Channel 10’s Can of Worms is back and it’s totally different! Although not in a way that’s rating really well or better than Series 1, it seems. But before we get into why, let’s go back to Series 1 for a second. Here’s our blog premiering the series and our follow-up post. If you haven’t got time to read them, we’ll summarise:
Prior to it airing last year a media release was issued stating that Can of Worms was ”an original and controversial concept” which would bring back healthy debate and challenge the political correctness that (supposedly) pervades public discourse. It sounded promising, except that in order to be truly original and controversial, and to allow people to say what they think, the show would also have had to be willing to annoy a decent percentage of its audience…which as a new show with a lot riding on it, it wasn’t. The result? Can of Worms tried to appeal to everyone and ended up pleasing no one – broadsheet-reading inner city types were promised it’d be a sort of comedy version of Q&A, while the rest of the nation was assured that they wouldn’t need to know about politics to enjoy it – and the result was a mess.
There were also a number of other problems: the episodes were pre-recorded and poorly edited, and some audiences felt that social media should be an integral part of the programme. Sure, people could vote in a number of the polls which appeared on the show, and a selection of live tweets and Facebook posts were superimposed on the bottom of the screen during the broadcast, but the public couldn’t guide the panel’s discussion in any meaningful way. Of course, Q&A doesn’t really offer that either – and even if they did it probably wouldn’t be an improvement – but this element may have improved Can of Worms. It’s not like most of the panellists had anything interesting or funny to say.
When Series 1 ended, creator and star Ian “Dicko” Dickson came out and declared that he’d “sacked himself”, and that the search would be on to find a new host – the excitement! There followed months of rumours as to who it would be, with Breakfast’s Paul Henry one of the supposed front-runners, but eventually The Circle’s Chrissie Swan was chosen. And Dicko was not the only departure, co-host Meshel Laurie was dropped and Series 1’s “man on the street” Dan Ilic has taken on her duties in Series 2 whilst continuing to do his own (subtext: having two fat chicks on Australian television really would be like opening a can of worms).
The rounds and order of the show in Series 2 are also slightly different, plus they seem to have ironed-out those editing problems, but while the show is smoother it’s not necessarily better or funnier, and Can of Worms now seems even less likely to deliver us an interesting debate. For one thing it now comes across as way too soft and cuddly to be a worthwhile look at “the issues”. Also, if you wanted to make a show which was about robust and interesting debate, wouldn’t you need a panel of people from a variety of industries, backgrounds, political persuasions and age groups, debating topics that mattered in a way which wasn’t pitched at people who don’t know who the Prime Minister is? The Can of Worms panels for Series 2 so far seem to consist of well-known media and sporting personalities, aged between about 25 and 45, who mostly rely on crap gags and personal anecdotes when forming their “opinions”. Series 1 may have had a lot of problems, but at least you felt that different generations and different types of people were getting heard, even if that meant John Elliott one week and Tom Ballard another.
As for the comedy element, that’s, as ever, heavily dependent on the guests in the chairs that week. And in this series so far there’s always been at least one panellist who’s done commercial radio, so we’ve had…let’s put it this way…humour of a certain type. And perhaps there’s a clue there as to why this, and lots of other local panel shows, just don’t work: commercial radio’s crap enough on radio, so why would you televise it?