Picking Up the Pieces

So… what if the ABC’s revival of Spicks and Specks doesn’t work? Obviously it’s too soon to tell either way*: great ratings could come from interested passers-by stopping by to check it once before deciding never to return, while poor ratings could be turned around by word-of-mouth and a big promotional effort. Sure, that second one hasn’t worked in living memory – once people decide you’re a dud, a dud you shall remain – but with a new version of a much-loved franchise it seem reasonable to allow the new team some settling in time.

And it is a new team, difficult as that may have been to tell on a casual glance what with the same music and set and guests and jokes and taking four minutes to actually get around the starting the show. Whereas the old version had Alan Brough as the knowledgable, occasionally grumpy one, Myf Warhurst as the knowledgeable, generally nice one and Adam Hills as Your Genial Host, now we have Adam Richards as the funny voice-pulling bubbly fun one, Ella Hooper as the over-emoting and touchy-feely bubbly fun one, and Josh Earl as… Your Genial Host 2.0 It’s not a big change, but as the weeks wear on the difference will become more stark. Or at least, slightly more noticable.

Likewise, the show itself is basically the same show. We’ve read reviews saying some of the games are different; we didn’t watch the original often enough to confirm that. What we can confirm is that this most certainly feels like an episode of Spicks and Specks, even with different faces behind the desks: loads of tolerable banter, a handful of questions just obscure enough to make answering them feel like an achievement, “wacky” games designed to provide laughs when the guests can’t, the occasional musical number to make it feel like more than just another no budget panel show. Boxes: ticked.

But we say again: what if this fails? Ever since the ABC pushed the original Spicks and Specks out the airlock in 2011 they’ve shown themselves utterly incapable of putting together a panel show that’s been even marginally watchable. As for merely replicating Spicks and Specks‘ ratings success… nope, couldn’t manage that either. It’s not like they had a top-rating panel show that they wound down so they could replace it with an equally popular program; they gave it the boot then revealed themselves completely incapable of doing it again.

So instead they’ve brought the corpse of the original back to life. They clearly have so little idea of what it was that made Spicks and Specks work that their only hope of replicating its success is by doing the exact same thing all over again and hoping for the same result. This is not a procedure that delivers results. It’s not even a procedure people expect to work out well. There’s a reason Frankenstein has been a classic for 200 years while I Brought My Wife Back From The Dead And She Was Perfectly Normal And It All Worked Out Just Fine And Nobody Even Noticed The Difference is just a stupid joke title. Sometimes, dead is better.

If this revival tanks, that’s it. The ABC are done as far as panel shows are concerned. Where else can they go? What else can they do? They clearly can’t make ones that aren’t Spicks and Specks, and if they can’t make Spicks and Specks either… what then? Don’t ask us – we’re going to say “make more scripted comedy”, and they’ll never go for that.

Presumably if it does tank the blame lies with the hosts (like we said, everything else is exactly the same), which means the ABC should have taken the approach that got them Spicks and Specks in the first place – unknown yet likable hosts, a subject that encourages performance and also has some general interest, a decent mix of banter and scripted jokes – and tried it with different subjects. But if it was that simple they would have tried that instead of broadcasting Randling and Tractor Monkeys. Right?

 

*though the first episode’s ratings were in the “good but not great” range of 598,000 nash.

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16 Comments

  • Urinal Cake says:

    The rating weren’t great and with TVT’s unofficial PR campaign I’d say the ABC must be worried.

    The show itself. The host was too rapid and shouty for my tastes but he’ll get told this so further episodes should be better. I know a lot is made of Brough’s knowledge but Warhurst was pretty knowledgeable too. I know it’s one episode but I don’t think these tcs have that knowledge to back up their charm/grump. It felt aimed towards a younger market but 5 years is a long time and I just don’t think they’ll tune in with this thing called youtube and twitter.

  • er says:

    “The host was too rapid and shouty for my tastes but he’ll get told this so further episodes should be better.”

    Fingers crossed they haven’t already shot all 26 ala Randlings.
    Any word on how much they’ve shot so far?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    No idea how many they’ve recorded. The old one was notorious for recording massive amounts in huge lumps, so you’d think they’ve already recorded a bunch. That’s not to say Earl can’t grow into the role, and at least they know how the format works.

    Presumably Hooper and Richards are also pretty knowledgeable when it comes to music – they just don’t have the same kind of music knowledge the previous lot had. And broadening out the musical genres covered wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    And Spicks and Specks has only been gone two (and a bit) years, not five – it ended November 2011.

  • Billy C says:

    They were shooting last week so I’m assuming it’s ongoing. Don’t know how far in they are but I don’t think too far. I couldn’t care less either way. I suspect the young audience they want is lost to tv now and the older audience is not going to watch Adam Richard. I really just think he’s too camp for them. Bold move putting the creator and star of one of ABC’s lowest rating show on Spicks and Specks. It’s not Celebrity Splash, or Dog School. It will be interesting to see what happens in coming weeks. I’d assume they didn’t actually broadcast the first show they recorded but maybe they did!

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Old people don’t like camp comedians? Wow, things really have changed.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I was exaggerating for comic effect! The original S&S seemed comfortable in being a bit daggy I don’t get the feeling with this one which felt a lot more contemporary. Obviously the ABC has good reasons to go younger but I think it’s trying to make S&S something it never really was.

    I didn’t really find Richards that camp in fact out of the ‘hosts’ he seemed perform the best.

  • BIlly C says:

    I see your point, I think Richard is an okay stand-up from what I’ve seen. He’s always better when not cast into the celebrity reporting radio role. When he’s not “on”. I think he’ll do okay on this show but I’m not sure audiences will give any of them a chance. Sure a lot of old comedy (Are you being served etc) had that campness about them. But I don’t think it ever worked in Australia. Sure we have Dame Edna but actual gay comics being a bit camp? — I don’t mind it myself and I’d love to be proven wrong but I suspect it’s not a lot of old people’s cup of tea. They hated outland.

    I would be interested in seeing the age breakdowns for last night but given it rated so low they didn’t make the top ten lists to check.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Bob Downe seemed to make a pretty good go of it for a while there.

  • Billy C says:

    True. Perhaps I am wrong. I would be happy to be wrong. I don’t mind a bit of camp humor in moderation.

  • BIlly C says:

    Please review the This is Littleton Trailer. It’s on youtube.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    ‘This is Lowestcommondenominator’

  • saucy gibbon says:

    The trouble is the original survived by being the same thing week in week out. Even only a change in hosts would shock those who tune in to get the same inoffensive, laugh less show as last week.

  • Tristan says:

    A Parks and Recreation rip off.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    There’s a Working Dog production called ‘Utopia’ which seems like a bigger P&R rip off

  • saucy gibbon says:

    It looks like more a Portlandia rip off to me.

    Actually more like The Wedge 2.

  • BIlly C says:

    Spot on. Although the ABC are incredibly bad at making promos for comedy. They make bad shows look terrible and ok shows look bad.
    This could not be as awful as the promo suggests but I’m not holding out much hope due to the wig work.