While we’d like to thank everyone who sent in cards and letters over the last few hours congratulating us on taking over the role of Head of Comedy at the ABC, bad news: we didn’t get the gig. It’s an easy mistake to make though, considering this was one of the main planks of today’s announcement of the ABC’s line-up for 2013:
we welcome the return of Australia’s favourite music quiz show SPICKS AND SPECKS – but it will be no cover version
Remember when we said this back in March?
1): Bring back Spicks & Specks. Okay, the horse has pretty much bolted here. So why the hell didn’t they keep the show going and just change the host? It was extremely obvious from the second In Gordon Street wasn’t a massive car crash that Hills was going to bail on S&S. Fair enough too, he’d clearly had enough. But let’s be honest: unless you are a relative or close personal friend of Hills, he’s not exactly irreplaceable. He’s a moderately handsome host who can come out with ABC-level quips. Two words: Will Fucking Anderson. Or pretty much anyone else, including your local postie. Yes, he was good at his job. His job was hosting a musical quiz show. IT’S NOT THAT HARD. Just look at the UK, where they have loads of this kind of long-running show and think nothing of swapping out hosts when need be.
We’re not saying an idiot could do a better job of running comedy at the ABC at the moment. We’re saying that we’re idiots and even we could see the ABC had fucked up big time by kicking Spicks and Specks to the curb when they did. So we guess we might possibly be saying that idiots could maybe do a better job than the current crew. Ouch.
Then there’s this, which is a direct quote from the fancy big book proper TV journalists were sent today outlining the future of the national broadcaster:
“…drum roll… Chris Lilley is back… but if we told you any more, we’d have to kill you”
You don’t have to be a moron to recognise that line as the stock-standard “we don’t know either” cover-up. You also don’t have to be a moron to know that Chris Lilley has not made a show and brought it to air in under a year since 2005. So we’re going to call it: whatever Chris Lilley is working on will not be seen on Australian televisions in 2013. But thanks for keeping us posted.
Otherwise the comedy line-up is pretty much what you’d expect: all the high profile stuff looks crap, all the decent stuff has a blanket thrown over it. In the former pile we have The Agony Guide to Life – yes, Agony Uncles / Aunts is getting another go, which shows you just how disastrous this year was for the ABC – Joe Hildebrand is back with… something, they don’t even have a name for it because presumably RACE-BAITING was taken… the pointless “comedy” gameshow Tractor Monkeys looks set to follow firmly in the footsteps of every single other ABC comedy gameshow not called Spicks and Specks, It’s a Date is Peter Helliar’s chance to do for romantic comedy on television what he did for it on the big screen with I Love You Too (did we ever mention how that films co-star Peter “Game of Thrones” Dinklage had Helliar take out all the dwarf-tossing jokes before he agreed to do it?) and everything else is reality programming we’ll probably end up covering because there’s fuck-all else on for months at a time.
Oh, in Chaser news, there’s this:
The Chaser’s Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel will give consumer affairs an extreme makeover in THE CHECK OUT
But we also think there’s a pretty good chance The Hamster Wheel or something like it will return in the second half of the year – after all, they didn’t announce its return at the 2012 launch either.
On the positive side, Gristmill’s Upper Middle Bogan looks promising and we’re pretty happy there’s going to be a second season of Twentysomething. We’re also happy but also somewhat puzzled that there is no mention anywhere here of Josh Thomas’ long-promised sitcom Please Like Me, first announced at the ABC’s 2012 launch. Guess they’re keeping it under wraps for a surprise attack later in the year.
Shows that are coming back include Adam Hills’ talk show, at least two separate flavours of Gruen (Nation and Planet), Audrey’s Kitchen – which is a pleasant surprise, as it was one of the stronger efforts from Working Dog in recent years – and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell. Which is as good a segue as any into the other big announcement in Australian television today…
A lot of people have asked us over the last year or two why we bother reporting on anything that appears in The Age‘s television supplement, The Green Guide. We do so because while in theory they’re part of a large and credible news outlet worthy of our attention and respect, in actuality they have no idea what the hell they’re doing. For example, this week they released their annual “Best and Worst of the Year in Television” issue and hooly dooly is it a five star shocker.
They didn’t have separate categories for drama and comedy* – their best show of the year is Homeland, which seems to suggest they have extremely short attention spans and / or realised they couldn’t not give the number one slot to a show airing on commercial television even though Australian commercial television in 2012 basically took out ads saying “we just don’t give a fuck about quality” – so oh ho ho ho what classic show do you think they reckon was the best Australian comedy in 2012? Coming in at number eight:
Agony Aunts / Uncles (ABC1). Superbly cast, terrifically edited local series that provided frank, funny answers from a diverse group of men and woman. Has made stars – and landed a heap of work – for it’s breakout participants.
