It’s Like They Don’t Even Want To Win

Good news, everyone! Spicks and Specks is back! In fact, it seems to be on every night of the week at 7pm on ABC2 and… oh wait, that’s the old version. Sorry. Easy mistake to make.

This was going to be a regular old “Vale Spicks and Specks” until we realised that when you’re trying to launch a new version of a much-loved classic, you should maybe stop showing the classic version five nights a week. One of the big challenges the revamped Spicks and Specks had to deal with was getting audiences to accept it as something new… so the ABC kept showing the old version on high rotation? Seems odd.

And while we’re raising an eyebrow quizzically, where were all the repeats? When Randling was struggling the ABC was repeating episodes twice a week; earlier this year Mad as Hell was being repeated weekly both on ABC1 and ABC2. But Spicks and Specks? Nothing. Not even the traditional comedy repeat slot of Friday night just before Rage. In fact, until recently the ABC was repeating episodes of proven dud and total ratings zero Randling there rather than giving Spicks and Specks a second swing at pushing its ratings up. And then they replaced it with Dirty Laundry Live, which is fine with us, but still.

Considering how important the success of the revamped Spicks and Specks was supposed to be to the ABC, and considering how happy they’ve been in the past to game the system when they want to try and create a success – what, no mention of the “massive” viewing figures on iView? Guess only Chris Lilley gets that treatment – it just seems a little odd that it, of all the comedy shows the ABC put to air in 2014, was the one told to sink or swim.

It’s hard to even see who profits from not giving it every possible chance. Is Adam Hills so beloved inside the ABC that sinister forces worked to ensure his legacy wasn’t eclipsed by a Hills-free Spicks and Specks? Was the fact it was an in-house production mean that various ABC minions wanted it dead as a sign of goodwill towards the independent television producers they hope to move on to? Did someone think “hey, maybe we could better spend this money on new and exciting comedy rather than just a moderately well-done panel show that no-one was ever passionate about either way?”

Ok, now we’re really off in fantasy land.

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  • Urinal Cake says:

    It’s probably to do with the fact that everybody there was a hired gun and they couldn’t sell the format overseas. Unlike Denton’s Randling (which they probably had high hopes for), Lilley’s Ja’mie and Thomas’ PLM.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    But that was hardly news – a friend of the blog was recently talking to a TV producer who’d worked on S&S years ago and he said they knew from the start there was no way they could get the music clearances to sell episodes overseas.

    The format itself is a slightly different matter, but even then this was brought back for local reasons not international sales. You’d have to think that while the money would have been nice, overseas sales weren’t the reason why they were trying again.

  • er says:


    On a different note, lots of new Aus TV comedy things happening – Fresh Blood on iView, Kinne on 7mate, the Chris Lilley/David Thorne snowboarding show, David Thorne’s own show, that clip from S2 of Please Like Me that seems much sharper than previously.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    No disagreement regarding the music clearaances issues.

    Now this is conjecture but if S&S was able to rate and do well the ABC would have shown that it had a format where you could shove any three ‘talents’ into for a ‘hit’. A nicer, kinder NMTB for os markets. But that didn’t happen.

    The ABC seems willing to keep low rating domestic programs as long as there’s some sort an os market for them. WIth S&S there couldn’t be any.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    The trouble is that, considering S&S was basically a softened-up knock-off of Rockwiz, you’d have to think anyone overseas interested in the format would just create their own version. Clearly it wasn’t that hard for the ABC to do.

  • Andrew says:

    I didn’t think Spicks and Specks Mk II was that bad. Like its predecessor it was never going to set the world on fire as being groundbreaking, but the new team settled in well (despite not being helped by running the originals on ABC2) and for a half hour of entertaining TV it did its job. Sad that it’s been cut short.

  • Yeps says:

    Exactly. Or in the case of ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’, realise that they’d already done it twenty years ago.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    Yes that’s true. But what S&S had in it’s favour was more family friendly and its games were less reliant on the talent’s humour\charisma(NMTB) or knowledge(RK). Yes it’s feasible that a team with enough time, effort and a bit of originality could come up with a music panel show of it’s own but it seems nowadays only dramas are afforded that ‘finding it’s feet’ leeway. It’s much simpler to buy a tried and true format and then replicate the success tweaking it as necessary. Except with S&S it failed.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    In the US yes, they happily buy any concept even remotely connected to what they really want to do – presumably to avoid lawsuits more than anything else. But in the UK, which you’d guess would be a more logical home for S&S, they’re happy to just steal overseas formats. Plus they already have more panel / comedy game show formats than they know what to do with. It just doesn’t seem likely that anyone would have expected any kind of overseas sales from reviving S&S.

    Now, if some people at the ABC were annoyed that they’d revived an unsaleable format instead of creating something new, *that* might explain the lack of support in-house.