The Better Project

We’re big fans of Tony Martin, Ed Kavalee and Get This ‘round here, so it pains us to admit that we’ve been a bit disappointed by The Joy of Sets. The first episode was a good start, but things have been patchy since then, and the ratings dip that led Channel 9 to bump the show to 10.30pm seems to indicate that we’re not the only ones who’ve been a little underwhelmed by the series. But hey, at least it’s still on air.

So, what went wrong? We pointed out in our review of episode one that the show had some pacing problems, specifically that Tony and Ed seemed to be trying to cram too much in to the 22 minutes or so they had available. A few episodes later and that’s sort of been fixed, but there’s still a lot of time taken up with exposition, chummy back ‘n’ forths and those almost pointless mystery guests. And that’s a bit of a shame because this format doesn’t really play to Martin and Kavelee’s strengths, which as we saw in Get This were sketches, piss-farting around, and long, slow build-ups to gags which will run and run. When we’ve seen this sort of thing in The Joy of Sets it’s generally been in the form of pre-recorded sequences or the in-studio sketches, such as the Masterchef/glass of water sketch in episode 2, the title sequence recreations in episode 1, Tony’s speech to the jury in last night’s show, or Warwick Capper’s various cameos. These have been the highlights of the show, perhaps there should be more of these?

A number of Get This fans who got studio audience tickets to The Joy of Sets have pointed out that the recordings were really good, and that lots of funny material was cut out. That’s a shame, obviously, but those of us watching at home have to judge the show on what makes it to air – and sometimes that’s been a bit meh.

So, while by no means a disaster, The Joy of Sets is a disappointment, particularly when you consider what it could have been like. The Bazura Project, which premiered a week after The Joy of Sets, is roughly the same sort of show (except its about film), but miles better. Hosts Shannon Marinko and Lee Zachariah set a fast pace, and have crammed their show with sketches, fun facts and gags – and the heart and soul they’ve put into making it simply oozes from the screen.

We’re not writing off The Joy of Sets – there are a few more episodes to go, it’s is definitely improving, and a second series would probably be amazing – but for getting it right straight-out-of-the-blocks, The Bazura Project is by far the better program.

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16 Comments

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The big challenge for anyone trying something new comedy-wise on Australian television is going to be finding the way to get enough shows in to bed the concept down before being taken off-air. The steady improvement in Joy of Sets suggests that… well, it was probably never going to be a hit on Nine, but it did get a million viewers for that first show and if that first show had been as good as episode five maybe more would’ve stuck around.

    Perhaps even established talents need to do an “off-season” run on channel 31 or the internet before they start a new show on the commercial networks? Part of why Bazura works so well now is that they worked out all the kinks doing 40-odd shows on C31 first…

  • Shane says:

    I haven’t seen last night’s episode yet, but it’d help Sets if the punchline to every sketch wasn’t Warrick Capper. It was fun the first time, but doing it over just makes it too predictable.

  • LindaB says:

    I’ve seen 4 of the 5 episodes of this show and Warwick Capper has been in the series for a total of about 20 seconds. There are dozens of jokes – and laughs – that have nothing to do with him. I think if someone was to judge the show by what’s written on here they would get a very skewed opinion of it

  • Josie M says:

    The thing is, though, that the people behind JOS are actually managing to bring something different and funny to commercial television, with all the constraints that involves, rather than just making a show for the two hipsters who watch ABC2, so this is a pointless comparison. But even if you feel that the level-of-difficulty issue is irrelevant, the question of which show is ‘better’ is completely subjective. That’s your opinion and of course you’re entitled to it, but don’t mistake it for fact.

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    JoS may be different to Channel 9’s usual offer, but their main indicator that the experiment has worked or not is whether it’s rated well for them…which it hasn’t. In this blog we’ve tried to work out why the ratings have dropped, and we’ve argued it’s because of the quality of the end product. You rightly point out that there isn’t a metric for quality, but quality does have an impact on the indicator for which there is a metric: ratings.

  • Billy C says:

    I enjoy it but it’s not unmissable television. With the shows it is between it’s not going to draw the right sort of lead in. ABC has a rusted on audience that is really there to lose. They’ll give things a go and sometimes shows will get a wider audience. On Nine the Joy of Sets has the same problem Get This had. The people who like it probably don’t like the show before it or after it (before the timeslot shift anyway.) It’s the only show I watch on Nine and as a result I often miss and then catch up online, where I am forced to endure the same ad played between each segment. I hope nine will play the season out but I shudder to think how the Games will go after Two and Half Men or Big Bang Theory.

  • Josie M says:

    So, The Bazura Project would be a ratings blockbuster on Channel Nine, would it? And if it weren’t, would it then magically be not such a good show after all?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    It’s possible to argue that The Bazura Project would rate better than The Joy of Sets if it was shown on Nine in the same timeslot and with the same lead-in programs. We’ll never know. Neither show would be a “ratings blockbuster”, but judging by the latest ratings, Nine’s audience has pretty much entirely turned its back on JoS. And a million people tuned in to the first episode, so they know what they’re missing.

  • Josie M says:

    Oh well, I await, with interest, you mounting that argument. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy myself contemplating the concept of The Bazura Project really kicking some goals with the Channel Nine audience.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Where exactly did we say Bazura would “really kick some goals” with the Nine audience? Or that it would be a “ratings blockbuster” on Nine? What we actually said is that we think The Bazura Project is a better show than Joy of Sets – and by “better” we mean funnier, which for a comedy also means more successful on an artistic level. On that point it doesn’t matter to us what network they’re on, nor how they rate.

