Whoever Wins, We Lose (again)

Perhaps sensing weakness in the ABC’s long-running stranglehold on Wednesday night comedy, Ten has decided to once again shift Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation to an “all-new” timeslot – Wednesday nights at 8.30pm. The later time – made necessary thanks to Ten clogging up the 7.30 / 8pm slots with ratings straggler The Renovators and its crutch Modern Family – makes no difference whatsoever to the show itself, mind you. Micallef isn’t busting out the MA-rated gags, the games aren’t suddenly all dark and creepy, the guests aren’t being strapped into torture devices – well, no more than usual, as long-time viewers will know. Ten has just bumped the extremely family-friendly show back an hour and kept their fingers crossed that viewers will still feel like an hour’s worth of silliness an hour closer to their bedtimes.

The problem for TAYG is that it’s not up against the now finished and constantly viewer-shedding Angry Boys (which it would almost certainly have thrashed in the ratings), but the much healthier combination of Spicks & Specks (8.30pm) and The Gruen Transfer (9pm). Wednesday night might be one of the busiest viewing nights of the week but it’s fairly safe to assume that not everyone is going to want to watch comedy, especially as everything comedy-wise on offer involves people sitting behind desks cracking jokes in response to wacky games and offbeat video footage.

Of course, Ten didn’t really have a lot of other options available to them now that the 7.30 slot is taken for the foreseeable future (or until they ditch The Renovators, which still seems unlikely). NCIS on Tuesdays is on of their top ratings shows, Monday is Can of Worms night and with all the effort they’re putting in to float that turd… uh, we mean establish it in that timeslot, moving it would be fatal.

Interestingly, Thursday night would see it up against Hamish & Andy’s Gap Year on Nine, which would (again) be two shows fighting for the same audience. A few weeks ago when the TAYG decision was made, Hamish & Andy would have been seen as the sure bet, with youth and freshness and a massive fanbase on on their side. Clearly the programmers at Ten thought that the ABC shows were a safer bet; with Gap Year looking a little wobbly at the moment, they might have got this one wrong.

Back in the real world, TAYG faces a bit of a struggle. While both ABC shows are showing their age, Gruen seems to be the kind of format that only disappears when it’s pulled off the air (see The New Inventors, which probably would have lasted until the sun went out if the ABC hadn’t axed it), while Spicks & Specks (another one of those much loved “live forever” formats) is bound to get a boost as it heads into its final episodes. If only from us wanting to make sure it really is dead.

Ten’s had a real strategy of late of moving its few non reality success stories around to try and shore up various nights (Offspring shifted timeslot three times in 13 episodes, including being on twice a week). Usually this strategy only succeeds in turning a hit show into one people can’t be bothered following around. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen here.

Even if TAYG holds on, what we’ll probably end up getting from this clash of the comedy game show titans is a general perception that Aussie comedy doesn’t rate like it used to, especially with Spicks & Specks already for the chop and Micallef’s interest in TAYG bound to drop off eventually. Or maybe Ten’ll break the ABC’s hold on Wednesday night comedy and open the door for all their other comedy hits; anyone looking forward to Good News Weeks‘ “all new” timeslot?

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