Who’s Got the Fever for the Flavour?

The final line of the second episode of Wednesday Night Fever was “shit happens”. Sometimes it even happens on the ABC. We weren’t part of the group calling for Wednesday Night Fever to be axed after its, um, sub-par debut last week, simply because we didn’t think the mistakes that many saw in the show – the relentless crudity, the simplistic sketches, the lack of insight displayed in the impressions – actually were mistakes. This was a show aimed directly at an audience they assumed thought in cliches and giggled at swearing: why then wouldn’t you pack your show with cliches and swearing?

Oh right, they’re not funny.

Then later in the week it turned out the Wednesday Night Fever team had forgotten to password-protect the Google Group where they passed around scripts and once Crikey found out they promptly stuck a bunch of unaired sketches online. We hope you’re sitting down for this bombshell; the sketches weren’t that great. Unfortunately Crikey then went on to lambast the WNF team for their racism and sexism, which is fine except that they hadn’t aired these particular sketches so… they were crap for not airing crap sketches? But presumably without that angle there was no real reason to run a story about the unaired sketches and we’re always interested in those so well done anyway.

Meanwhile, word trickled down that even the producers felt they’d gone over the top with the swearing, so we eagerly awaited week two with baited breath. Okay, we went down the pub instead and so missed it, but we did remember to set the VCR and when we saw tweets like this our hopes soared:

Could it be? Could they have turned what was pretty much the comedy equivalent of the Titanic (the ship, not the film) around in one short week?

Of course not. Oh sure, if the swearing and cheap personal swipes were what you’d hated about week one, pretty much all of that was gone in week two. Seriously, all we counted was one “shit”, one “mother-finger” and a weird censored bit during the final song where the singer sang “I’m in shape but it’s the shape of a preg-*out-of-nowhere guitar riff cutting off the rest of the line*. But we like swearing and offensiveness – well, at least when it’s funny, which it wasn’t last week: all the stuff we didn’t like about week one was, as we’d suspected all along, still loud and proud in week two.

Sammy J’s opening song was smart and sharp. Unfortunately it contained exactly one joke – when we stop the boats all our problems will be cured – and it was topical in 2008. Yes, Australian politics runs in circles: that doesn’t make old jokes funny again.

We really should know better by now, but the return of “Clive Palmer” really hammered home just how low WNF has set the bar for itself. If the funniest things you have to say about Clive Palmer are a): he’s fat and b): his speech is occasionally muddled, go home now. Both those things are true, but in Australia today he’s one of the few people with real hands-on power and if you don’t even hint at the menace there – if all you’ve got to say on the subject is “look, he’s trying to catch food in his mouth” and then make jokes about how he can’t pronounce Leonardo DiCaprio’s name SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK – you are wasting our time.

Look, Molks seemed to like this sketch so we’re not surprised we hate it, but let’s explain why some more: making fun of a fat guy because he’s fat is pretty basic stuff. Pointing out he speaks in riddles is again, pretty obvious. So then what? He’s still a very wealthy man running a chunk of an industry that’s dominated our economy and political thought for the last decade. Maybe there’s a contrast between his public appearance and his professional standing worth looking at? You know, if you wanted to make at least one joke that went beyond the screamingly obvious?

But this isn’t that show. This is a show where the jokes, such as they are, are meant to come entirely from recognition rather than surprise. Why else do a fake sports report about angry tennis dads, a topic generally considered exhausted by 2005? Margaret & David – or at least, we’re assuming it was meant to be them because for once the impersonations were off-brand – reviewing The Ashes? Wow, it’s like Review with Myles Barlow never happened. Also, didn’t they do the same “M&D review different stuff” joke on producer Rick Kalowski’s previous show Double Take? Oh yeah, they did.

On the plus side… well, the Assange sketch was something that didn’t completely embarrass our nation as a whole, as for once the boob jokes actually tied in with the character. Though if you go back and watch it, there’s a McDonald bag slap-bang in the middle of the frame during one of the interview bits that probably violates the ABC’s rules on product placement. But then Downton Abbott returned – yes, of the five segments in week two, three featured reoccurring characters. Buckle in for the next few weeks, it’s going to be the same bumpy ride over and over and over again.

