The Biggest Story in Australian Comedy This Year…

… seems to have been that “twitter killed Live From Planet Earth“. We’ve read a couple of year-in-review stories now and it has somehow become accepted fact even though it’s complete and utter bullshit. And you know we wouldn’t break out the italics unless we really meant it.

For those not in the know, here’s the Sydney Morning Herald‘s 2011-in-review take on what happened:

The post-birth struggle of new programs is never pretty but few endure the kind of savaging that was given to Channel Nine’s live sketch comedy from the co-writer of The Young Ones and Blackadder. It was barely out of the gate when the popular press knifed it, kicking it on to Twitter where the court of public opinion put it on trial, judged it and sentenced it to death. Elton tried to respond to the Twiticism the following week but by then the damage was done.

Seems fair enough… if you come from a planet where all television shows are created equal and it’s only media attention – or lack thereof – that creates fluctuations in viewing numbers. Hang on a second – could it be that all the media snark aimed at twitter’s supposed role in the demise of LFPE boils down to hostility towards a form of media ye olde journalists don’t control? Is all this is as simple as “we’ll tell you what’s good and what’s not, none of this getting together and making up your own minds, thanks very much”? Well duh.

The reason why we keep bringing this crap up – and just be grateful we’re not going on about how supposedly Angry Boys‘ ratings flop was because it was “too controversial” while we’re at it – is because it’s an attempt to impose a narrative on events that isn’t born out by the facts. Here’s what these stories want you to come away thinking:

A): Live From Planet Earth was destroyed by internet haters and (to a lesser extent) the tabloid press.

B): Without those haters, it would have been a success.

Therefore C): Twitter and the tabloid press are violent, out-of-control forces denying YOU good television.

Meanwhile, over in the sane corner, we have this:

A): Live From Planet Earth was arse.

B): Blind Freddy could have seen that.

Therefore C): After a second and third episodes that were only slightly better than the terrible first but rated much worse, it got the chop LIKE DOZENS OF TELEVISION SHOWS BEFORE IT.

Or put another way, remember Let Loose Live? It was the previous attempt at live sketch comedy on Australian commercial television. It screened back in the pre-twitter days of 2005 and – we hope you’re sitting down because we don’t want to blow your mind or anything – it was axed after two episodes. One less than LFPE got. Cue dramatic sting.

To be fair, it’s easy to see why the media keep running with this “twitter killed LFPE” story: it’s an actual story, while “dud show gets axed” most certainly isn’t. And these days, when the career of Fairfax-sponsored tools like Jim Schembri seem to be based entirely on talking shit so enraged readers will leave a comment on their blog, any vaguely controversial viewpoint is going to be hammered home over and over whatever its dubious relation to the facts.

But that’s where our charity ends: this is, by any reasonable measure, a massive distortion of the facts and the way it just keeps on being trotted out over and over is, quite frankly, giving us the shits. If anything, all the twitter chat around LFPE helped it by promoting discussion and getting awareness of the show out there. According to, oh, the last two hundred and seventy years of promoting entertainment – handily summarized as ANY PUBLICITY IS GOOD PUBLICITY – twitter did LFPE nothing but a big fat favour.

Well, unless you view making people aware of a show as a bad thing, which presumably the Fairfax press does. And maybe they have a point. After all, we are talking about a show featuring a cast largely culled from the aforementioned flop Let Loose Live and the dumping ground that was Comedy Inc. Why, if twitter hadn’t attacked LFPE so relentlessly, it’s obvious it would have simply plodded along week after week doing no harm to anyone. Apart from twitter, what could have possibly driven it off the air? It’s not like the people running Nine have any other way of measuring the numbers of people actually watching it per week… HANG ON A SECOND!!

We could go on and on. Obviously the number of comedy flops that didn’t get axed in the wake of LFPEGood News World comes to mind, though The Joy of Sets might qualify too – tends to suggest that the commercial networks have learnt that a high profile axing is at least as damaging as letting a dud slowly fizzle out.  Sadly, they also seem to have learnt that axing a show before it airs is even less damaging, if the fate of The Games 2012 is any guide.

Our real point here will come as no surprise: there are a lot of vested interests out there who like to paint flops as hits and shift the blame for duds onto viewers rather than producers. That’s kind of the reason why we do the Tumbleweed Awards every year: to make it clear that some shows just weren’t any damn good. So hey, if you haven’t voted, get on board here. While there are no doubt many better ways to express your disapproval, this is the one right in front of you at this very moment. That has to count for something, right?




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