They’ve fallen over!

Viewers of Wednesday Night Fever, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting and The Roast could easily be forgiven for thinking that we, Australians, just can’t do sketch comedy any more. Not relatively young Australians anyway. Good sketch comedy in 2013 is looking like an old person’s game, because apart from Mad As Hell, starring and co-written by 51 year old Shaun Micallef, and Clarke & Dawe, with 65 year olds John Clarke and Bryan Dawe, it’s a laugh-free zone out there.

Over on commercial TV, your only opportunity to watch something that could be described as “comedy” and doesn’t involve a bunch of breakfast radio types sitting around a desk, is Slide Show, an improvised mix of sketches and games featuring comedians and personalities such as Toby Truslove, Cal Wilson, Anh Do and Tiffany Hall. Based on a French show called Vendredi Tout est Permis Avec Arthur (Friday Anything Goes with Arthur), Slide Show’s big selling point is that the two teams of three have to perform a sketch on an improvised set…that’s tilted 22 degrees. Oh, and the camera films it at 22 degrees so it looks even more hilarious (theoretically).

In France – the principal flag bearer for physical comedy, mime and slapstick in the 21st Century – this is possibly de rigueur as far as TV hilarity goes. In Australia – and we say this knowing full well we’re hardly pumping world class laughs here – it looks like some production company combined It’s A Knockout, Thank God You’re Here and Hole In The Wall in some drunken, all-night creative session, and accidently submitted it to the Channel 7 programming department. How else to explain a show that’s basically got one reasonably interesting concept in it: the tilted set (although as many have pointed out, The Micallef Programme did this and even they nicked it from Buster Keaton).

But before you get excited about all that improvised comedy on an angle, bear in mind that the tilted set is only used twice in the hour-long show, meaning they have to pad the rest of it out with guessing games. These include slight re-workings of old favourites such as Pictionary, shadow puppets and Charades, with the most original (or pointless) of them being a version of Charades where the person doing the mime is hoisted up in a harness. Re-read that last sentence if you think we’re making this up. And try not to think too hard about how it’s 2013 and TV should have progressed beyond this point.

Anyway, Slide Show rated really well when it debuted last Wednesday, winning its timeslot and getting 1.3 million viewers…so what would we know about anything? Apart from that while the people slipping and sliding down a set has some appeal, there’s a certain irony to the fact that the rest of the show consists of the kind of dull parlour games you’d end up playing if the family TV broke. Based on this, we’re guessing the makers of Slide Show are already working on a large-scale, televised version of Monopoly, where Toby Truslove dresses as a boot and hops around a giant board making property deals. Except the board’s a series of pontoons floating in an Olympic-size swimming pool. Wait…that’s not a bad idea. Anyone know the number of the Channel 7 programming department?

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9 Comments

  • BIlly C says:

    I only saw a few minutes of it but I wouldn’t write it off. This is entertainment for families. It’s the home and away of comedy. Let’s put something on light that people can watch together. Yes it’s parlour games. Yes your criticism is fair but I would rather have this be popular than Big Brother. This is a show that young kids will like. At least we have people being creative on some level even if that level is very shallow. Not everything can be Brass Eye. Maybe there will be some breakout stars from this show that will then get to make something else because they’ve got some screen time. Look at It’s A Date. The first ep has a scene where Poh gets urinated on. Could you think of a scene more likely to have an ABC audience switch off quicker? That’s what they went out with first. And they started with Hellier who nobody wants to watch.
    Slideshow is playing broad and safe. It’s colour and movement. I have no interest in watching it but it’s been interesting to see the reviews that admit begrudgingly that they laughed a lot while watching it. Rather than the usual “it’s well observed and insightful but doesn’t have huge laughs” reviews that local comedies usually get. It could sink like Celebrity Splash but I think families with ratings boxes will be sitting down to watch this together and that’s what could give it decent numbers. If it falls flat there’s a new game in a couple of minute. It’s bit sized irrelevance and I don’t have any problem with that at all/

  • Bean Is A Carrot says:

    Fair enough, we get that it’s not “for us”. The real problem with the show is that in between the two tilted set sketches are a lot of really, really dull guessing games, which are all basically the same but for some minor differences. And surely even kids and their stressed-out parents will get sick of them by week 3?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The It’s a Date urination scene (such as it is) is not exactly in-your-face. Compared to the crap that went out in week one of Wednesday Night Fever, it’s almost subtle.