    It’s a separate point, though one running parallel to our first, that JoS isn’t rating well. Being on Nine, ratings are important, which makes the consistently falling ratings a separate way that it’s not a success. It’s also a more objective and measurable way – you can (and perhaps should) disagree with us over the quality of the show, but you can’t argue that it’s been a ratings success. And on Nine, ratings are pretty much all that matter.

    Put another way, if you don’t want ratings to matter you shouldn’t be on a show on Nine. They might be managing to, as you said earlier, “bring something different and funnier” to commercial television, but if it doesn’t rate commercial television isn’t going to want it. I’ll repeat: a million people watched the first episode. It’s not like this show was a secret, undiscovered masterpiece.

  • Josie M says:

    But you’re the one saying it’s ‘possible to argue’ that TBP would do better than JOS if it were on Nine – I’m just a little less confident that the road to successful competition with ‘Rafters’ is paved with ‘Citizen Kane’ jokes. I’m not saying ratings don’t matter, I’m saying that they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of a show, to which the probable figures for TBP must surely attest, and to think that they represent objective proof of your subjective view is a disappointing approach for people who, surely, regard as themselves as more perspicacious than the average anonymous TV blogger.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    At this stage we seem to be saying basically the same thing: ratings rarely have anything to do with the quality of a show.

    What we’re also saying is that in our current society on some level shows have to succeed not only as art, but as commerce. It’s a point separate to the one we’re making about the quality of JoS (which is that the show, while good and improving, is not great – and it’s only fair to expect greatness from someone with as strong a track record as Tony Martin). It’s an okay show that’s rating badly. By rating badly, it’s going to be seen as a failure. Perhaps if it was a better show, it would have rated better. Again, this isn’t a case where a comedy series failed to find an audience – a million people watched the first episode, and the numbers have been dropping ever since. That suggests it failed to connect with its audience out of the gate.

    Those poor ratings don’t “prove” that this show is bad on an artistic level, that’s a totally different argument. But they do prove that it is bad on a commercial level. Being on a commercial network requires a show to succeed on a commercial level. These are two separate points, but they are connected – by the network, not us. If JoS was a commercial hit, they would get more episodes and Tony and Ed would be seen as viable TV hosts. As we said, the show is improving on an artistic level, but it’s failure on a commercial level means that improvement will be cut short. That’s what’s disappointing to us.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    As for it being possible to argue that Bazura would rate better on Nine than JoS – well, with JoS rating under 200,000 nationally last week, a lot of things would rate better than it at the moment.

    Our argument would be that quality does sometimes have an effect on ratings, and as a comedy show about pop culture Bazura is often better than JoS. If you don’t believe ratings and quality are linked, this argument falls down; if you believe JoS is better quality-wise than Bazura, this argument falls down.

    Obscure film jokes and obscure television jokes seem to us to have roughly the same amount of audience appeal: The Late Show made jokes about Citizen Cane and was considered a success at the time. The road to successful competition with Rafters doesn’t seem to be lined with Jake & The Fat Man jokes either.

  • Josie M says:

    Yes, but, in answer to your last comment, The Late Show was on the ABC at 10pm (I think) on Saturday, not on Channel Nine at 9pm on Tuesday. The context is different – eg, Rockwiz is considered a successful show, even though it hovers around 200,000. I’d just to make the, final, point that JOS were rating under 200,000 this week because they were on at 10.30pm. From memory, the show’s ratings had actually improved a bit in the final week that it was on at 9pm (while, of course, up against Seven and Ten’s most popular shows). As someone who’s enjoying the incongruity of a show like JOS being on Nine, and, as would you guys, love to see it remain on air and, generally, shows of this kind thrive, on both commercial and non-commercial TV, it’s frustrating to see JOS’s figures reported as though they’ve just dropped steadily every week, and as if the show had got this week’s figures in the 9pm time slot.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    You’re right of course that The Joy of Sets and The Late Show were on different networks and different timeslots, hence the different standards of success they were / are held to. But at the time The Late Show was seen as a much bigger success than a show like Rockwiz (which we’d argue is seen more as a survivor than a hit on the scale of Spicks & Specks) – it received steady mainstream media coverage and launched a variety of media careers. Not bad for a show making jokes about Glengarry Glen Ross and Toshiro Mifume (and plenty of broader material as well).

    9pm Wednesdays on the ABC aside, there are very few cushy timeslots on television. 10pm on a Saturday for The Late Show may not have been a high pressure timeslot, but it wasn’t a high traffic one either: The Joy of Sets faced stronger competition, but at least it did (at first) get a lot of people checking it out. They simply didn’t keep watching.

    As for Joy of Sets ratings improving before its timeslot was shifted, according to the ratings on TVcentral.com.au, on on 27th September it rated 545,000: http://www.tvcentral.com.au/2011/09/28/tuesday-27th-september-2011/

    October 4th it rated 462,000 national: http://www.tvcentral.com.au/2011/10/05/tuesday-4th-october-2011/

    A week later (the final week it was on at 9pm) on the 11th it rated 488,000: http://www.tvcentral.com.au/2011/10/12/tuesday-11th-october-2011/

    So the overall trend was down, even if there was an uptick towards the end. Perhaps if Nine had left it at 9pm it would have continued to improve; perhaps the overall slide in ratings would have continued. Much as we wish The Joy of Sets was thriving, on a commercial network to thrive it has to rate and on those figures it simply wasn’t managing to do so.

    (replacing it a week later, Mick & Molly rated 557,000 viewers: http://www.tvcentral.com.au/2011/10/20/tuesday-18th-october-2011/ It’ll be interesting / depressing to see if that figure holds)

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    This certainly doesn’t bode well for The Games. Hopefully Nine should have slightly more sense than to drop it into the Tuesday night timeslot that’s fucked over every Australian comedy show they’ve tried there.