Putting aside the fact that the Green Guide staff thought that in 2012 there were only seven shows better than Agony Uncles / Aunts on Australian television – which is not exactly a decision designed to engender trust in their mental facilities- every single point they make is provably wrong just by watching five minutes of the actual show. Here, we’ve made a list:
* “Superbly cast”… with a whole bunch of creator / host Adam’s Zwar’s comedy mates up to and including his own wife. If you weren’t passably attractive and under 40 you’d better be a big name or talk a lot of crazy sex stuff or you were nowhere to be seen.
*”Terrifically edited”… actually, the rapid-fire editing and constant cutting between talking heads did a really good job of making the whole show feel like a shallow bowl of plain mush. It was a collection of soundbites, not a narrative.
*”Diverse group of men and woman”… see “superbly cast”, only while you could argue about the quality of the cast (such things being subjective), calling the B-list comedians and Sunday paper talking heads here “diverse” is a bigger joke than any of the ones the guests cracked.
*”Has made stars – and landed a heap of work”… for Lawrence Mooney.
(not that their love of the show was really all that surprising – it was basically the same soft opinion / relationship material The Age runs all weekend every weekend)
After that, we pretty much gave up on the rest of the list (even if The Hamster Wheel came in at number nine because “Nobody comes close to doing what the Chaser lads do on Australian TV”… apart from Media Watch, the Gruen shows and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell, of course), but we did keep on skimming just to see whether our current front runner for fave comedy of the year Mad as Hell placed, just so we knew where we stood with this list. Surprise! Turns out our position regarding this list wasn’t so much standing as sitting on the toilet looking for something to wipe our backsides with:
20. Why we’re torn about Shaun Micallef Is Mad As Hell (ABC1)
For: Federal politics has been certifiably bonkers this year – bleak, joyless farce. But for 10 weeks, at the apex of the carbon tax battle, Shaun Micallef’s wilfully perverse news satire provided a weekly dose of pleasurably silly mockery. There were always incidental pleasures in the characters’ names (especially Veronica Milsom as reporter Xanthe Kalamazoo), but highlights played on headlines: Francis Greenslade’s softly menacing union official; Tony Abbott’s ”national hairnet tour”; the dance choreographed to Craig Emerson’s ”Whyalla Wipeout”. I loved best the jokes at the expense of Fairfax and the future of print – especially the skit where the fish-and-chip shop wraps the flake in an iPad.
Against: The people spoke and the ABC listened, which is how Shaun Micallef was given a chance to flex his muscles as a writer, performer and avowed news junkie in this eponymous current-affairs satire. But anyone who saw his earlier go-around on SBS, the inventive, cheap and cheerful Newstopia, quickly realised that a polished production and overplayed gesturing didn’t value-add. There were some bright spots – enough, evidently, for a return season next year.
That was 20 in their Worst Shows of 2012 list. Seriously. And the worst thing they seem to be able to say about it is that it’s kind of like Newstopia, which they seem to have enjoyed. No-one tell them The Footy Show is the same old shit year in year out, their heads might explode.
Now, we know full well these lists are largely about shit-stirring – or “trolling”, as the people on Today Tonight like to call it. We know the point is to say controversial things to get people paying attention to you. And we have no problem with that when it’s done online, or when it’s a columnist speaking their mind. But when a supposedly reputable source of television coverage – a place people are meant to be able to go to for reviews of television shows that will give them a serious idea of what the writer thinks is worthwhile viewing – tries to pull off the kind of wacked-out shit that this list does (AGONY UNCLES / AUNTS WAS THE BEST AUSTRALIAN COMEDY SHOW OF 2012 EVERYONE!!), all we hear is the sounds of them flushing the shredded remains of their credibility down the toilet.
If the Green Guide wants to start basing its approach around saying controversial / bizarre / hilarious shit to get attention, it’s going to have to become a lot more entertaining. Because as it stands, it’s not smart or funny enough to stand as a decent read on its merits and it sure as shit can’t be taken seriously as a source of quality reviewing. Who would have guessed the days when Marieke “I made a completely superfluous second series of Laid and it didn’t make the worst shows of the year even though it rated worse than Randling” Hardy would give glowing reviews of shows on the ABC while actually working for the ABC would seem like a golden age?
*they did have a sidebar complaining about the overall lack of Australian comedy on television this year, seemingly unaware that it was actually one of the better years for Australian television comedy – in quantity if not quality. Guess what they meant to say was “Any year without a series by Chris Lilley doesn’t count”.