At Last, the 2004 Show

We all knew this day was coming, and it seems “this day” is this Wednesday:

Australian TV Guide for Free-To-Air television 2014-06-28 14-20-08

Did you notice? No, not that ABC2 is repeating Mad as Hell – too much Micallef is never enough in our book – but that the Wednesday night ABC1 comedy night is no more.

Yes, there’s a repeat of QI at 8pm. Yes, there’s a repeat of Julia Zemiro’s Kitchen Rules at 10.13pm. But inbetween? A documentary about Lance Armstrong? What’s so funny about that?

So time for a moment’s silence for the ABC’s Wednesday night Australian comedy line-up. From its origins back in 2005 with Spicks and Specks and We Can Be Heroes, through the glory days of The Chaser’s War on Everything (season two), The Gruen Transfer and Summer Heights High, to the ABC taking a massive shit all over it with Randling, The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide to Knife Fighting and Tractor Monkeys, it at least made it easy for fans of Australian comedy to know where to look.

We’re guessing that the ABC will try and keep Wednesday night comedy ticking over once Gruen and The Chaser are back – you know, shows that would rate well no matter where the ABC scheduled them – but as for newcomers… yeah, good luck. Without the Wednesday night stronghold you’ll have to sink or swim on your merits. Which, considering the general public’s perfectly justifiable attitude that most Australian comedy is unfunny try-hard crap, basically means you’re screwed.

And so we return to the dark days of the early 21st Century, when the ABC scheduled comedy anywhere they had a gap. Remember the Monday 8pm comedy slot occupied by The Games? What about Tuesday nights at 9.30pm, when the ABC would ditch halfway decent UK stuff like Spaced? Or even Thursday nights, which is where the first four episodes of Eagle and Evans ran in 2004 before it was pulled off air for two months before resuming late night Fridays?

Whatever you think of The Chaser quality wise, you’d be hard-pressed to deny they’ve been a major comedy asset for the ABC over the last decade. So maybe now’s a good time to point out that they were basically dumped by the ABC after CNNNN, and when they returned to do The Chaser’s War on Everything it was broadcast on an “unstable” Friday night timeslot – basically, it aired whenever the UK murder mystery shown at 8.30pm wrapped up. Ratings were good for 2006 but not great; around 800,000 at the peak.

So for 2007 they were moved to the 9pm Wednesday timeslot after Spicks and Specks. Hey presto, ratings doubled: 1.5 million was not unheard of. Was the second series twice as good as the first? That’s a no. In fact, a few high profile yet pointless stunts aside (this was the time of the APEC Motorcade stunt), the second series seemed repetitive, worn-out, and heavily reliant on cheap stunts. But it rated twice as well! Because people knew where to find it!

The ABC won’t be making that mistake again.


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  • Andore Jr. says:

    Forgive me if I sound straight out of the 1990s, but the question still remains: can a family sit around and watch it? If they can, it might rate well (Mad As Hell, TGYH, Spicks & Specks, Hey Hey it’s Saturday**), if it’s not for families, then individuals will either watch it on iView / youtube, or wait for the box set.

    I mean the only reason two or more people jointly watch a video screen in this day and age is due to some possibility of common interest / social cohesion. I still believe people prefer this cohesion, even with the TV world in the palm of their hand. But fuck, I could be speaking from some kind of bubble.

    Either way I can’t see my kids warmly gathered round the couch to watch ‘satire’ about whatever animal Chris Kenny is fucking this week, no matter how elegantly chastised I am for my closed-mindedness.

    ** it rated at one point, didn’t it?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Do they give ratings boxes to single-resident homes? In theory it could be possible that family members are the only people who actually watch television sets and therefore are the only people who count as far as ratings are concerned. But considering the shit that is generally served up as being “family-friendly” in this country, lets hope not.

  • Billy C says:

    They are supposed to give boxes to people that reflect the broader population. So if x percentage of the city is single person households then. X percentage should have a box. Seems strange that this site seems to be the only people writing about the demise of Wednesday night. What would they have shown if Spicks had of survived? Perhaps they could shift some of the upcoming ABC2 shows to the main channel. Good for Offspring in its last season. Bad for local comedy.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    Considering ‘The Voice (Kids)’ is Australian ‘family-friendly’ fare as 13 said let’s hope not. On the other hand other countries do okay at it- ‘Modern Family’ isn’t that bad. I’m surprised the ABC hasn’t tried a family (middle-class parents and three children) sitcom out yet. The other format is panel shows which the ABC has tried and failed at.

    I get a feeling PLM2 will be bumped up to ABC1.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Upper Middle Bogan is ABC’s stab at the middle-class sitcom, though clearly it has a few (maybe too many) rough edges on it. We really should find out if The Time of Our Lives still has comedy-related subplots in it – that’s the ABC’s big “family” gun at the moment.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Good point – if S&S was meant to run another six weeks, what was the ABC going to program at 9pm?

  • Alex says:

    I don’t know for sure, but I get the idea that ABC are beginning to try some new things with their comedy content, taking into account the changing way we watch TV – or don’t watch TV. Maybe they’re beginning to look to the BBC3/iplayer model and move new comedy online.

    For instance, I’d be interested on your take on the large collection of new “Fresh Blood” comedies now on IView. A mixed bag for sure. The way I see it, there are a few promising ones – Fancy-Boy, Aunty Donna, Touched by an Anglegrinder were all good, and maybe a couple of others whose names I forget, that are at least a bit different – even if not all the jokes quite make it. On the flipside, a few of them are from The Wedge school of jokes – I mean “Couples”… where to even start?
    Overall it’s good to see some new comedy getting made, with new people in them. Well, mostly new. The “floppy guy” song was funny but you’d hardly call the Axis of Awesome “fresh blood” would you?

    Whatever you make of it, it’s interesting if this is where ABC is taking things.