You Have To Wonder Who Commissions This Stuff

SBS has delayed its launch of upcoming Paul McDermott chat show, Room 101.

The series sees McDermott’s return to television chatting to celebrities such as Ray Martin, Julia Zemiro, HG Nelson, Julia Morris, Matt Preston, Noni Hazlehurst, about their pet hates.

Originally due to premiere next Monday at 9:30pm, it has been held by SBS pending an earlier timeslot later in the year. SBS will replace it with a repeat of Gourmet Farmer Afloat.

(from TVTonight)

Replaced by repeats of Gourmet Farmer Afloat. Is there a grimmer fate in Australian comedy? Oh wait, watching it sounds pretty grim too. “Ray Martin, Julia Zemiro, HG Nelson, Julia Morris, Matt Preston, and Noni Hazlehurst” are “celebrities” now? You don’t say. And by that we mean “don’t say that, you’re scaring the children”.

But isn’t this a case of holding it over for a better timeslot? Isn’t that a vote of confidence in the end product? Well, that depends: if it’s shown five nights a week at 6pm, that’s not so good. In fact, if it’s broadcast in an earlier timeslot that people don’t know to check for comedy, that’s not so good either. So ideally you’d want to show it in a timeslot that people already know as a home for SBS comedy… oh, wait:

SBS Programmer Peter Andrews was recently asked by TV Tonight if the 9:30 Monday slot was a big ask for a new entertainment show.

“Yes, but we’ll do everything to make some noise so the audience know that Room 101 is there. There’s no soft timeslot as you know in television − not at all − so it’s about, we’ve established 9:30 on a Monday night as where we’re, you know, a little bit of entertainment and comedy, so we want to keep that going,” he said.

It could always be worse, mind you: the ABC’s literature show The Book Club – AKA your monthly reminder that Marieke Hardy was not forced into hiding after Laid 2 – has been shifted to the “sexy new time” of 6pm Sundays. There are probably worse timeslots, but good luck getting Question Time to give them up.

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  • rachelrachelsons says:

    I have never understood why Marieke Hardy is on The Book Club. There are actual Australian writers and academics and critics who could probably use the money and might have something interesting to say. Hardy never has anything valuable or insightful to say about the books and just sits there bullying whichever book she’s misunderstood, and anyone else on the panel who has a different view. Her pretentious outfits on the show are ridiculous too. It could be a really clever and mature program with some intelligent insights but she turns it into a 16 year olds power play who takes pleasure in offending convention.

    Sad, very very sad. How can this obvious nepotism exist at the ABC? Isn’t everyone involved utterly ashamed? We hold our doctors and financial to high standards and wouldn’t employ someone who merely has the right contacts and desires. They have to actually do the job professionally. Why don’t we hold our television performers to the same standards?

  • Billy C says:

    I don’t think you know what nepotism means.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    In Hardy’s case, her TV work *is* nepotism to some extent – both her parents were TV producers and her first big writing break was on a show they were producing.

    By this stage though it’s fair to say she’s responsible for her own career. One of us at Team Tumbleweeds is still scarred from hearing an ABC TV presenter say a few years back that the dress code for women there was “Marieke Hardy”.

  • simbo says:

    Hang on, Room 101 is a UK format that’s existed for 23 years (21 of those on TV). Although I suppose it would be novel for McDermott to be hosting a copy of a UK format where they’re actually paying the rights and using the original title….

  • rachelrachelsons says:

    As already pointed out her career was based entirely on family connections. Whether it persists for that reason depends on whether her current success is still connected to that nepotism. I would say that it does persist because nepotism at the ABC is so entrenched. Family contacts become replaced by professional contacts. There isn’t any merit involved.

  • Billy C says:

    I don’t buy the idea that if you get one gig out of family connections every other gig is because of that. I used to really like her of Triple R. I’m less interested in her on the book club or her tv work but I don’t think she’s getting paid to write episodes of the Family Law because her Grandpa wrote Power Without Glory. She’s getting the gigs because there are very few people in this country who have any experience writing narrative television and she has a lot. Whether it’s any good is another question but I don’t think her eps of Packed to the Rafters would have been all that different form anyone else.

  • Yeps says:

    I’m not going to dismiss her whole career as one big long nepotistic shuffle, but I do want to take issue with the suggestion that there just aren’t many writers out there who could do what she does.

