What is there to say about This Week Live that hasn’t already been said about The Panel fifteen years ago? Or Before the Game five years ago? Or The Project five hours ago? Yet again Channel Ten edges one step further towards becoming a 24 hour all-desk network: did they get bought out by a furniture barn when no-one was watching?
The big problem with these shows is that, unless you have someone keeping a firm hand on the wheel, you end up with a bunch of people talking all over each other trying to make each other laugh. The only firm hand in evidence on the first episode of This Week Live was, well, there’s a wank joke in there somewhere. And while the cast did a pretty solid job of punching out the jokes, the whole show did feel like a bit of a wank. We’re over here guys! We’re the people you’re meant to be trying to make laugh!
Otherwise it really was just The Panel, which makes sense for Ten because The Panel was a big hit for them back in the day, only The Panel was put together by a team who’d worked together on radio and television for well over a decade and even then it was kind of crap. This is just breakfast radio with pictures, and don’t we already have breakfast radio? It’s on during breakfast. On the radio.
Snark aside (briefly), this kind of show is a cheap way to fill in air time, a cheap way to cross-promote other programs on the network, a cheap way to get passing movie stars and celebrities on to add a bit of star power to the network, and a cheap way to… do whatever the first one was again. The big problem is that they actually look cheap, so unless you’re Network Ten they tend to lower the tone of the joint. And unless you have some really, really skilled comedy performers involved the end result tends to look like a crap talk show where you need four people to do the job of one decent host. Ahem.
Oh, alright; it did a better job of being what it was than Wednesday Night Fever does of being whatever the hell it’s meant to be. It was pacy, the sketches were brief which is a good thing when you don’t really have any jokes (it’s a clip pretending to be from the 80s! People are dancing!), it had running gags that were mostly rubbish but at least they came at the jokes from various angles (ie, that whole “schongs” thing was lame, but at least they had the fake on-the-street endorsements to mix it up) and while if they completely changed the cast by week two we wouldn’t complain, it’s not like any of them plumbed the depths the way Kate Langbroek did week after week on The Panel.
The question is, considering it has nothing going for it beyond having a bunch of marginally tolerable people talking random crap over the top of each other in a never-ending race to make each other laugh, is that going to be enough? Is this going to be able to survive in the current cut-throat climate of Australian television? Considering it’s currently up against Wednesday Night Fever for the all-important “news laffs” audience… eh, probably.
Mind you, if Ten was really in the entertainment business, they would have put to air the board meeting where they decided to screw over Working Dog by ripping off The Panel‘s format. Guess they never did get over Thank God You’re Here jumping to Seven…