We’re just going to come right out and say it: The Weekly taking on Clarke & Dawe was perhaps the funniest thing we’ve seen on television this year. Not that the sketch itself was funny: oh no no no no no no fuck no. It was utterly pointless at best and bewildering at worst – so your typical Weekly fare really.
Seriously, what was the point? To show that Charlie Pickering and Tom Gleeson could do what Clarke and Dawe do – that is, be funny – if they really wanted to but they’d rather take a barely metaphorical shit on their viewers instead? Or did Pickering and Gleeson decide that enough was enough and someone had to finally step up and explain in laborious detail to the general public exactly what it is that Clarke & Dawe have been doing every week for the last 25 years? Fucked if we know: we’re pretty sure they didn’t know either.
No, what made the opening of the final episode of this season of The Weekly hilarious was the sheer cluelessness of it all. Clarke & Dawe may not be to everyone’s taste but they make a point, it’s usually a funny point, and then they piss off. Which is three things more than The Weekly has managed to do over 34 weeks. Way too often on The Weekly their idea of comedy seems to be “explaining things”: if that was an actual real approach to comedy then your third grade teacher would be touring with Hughsey as her support act.
What makes this so painful is that it seems – to us at least – kind of obvious that the writers of The Weekly know they suck. Why else would so much of their material be the kind of self-parody designed to say “don’t bother trying to tell us we suck, we’ve already made all those jokes ourselves”? The Clarke & Dawe bit literally stopped in the middle so they could let us know it wasn’t a parody but a tribute; arse-covering one, comedy zero.
So why did it all go so wrong? Why couldn’t The Weekly actually deliver on the promise of being a halfway decent news satire? Here’s a clue: it was put together by people who thought we really needed thirty-four weeks of Tom Gleeson.
That’s not a bitchy comment – well, it is, but it’s not just a bitchy comment. We’ve just had thirty four episodes plus an end-of-year special of a show built around three cast members, and out of those three all three were doing the exact same thing every episode. Shaun Micallef turns up out of nowhere in the final five seconds to dismiss the whole show as “left-wing drivel” and gets the biggest laughs of the entire series: maybe that’s a sign that you need to hire funnier people?
The Weekly had a lot of flaws – seriously, have you got all day? Buy us lunch and we promise we won’t shut up – but one of the big ones was that it never quite figured out how to make being weekly work. Part of why The Daily Show works is that it’s a show that’s on daily; doing four episodes a week means audiences are just that little bit more forgiving of a format that’s largely just a guy ranting while jokes are flashed up behind him. Only being on the air once a week makes you more of an event. One guy doing a couple Project-level monologues and an interview while his two sidekicks do the same segment each week? Non-event.
We ask again: why were there only ever two correspondents? Mad as Hell has a cast of six, not counting host Micallef, and those six often play two or more characters. Sure, Mad as Hell has sketches and fake ads and so on, but it also has a bunch of characters sitting across the desk from Micallef having a chat… you know, just like The Weekly does. Only funny.
It’s not that Gleeson and Flanagan’s segments were entirely lacking in comedic potential either. It’s that they were roughly the same premise every week: Gleeson would make some counter-intuitive argument (or worse, talk about his popularity), Flanagan would explain how some part of society was nutty. Week after week. For thirty-four weeks.
When The Weekly returned in 2016 basically unchanged from its 2015 form, it had the stench of death about it. Not because it was a terrible show at the end of 2015 – as lightweight news it was perfectly serviceable; it only sucked if you expected it to be funny or take a stand on anything even slightly controversial – but because there was clearly room for improvement and yet no improvements had been made.
Did anyone really think the core appeal of The Weekly was the fact it was Charlie Pickering, Tom Gleeson and Kitty Flanagan? That power-packed trio held together by the raw power of Pickering’s willingness to laugh at their jokes and… well, Gleeson and Flanagan almost never worked together on the show, did they? Seems slightly odd.
Pickering they couldn’t lose, though they really should have; charm, wit and righteous anger are what a Daily Show knockoff needs in a host, not smug self-satisfaction and the occasional deadpan stare. But even if you didn’t want to ditch Tom Gleeson, why wouldn’t you bring in a new comedian or two just to vary things a little? Did Charlie Pickering really cost that much to hire that they couldn’t afford another cast member?
It doesn’t really matter now, whatever happens with The Weekly. Pickering ended the show by shouting “we’ll be back!”, but he didn’t rule out in pog form. After two seasons of the same old, any major changes would look like desperation; smaller changes won’t be enough to save it.
… though by “save it” we mean turn it into something watchable, which almost certainly isn’t something the ABC is all that worried about. Charlie Pickering is a personality and they’re all about the personalities at Aunty these days. Well, that and shows they can put on for months at a time and just forget about.
And if there’s ever been an ABC show you can forget about, it’s The Weekly.