Tractor Monkeys is Back!

Tractor Monkeys is back! Can’t you feel the excitement in the air? The electricity humming across this great land as in homes and pubs and vacant lots people look up with a thrill in their hearts at the news that Tractor Monkeys is back! Finally life has meaning again. Finally we have cause to go on. Finally. Finally.

Oh wait, Tractor Monkeys is shit. Sorry, our mistake. Why this total waste of everything put into it was brought back for a second series would be a mystery, but we all know why: the ABC screwed up their planned 2013 revival of Spicks & Specks – in itself an attempt to correct a previous mistake – and so had to fall back on bringing back a show no-one liked, watched, or even remembered from earlier this year. Your tax dollars at work!

To go even deeper into rumour, we heard that the ABC’s plan for reviving Spicks & Specks was to bring back the format but use the cast of Tractor Monkeys – Monty Dimond and Dave O’Neil – as team captains, Merrick Watts as host. This was such an amazingly stupid idea that even the ABC had second thoughts… but they’re still going to do it if this season of Tractor Monkeys takes off. And oh look, now it’s on at the all-but-automatically higher rating time of 8pm so they can claim it’s doing better in the ratings second time around! Yeah, this fight ain’t fixed at all.

(But seriously, judging by his work hosting Tractor Monkeys having Merrick Watts host anything more involved than a small child’s birthday party is an astoundingly bad idea, and if his name appears anywhere on the press release announcing the return of Spicks & Specks it will fail. FACT.)

Reportedly they’ve tweaked the Tractor Monkey format so it’s not so much comedy death this time around, but whatever they changed wasn’t detectable by the human eye. “Hilarious” old clips mocking the fact that people in the past weren’t exactly like we are today? Check. Watts shoe-horning in questions every time a conversation threatens to become interesting? Check. Editing so clumsy it makes Randling look like the work of Thelma Schoonmaker (look it up)? Check. Team captains who feel exactly like third rate versions of the already nothing special Spicks & Specks team captains OH HOLY CRAP THE RUMOURS WERE TRUE? Check-a-roonie.

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for a show that breaks out the vagina and scrotum jokes five minutes into its very first episode. It’s less hard to feel sorry for the much-hyped Hannah Gadsby when her big joke for the night was answering “What did Mary Quant name the mini skirt after?”  with “her Quant.” It’s funny because it sounds a little bit like “cunt” you see! And obviously “mini skirt” really means “cunt” so… hang on a second, I’m sure there was an actual joke here a minute ago.

We all know these panel shows live or die by the chemistry between the panellists – none was on display in this first episode, by the way – so it’s hardly fair to complain that for an episode supposedly based on fashion there was a fair bit about dancing, slang and music videos. It is fair to complain that the big final game was a): basically Celebrity Head from Hey Hey It’s Saturday but even slower paced and b): the kind of thing Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation would either have rejected outright or managed to turn into actual comedy. TAYG was a solid, quirky, funny show that made no lasting impression on the Australian audience: if you can’t do better than that, go home.

Tractor Monkeys was a failure in pretty much every way the first time around. Having it back on our screens is good news for nobody apart from the people involved in its production. For all the talk about how they’ve tweaked the format, they’ve changed nothing that counts and improved it in no way that matters. Tractor Monkeys might be worthwhile at 6pm on a Sunday night when its utter pointlessness and long laugh-free stretches could go unnoticed by all but the elderly and infirm: having this crap back on in prime time for the second time in a year is a fucking insult.

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  • simbo says:

    Wednesday at 8 may be a higher rating than wherever it was slotted previously, BUT … last week, reruns of QI in the same slot were doing quite ridiculously well. I cannot imagine QI fans sticking around for Merrick, Dave and the rest. (source: TV tonight,

    Also noting, the Beloved-of-This-Site “Mad As Hell”‘s final episode for 2013 wasn’t able to beat a re-run of QI shown later in the same night… (source: TV tonight…. Tractor Monkeys was also airing that night, apparently, and failed to crack the top 20 (neither, for that matter, did Micallef’s “Mr and Mrs Murder”)

    Anyway, point being … the 8pm slot is far from a certainty to deliver the ABC justification for handing Spicks and Specks to the monkeys team just yet…

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    We hope you’re right. Then again, the ABC was showing Randling three times a week (well, at least twice) in an attempt to make its ratings look good for a while there. It (sadly) wouldn’t surprise us if someone made the claim that – compared solely to the previous season – Tractor Monkeys had improved this time around.

    QI is a tricky one to compare other shows to, mind you – it seems to have a fairly devoted fanbase at the moment after building up years of goodwill, so comparing it to newer shows is a little unfair. Now, if the ABC had left Spicks & Specks on the air, that’d be an interesting compare and contrast to make…

  • Charles De Gaulle says:

    I don’t know if that Spicks rumour is true, O’Neil knows a lot about music so it’s possible. I have heard rumours that they are actively casting and seeing people for Spicks. I watched 5 minutes of Tractor Monkeys and it held zero interest. It cracked the top 20 last night but 10 is struggling so much that it’s not surprising.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The S&S rumour seemed a bit iffy to us too, but that’s no reason not to share – and if you squint it does look like O’Neil could fill the Brough slot while Dimond steps into Warhurst’s shoes. Still, after the first series of TM flopped it’s no surprise that they’re casting their net a bit wider for S&S 2.0.

  • urinal cake says:

    QI is like Gruen -for some reason humour must be informative for ABC-types.

    There are plenty of critically acclaimed shows that don’t rate well. MAH is one that I agree with the critics. PLM however is one which I think the audience was right to avoid despite good reviews.

    On paper filling out the roles for a new S&S shouldn’t be hard. The host/captains aren’t ‘big’ personalities. Hell I remember an ABC promo which was essentially ‘Myf is sort of pretty’. That said O’Neil would make a decent captain as long as he was resigned to play second role to the guests.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    That was the thing about S&S – the team captains were often happy to just sit back and be knowledgeable about music and let the guests stand out. Dave O’Neil doesn’t really seem the type, and Monty Dimond doesn’t seem to have the general knowledge.

  • james crunch says:

    Why does the ABC support this low-brow dross? Bong-damaged, second rate “comedians” laughing at each others’ limp lines. It’s like being trapped in a bad share house, with irritating laughter drifting through from dickheads in the next room. That these people have a career in comedy is fucking amazing. That they are being paid from the public purse is a tragedy. Send these folk back to the factory floor or agricultural labor.