    The strippers and salty sex talk in the other story in the first episode is probably more likely to offend, but that’s why it’s the 9pm show.

  • BIlly C says:

    True but WNF didn’t exactly set the world on fire ratings wise and they toned it down because it didn’t work. It is to be honest difficult to compare ABC ratings to other networks as Iview is so much better and available on different platforms. There is no real incentive to watch live. I don’t blame them for the urination seen. Maybe it’s funny, I’ll make my mind up when I see it in context but it’s not good as a promo (again not the producers fault). In regards to Slideshow I have no idea if the audience will get bored or not but you could say the voice is just people singing songs, or deal or no deal is just people playing a guessing game or a quiz show is just people answering questions. There’s variation within the format. They just need to keep people from switching over after home and away.
    We shall see if it lasts.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I think you guys are conflating a lot of different ideas about the ‘ABC audience’, ‘family audience’ and ‘Heliar audience’. Comedies popular with families such as ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Modern Family’, ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ and even ‘Spicks and Specks’ aren’t opposed to references to sex, alcohol, soft drugs etc as long as it is implied and within context. Promos of ‘IAD’ and the first episodes of ‘WNL’ these references just seemed gratuitous.

    These ‘parlour game’ shows seem to rate well at the start but then lose steam because unlike the UK we don’t have sustainable talent to keep it fresh week to week.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The Voice is just people singing songs for sure, but it’s also a bit of a freak show where a superficial idea of musical ability is raised above all others to create a spectacle all but unrelated to what most of us would think of as a “good” performance. It’s taking a rich and complex artform designed to both entertain and express truths about the human condition and reducing it to “warble your voice a lot while the celebrity judges shout and punch the air”.

    So yeah, The Voice and Slide Show have a lot in common.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I think the concept has moved onto ‘personal tragedy’ + “warble your voice a lot while the celebrity judges shout and punch the air”.

  • Billy C says:

    I fundamentally disagree that we do not have sustainable talent to keep them fresh. Every year lots of young Australian comics go off to Edinburgh get 4 star reviews and then come back and are ignored by television for years, sometimes forever. That’s improved the last few years a little. Ronny Chieng is in IAD and he’s been invited to Just For Laughs. Likewise Luke McGregor, Matt Okine getting some tv spots here and there. A few years ago that would not have happened because their weren’t enough shows and young talent was ignored. Josh Thomas only got a shot because the format dictated a young person be involved on TBYG. Otheriwse he’s be on the shelf or triple J until he was 30.
    The problem has been that in the past you couldn’t get on tv until you’d been on tv. They’d just go for the same old names. Slideshow should ditch the celebrities if they want the show to last.
    You are perhaps right about audiences but I reject entirely the concept that there is a Hellier audience. The guy can’t sell live shows. There’s a reason he does one off shows and short seasons. No body wants to go. He has had chance after chance to do something good. My point about the urination scene on the way to the date presumably is that audience may tune out because they are gratuitous. From the promo the joke seems way too stretch out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided that if there were going to do a shoot that involved closing a road they better get their money’s worth. What they do have going for them is that there is very little to watch on thursday.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I agree with you about IAD. The ‘Heliar audience’ was tongue in cheek. ‘Strauchnie’ was probably the only thing that people really liked of Heliar’s. And that was only in the AFL states and a few years back.

    The only company/talent that seems to be able to sustainably put out decent shows week to week is ‘Working Dog’. The other issue why
    Okine, Chieng, O’Dougherty are getting ‘a shot’ is because of the need for content to feed channels. The Internet (youtube), digital tv, pay tv in recent years have created a rush to find the ‘next thing’. Hence pivot tv and JT trying to recreate HBO and FoC/Girls. And the ABC in order to justify it’s existence trying to find something popular ala K&K. As it’s been discussed here before it seems most younger stand ups are doing the writing/performing themselves (Stewart Lee would be proud) but that doesn’t necessarily translate into good tv. For parlour games there are two roles as the guest and as the ‘host’. As guests who appear occassinally and ‘bounce off each other’ etc I doubt Okine et al would have any problem but as the host and being solely responsible to come up with the ‘games’ week to week is a huge ask.