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.