Well, probably not. But first, the flagging fortunes:
The host of Ten’s evening panel show The Project, Charlie Pickering, is stepping down and will finish up next month.
“The Project has been an incredible ride,” the 36-year-old said in a statement.
“As a stand-up comedian I have never planned to do one thing for five years, let alone five days a week. At the end of last year it was clear to me that I needed to find new challenges.
“Our show has been able to provide a voice to many in our community who go unnoticed. And of that I am immensely proud,” Pickering said.
Ten has confirmed that Pickering will not be replaced, and only Carrie Bickmore and comedian Peter Helliar will carry the show forward.
… for the next few months until the show is quietly put down, we’re guessing. But we’ve been wrong before.
As you’d expect from Michael Idato, there’s a bit more than the usual bitchiness going on in that article – seriously, what’s up with this bit:
When it began, in July, 2009, The 7pm Project was a patchwork of entertainment news, comedy and, inexplicably, a commercial star vehicle for the MTV presenter Ruby Rose.
Remember original panellist James Mathison? What, no hate for him despite his rapid demotion from on-air panellist to “entertainment reporter”? What is it with Sydney people hating Ruby Rose? News flash Sydney-based national media: the rest of Australia couldn’t give a shit.
Anyway, Idato is on the money with this:
His loss, coming so quickly after Hughes, will be deeply felt by the show.
Aahh, that’s right. Hughsie bailed on Ten at the end of last year in what felt like pretty much exactly what he said it was: a man taking a break because he was burnt out and wanted to focus on live performance. But with Pickering – not exactly a man known for his live work, despite regular cash-in appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – also heading for the door (presumably with a hearty cry of “without Hughsie this show is fucked”), perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at Ten’s wider situation.
Short version: they’re screwed.
Puberty Blues was one of Ten’s most anticipated series returns in 2014 but it has failed to live up to expectations.
It is one of a string of failures for Ten with So You Think You Can Dance, Secrets & Lies and The Biggest Loser: Challenge all battling to crack 400,000 viewers.
And suddenly what in better circumstances might have just been a natural turnover of staff burnt out after close to five years of nightly television suddenly looks more like people getting the hell away from an overstuffed crapsack that just fell off the back of the sewage truck. At the moment Ten has the stink of failure about it and pretty much everything they try is vanishing with nary a trace.
Sound familiar? Okay, probably not, considering we’re talking about 25-odd years ago. By the late 80s the never-all-that-successful Network Ten was struggling in the ratings pretty much across the board. In desperation, they turned to Ian McFadyen’s Media Arts company to create a one hour weekly comedy show – well, actually the desperation came when they put the end result (The Comedy Company, natch) on up against Nine’s ratings juggernaut 60 Minutes. Then in a shock twist it promptly hammered the much-vaunted news program in the ratings, swiftly pulling in a massive audience and becoming one of the foundations of the television comedy boom that ran well into the 90s.
So… could Ten try something like that again? Probably not: back in the 80s there was a thriving live comedy scene that television could plunder at will. These days if you’re even halfway competent you’re being snapped up to quickly burn out on panel shows or you’re heading overseas where funny people can actually find work being funny. The Comedy Company worked in part because it was a bunch of new faces (for television) who were really good (thanks to years of working off-screen); that’s not a combo that’s readily available now.
Considering we were outlining the reasons why we don’t think scripted comedy is coming back to the commercial networks any time soon barely a week ago, we’re hardly going to be saying “Ten totes needs to get a comedy show on the air, stat”. Which is a shame, because at this stage they could easily do worse.
Of course, knowing our luck if they did try a comedy it’d just be a beefed up version of the usual panel show crap – or worse, they’d re-resuscitate Good News Week. A decent comedy effort could revive their fortunes, we’re in no doubt of that. We just don’t think they have the guts – or the vision, or the ability to see beyond the usual suspects – to go all in and put on-air something funny and topical and engaged with society that people could get excited about.
You know, the exact opposite of The Project.