    There are many, many many many many writers out there in Australia who could (and do) produce far better work than her. The reason that they don’t have the ‘experience’ necessary to prove themselves is because our industry is small and the pool is already full of people like Hardy who got their floaties slipped on nice and early.

    Again, I’m not saying her writing is bad and she’s being held aloft by some grand conspiracy – she clearly works well in a writer’s room or else she wouldn’t keep getting hired onto the next project. But for a small, risk-adverse industry, experience is certainly attractive, as you say. And it doesn’t seem that fair that writers like Hardy get a head-start on everyone else, allowing their resumes to swell with more and more opportunity while others never even find that first opening to get their foot in the door.

    That’s the kind of nightmare scenario that leads to two seasons of flotsam like ‘Laid’.

  • rachelrachelsons says:

    I agree with what what Yeps said

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Presumably SBS – being the network that actually admits other countries exist – didn’t think they could get away with just lifting a concept and making a bootleg version. And yeah, it must be a career first for McDermott, unless that dancing show he used to host was a licensed version?

  • Billy C says:

    Good News Week was a licensed version of Have I Got News for You. It was listed in the credits every episode.

  • Billy C says:

    I think there should be new writers given a chance but I also think that everyone who’s ever written a blog post thinks they can write an ep of tv. This is however often not the case and other writers end up being brought in to do “additional material” drafts to rewrite the new kids work. Do I think we have great writing in this country? Not for the most part but we have quiet a few reliable writers who can deliver serviceable scripts on time. And yes Laid was a high concept series that didn’t really work and should have been left at one series.

  • simbo says:

    I don’t think it was liscenced when it first began, I think the licencing and credit came later.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Was the ABC version licenced? Or just the Ten version?

  • Yeps says:

    Obviously this is all going to boil down to opinion – since we none of us have the benefit of reading the countless unproduced scripts littering slush piles across the country – but I wasn’t thinking of ‘everyone who’s ever written a blog post’ (which honestly, sounds a little simplistically dismissive).

    I’m talking about the innumerable talented scriptwriters in university/TAFE/private writing programs across the country, who end up butting up against a seemingly impenetrable club of already ‘experienced’ writers out in the field; the scriptwriters forced to work for nothing cranking out plays for amateur productions just to get their work heard somewhere – anywhere; the ones who circle the drain trying to thread the soul-crushing gauntlet of trying to get funding for a film in this country while retaining even the barest scraps of their original vision.

    To me, arguing that the old faithfuls are preferable to fostering new talent just seems to be aiming for stagnation. It suggests that the only ‘originality’ we will ever see will be whenever the *next* Marieke Hardy gets grandfathered into a writing position.

    And god help us all.

  • Billy C says:

    Here’s an article form 1997 that mentions it. So I’d imagine it was licensed from first broadcast in 1996.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    According to this: Hat Trick and the ABC were in dispute in 98/99 over claims that Good News Week had “copied the format for Have I Got News For You“. So it was a bootleg for the first few years at least.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Or you could even listen to us quoting The Australian from back in 2012:

    Also, Billy C, none of those articles in your link seem to mention Have I Got News For You. Unless we’re misreading something?

  • Billy C says:

    Well the article says” the show is loosely based on the original British version but there are differences.” – which I assume would mean Have I Got News For You as I remember it being listed in the credits. It does appear there was a dispute. I can’t say what year they started listing it but I think it was the early ABC days as I’d never heard of Have I Got News For You until I saw it on the credit. It did definitely at some point list it but perhaps that was later as part of a settlement. I must say Room 101 is a pretty weak format and way too negative to work.

  • Bernard says:

    Yeps, you’ve obviously been through “The Machine” and come out mangled, or else you know someone who has. The Australian Writers’ Guild represents over 2,000 writers, yet we keep seeing the same few names on the screen (both big and small screen).

    I look at the god-awful crap that goes into production (anyone seen the recent “Hiding” on the ABC?) and wonder if that really is the pinnacle of Australian screenwriting.

    I know two dozen screenwriters (people with qualifications and multiple screenplays under their belts, some of which have placed in international scriptwriting competitions), yet none has ever had any of their work go into production. They pitch and they pitch, but nothing ever goes anywhere. And, as you say, if Screen Australia ever gets its hands on something, then it goes through a further process of “development” which often just means taking all the fun out of it and replacing it with socially relevant “messages” like Aboriginal dysfunction and heroin addiction.

    End rant.