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:
Well played #WNF! Really enjoying this week. Clive's interview a highlight.
— MolkchurianCandidate (@MolksTVTalk) July 10, 2013
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?
Sorry about that.