One of our contacts forwarded us this press release for tonight’s episode of The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting:
It is random, it’s weird it’s awkward and uncomfortable.
It’s not easy to boil down all the current cliches about what makes a comedy “good” in 2013 into a single line, but they’ve managed it. As usual with this kind of thing, the words to pay attention to are the words they don’t mention. Words like “funny”. Also “entertaining”, “exciting”, “hilarious”, and pretty much every other even vaguely positive term you could possible think of.
Who chooses to promote their show as being weird, awkward and uncomfortable? Don’t answer that, we already know and so do you: people who want you to think that it’s not a show for everyone. That somehow “getting it” will make you cooler than those morons around you who are still judging comedy on whether it makes them laugh. The fools! Everyone knows only the best comedy makes you feel like you’ve wasted your time and been insulted for your troubles.
The next line was just as thrilling:
It is dividing the audience.
Knife isn’t dividing audiences. According to last week’s ratings, it doesn’t have an audience:
new sketch comedy The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting slipped to just 292,000.
And that was before it was bumped back half an hour. With both The Voice and My Kitchen Rules pounding away at everything else on a Wednesday night, it’s time to call it: the ABC’s Wednesday night comedy line-up is dead. Even if the ABC could come up with a show people might want to watch, putting it on at 8.30pm on a Wednesday night is going to kill it.
Maybe the various Gruen efforts might bring a few viewers back out of sheer habit if the commercial networks aren’t trying, but television is a bullies game and once the ABC showed some weakness the commercial networks – well, Nine and Seven at least, as Ten tried their best to make Wednesdays into their light drama stronghold but couldn’t manage it – decided Wednesday nights were a corner of the playground they wanted all to themselves.
Realistically, we’re back to where we were a decade or more ago when every comedy had to survive on its merits and the sooner the ABC realises it the better. Back then half hour comedies usually aired at 8pm, often on a Monday: it’s no surprise that the closest thing to a success the ABC has had with a new show has been the 8pm only Mad as Hell. And having to make shows for an 8pm timeslot would rule out a lot of the “weird”, “awkward” and “uncomfortable” crutches they’ve been leaning on and force them to go for “light”, “likable” and above all else, “funny”.
Maybe they could move comedy over to Thursday nights, where at least it might do better against the various footy shows. The idea of actually having a night when people know the ABC will be showing comedy-themed local programming is still a good one, even if they’ve managed to shit all over the Wednesday night version by green-lighting year after year’s worth of rubbish*. Back in the bad old days, a lot of ABC comedy series vanished without trace simply because no-one knew where to look for them.
The big difference is, back then the shows themselves often weren’t half bad; giving The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting a prime-time timeslot and then wondering why it doesn’t rate is like wondering why your live stage show about that time you fell asleep on the couch during a commercial for GayMatchMaker.com isn’t packing out the MCG.
*then again, who can blame them? When Spicks and Specks was on, they could put anything on after it at 9pm and it would automatically pull in over 800,000 viewers. Now they’re lucky to get a third of that. The only possible upside to all this is that without the support of a strong ratings lead-in, the ABC will realise they have to make sure every single comedy they green-light can stand on its own as broad-based or quality entertainment. You know, like they already do with drama.