Having Julia Gillard sing “Moves Like Jagger” – a song from mid-2011, which might as well be 1856 by pop culture standards – really just rammed home the way this show feels like something made by 45 year olds for 12 year olds. Except that 12 year olds a): don’t watch the ABC, b): have better things to do than watch TV at 9.30 at night and c): have better taste. And a line where Gillard complains that all Tim does is sit in the shed “not proposing” – zing! Take that, unmarried couples!

But there’ll be plenty of time later on to discuss Wednesday Night Fever‘s steady strand of mildly creepy cultural conservatism later. If it’s lasted this long – and the executive producer is set to become his own boss as the new ABC Head of Comedy – obviously it’s not going anywhere in a hurry. Sure, the ratings might be shaky

ABC News was strong at 905,000 for ABC1. 7:30 was 664,000, Adam Hills Tonight was 649,000, Qi was 637,000, Seasons was 405,000 but Wednesday Night Fever fell to 324,000 in its second outing.

-but we all know how little the ABC cares about such things. Did we mention Tractor Monkeys is coming back later this year?

We did?


Sorry about that.

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  • Blues says:

    It looks like we’re going to see those unaired sketches anyway as the Julian Assange skit was one of them, i can only imagine they’re already filmed and ready to go. At least it was the least rubbish bit of the show but then every other skit felt it was just the double take crew using the material they didn’t get to use before getting axed last time.

  • BIlly C says:

    Outland starter at 324,000. Without At the Movies around to keep people tuned in and State of Origin next week it will be interesting to see if it ends up under 250,000. Knife fighting was bumped later when it hit 292,000. You would have to think they’d consider shunting it or switching it with the Hollowmen repeat. I’m predicting 270,000 next week and a bottom of 200,000 by series end. I don’t think it will go quite as low as Outland.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    It was? You wouldn’t happen to have any of the others lying around, would you?

  • Blues says:

    Unfortunately the Crikey article that linked to WNF’s google group that contained the sketches and legal advice was pulled down and it’s looking like WNF have either locked down or removed that account. Kicking myself for not saving the PDFs now, the Julian Assange one was the only one that that’s aired, but if they’re going to use them then brave yourself for
    -Genevieve Morris in a fat suit as Gina Rhinehart talking about aboriginals and how she’s doing a good thing for them, I don’t remember it that well besides it just being crap.
    -and when the royal baby is born they’ll likely air the skit where they mention the royal vagina too much and Prince Phillip offending the king of Africa by wearing blackface and singing Mami at him. This skit is what got Crikeys attention, it entirely relies on blackface being funny because its offensive and saying vagina, but then it is also the most likely one to stay unaired.
    The legal PDFs I saw didn’t really seem to force them to change anything, but were doing things like if the sketch is allowed because it provides balanced coverage.

    Sorry that the details are so vague, last time I looked at the scripts was last week. But rest assured they aren’t afraid to air those sketches if legal is fine with them. If they can’t use them I fear Downton Abbot will take up half the show to fill the time.

  • Sqheyer says:

    Should point out that Outland’s lead-in was rating around 500 000 at the time, so this is a bigger fall in real terms.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    it’ll be interesting to see if being revealed on Crikey is enough to stop them from airing those sketches – it’s hard to see the Crikey story getting more than a few hundred (maybe thousand) readers really.

    Going by week two, which was a *lot* tamer, the royal baby sketch might be dropped because it doesn’t fit in with the shows new direction.

  • Blues says:

    Yeah I was thinking the same thing, the article got pulled quicker than I expected. At least they seem willing to change things that don’t work like the swearing, shame they didn’t make it funny. Maybe they’ll just tweak the skit a little and have it implied he was being racist, depends if they want to try and boost viewer figures with some good ol’ fashioned outrage.

  • Billyc says:

    They’ve also got it tough as very few people would still be awake after the snore fest that is Adam Hills Tonight. Anyone who hasn’t nodded off and was watching it in the first place is certainly the wrong audience for it. They should play it on ABC3 at about 6.30pm. It’s clearly pitched at 12-13 year olds in terms of its humor.

  • Kinski says:

    WNF: Wednesday Night Fail.