One of the many things that still puzzles us about The Weekly – what, you thought just because we stopped moaning about it that we’d stopped watching? – is the way it seems to be gathering praise from various corners of the press for delivering hard-hitting segments that are clearly weak as piss. To quote one of us from a recent conversation because nobody else seems to be mentioning it:
People seem to like the way it’s not really funny yet really strident about non-controversial issues.
Put another way, a lot of people seem to be impressed by the way The Weekly runs an extended segment each week tackling a “big issue”, without actually paying much attention to the kind of topics they choose to tackle. Every time your favourite content aggregation site tells you “This clip from The Weekly nailed it when it comes to gambling ads”, the question should be “nailed what? To what? With what?” Wait, that’s three questions.
If you’re making a top-level news satire where the big draw is meant to be your in-depth examination of the pressing issues of the day, shouldn’t the issues you examine be… well, not gambling commercials? Because what the actual fuck is there to say about gambling commercials aside from “they’re pretty skeevy, because they’re ADVERTISING FUCKING GAMBLING.”
How long did it take you to read that? Let’s be generous and say five seconds. And yet The Weekly spent six whole entire full-length minutes on it last night. It was a reasonably well-crafted six minutes considering it was basically a Gruen segment that had wandered onto the wrong show, but six minutes? To point out that gambling ads are sleazy? What’s on next week – eight minutes on the shock revelation that water is wet?
Because we’re not complete and utter bastards, let us briefly display some understanding here. The Weekly has a small writing staff compared to the shows that it’s
ripping off seeking to emulate (The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight), so for this kind of in-depth report they need more time – which means they have to focus on more general issues rather than breaking news. And because they’re on the ABC, they can’t take sides on actual controversial issues, which means they end up taking the obvious stand against some uncontroversial evil. Gambling is too tough for them to confront: they’re going after ads for gambling.
The reason people like John Stewart and John Oliver is because they take a stand on things. Things that are actual things, not commercials for a thing that’s an actual thing. The trouble with The Weekly is that it isn’t funny enough for the comedy to stand separate from its targets, and the targets it chooses aren’t strong enough to justify the comedy.
But what do we know? It seems to have stabilised ratings-wise over the last month or so at around 600,000 viewers nationwide, which makes this prematurely snarky outburst from The Australian the funniest thing to come out of The Weekly to date:
Charlie Pickering’s ABC program The Weekly is tanking in the ratings, losing almost 40 per cent of its audience by the third episode.
The half-hour news comedy, which airs on Wednesday at 8.30pm, started with a metro audience of 724,000 viewers but this dropped to 556,000 by its second episode and fell further to 443,00 last week.
While the taxpayer-funded ABC does not need to concern itself with ratings, managing director Mark Scott follows them closely. Less than a half a million viewers on a weeknight is considered a poor result for the public broadcaster and the ABC is likely to be regretting its decision to commission 20 episodes.
To make room for The Weekly, the ABC dumped Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, which had been averaging 600,000- 800,000 viewers a night.
Last Wednesday, Pickering’s program competed in the same timeslot as SBS’s Struggle Street, which attracted 1.3 million viewers nationally. Some parts of the ABC were not helping matters, with 7.30 devoting a segment to Struggle Street on Wednesday. In a publicity drive ahead of The Weekly, Pickering got many former colleagues at Network Ten off-side by speaking out about interference while hosting The Project.
Sure, it’s always fun when a shit show rates badly. But if you see ratings as the be-all and end-all, then sometimes you have to face facts: there are a lot of people out there with pretty shitty taste.