumes they’ll be doing more of the same this time around: roaming New York, pointing out funny stuff, having mildly amusing conversations, being Hamish (impersonating Ricky Gervais) & Andy (straight-man who pulled Megan Gale).
And partly that’s because Nine doesn’t want to spook the horses too much after a string of comedy duds. People like Hamish & Andy, so they’re promoting Hamish & Andy: people don’t seem to like watching comedy on Nine, so they’re not actually mentioning what kind of show it is that they’re doing for Nine (SPOILER ALERT: it’s a comedy). Judging by most of the promos, Gap Year could easily turn out to be Hamish & Andy renovating a New York apartment so they can turn it into a venue for their dream restaurant. Or it could just be their radio show with pictures. Nine isn’t telling.
One thing that is a little interesting though is the suggestion – judging by one of the promo ads that show them having an actual set and not just roaming the streets – that Gap Year will have a talk show aspect to it. Again, no big surprise there; one-off specials can survive by roaming the streets looking for fun but after a while you run out of random strangers and need to turn to people who want to talk to you. Hamish & Andy aren’t exactly known for their hard-hitting interviews – they’re not known for their hard-hitting anything – but after a billion years on radio they’re competent enough to make a short chat segment work (cue the show turning out to be a thinly disguised Parkinson rip-off).
Hang on a second though – didn’t Hamish & Andy’s former boss Rove also just announce his own US-based talk show? Why yes he did: Rove LA is lined up for September on pay channel Fox8, and promises to be, well, basically the old Rove show only with loads more overseas guests and way less Peter Helliar. Though we could be wrong on the second part. Fingers crossed.
There’s only so far you can go doing comedy on Australian television, and for the most part that’s not very far at all. But while the path to overseas success for Australian comedians traditionally involves the UK (Adam Hills, Tim Minchin, etc) and / or abandoning Australia to go hell-for-leather offshore (Rebel Wilson), this approach of filming in the US for the Australian market is something different. Other terms you can choose from to replace “something different” in the previous sentence include “dipping a toe in the water without committing to swim” “half-baked” “sure to expose the lack of talk-show subjects in this country”, “bound to seem like a severe case of hedging your bets” and “not really going to matter much if the show itself turns out to be good.”
The real problem with this kind of approach is that it can only ever be a stop-gap measure. You can only play the outsider in America card once: either you come back and make television shows in Australia for Australians, or you leave for good and make television shows in the USA for the world. Hamish & Andy seem to be aware of this (why else call your show Gap Year?), while Rove McManus seems to be using his show more as a way to keep himself busy while he tries to crack the US market. Either way, it’s hard not to be a little saddened over this: if Rebel Wilson – Rebel Wilson – can be a (quasi-)movie star in the US but Shaun Micallef can’t get a non game-show hosting gig in Australia then something’s seriously wrong. With both countries.
Remember how Live From Planet Earth was marketed (before it aired) as being a chat show/sketch show hybrid (I think it may even have been described as “Rove meets Fast Forward” at some point). Maybe that’s Nine’s marketing strategy for these things; be incredibly vague about what it will be to build excitement.
I also get the feeling that Hamish & Andy have basically just gone off to the US and told Nine they’ll send back 40 minutes of… something each week. They probably don’t have the format nailed down themselves either, in much the same way that, say, The Mick Molloy Show was basically “let’s let Mick do whatever he wants”.
This is, by the way, a good thing.