An obvious omission from the first series of Stop Laughing…This is serious was Hey Hey It’s Saturday. A show which in its day was hugely popular, but on reflection seems embarrassing. And we don’t just mean the Jackson Jive.
It was impossible not to watch all the clips from Hey Hey… – and the various 30- and 40-something comedians enthusing about how much they loved it as kids – in last night’s Stop Laughing… This is serious and wonder when those comedians were going to say “But we don’t think that now”. We kind of still are.
Also, having a 10-minute segment on Hey Hey… at the start of this program, before skipping back in time see how it and other TV variety shows were influenced by vaudeville theatre, isn’t a great start to anything. It kinda suggests that Hey Hey… is THE MOST SIGNIFICANT VARIETY PROGRAM ON AUSTRALIAN TV EVER. PERIOD!
It might have been for one or possibly two generations, but others would argue that IMT, The Don Lane or Rove Live was Australia’s greatest variety show. These programs, which were at least as significant as Hey Hey… were barely covered in comparison to the time lavished on Daryl and friends. Sure, every Australian comedy documentary ever seems to have dwelt on IMT for maybe too long, but doing 10 minutes on Hey Hey… is a bad way to counteract that. Especially if you go soft on the Jackson Jive, and don’t give Daryl a bit of a kicking while you’re at it.
The far briefer looks at IMT, The Don Lane Show, The Norman Gunston Show, The Big Gig, Blah Blah Blah, The Late Show, Denton and Rove Live that we did get were interesting, and showed how variety evolved from novelty acts on stage to TV shows which included more contemporary entertainment styles like stand-up, sketch, satire, and interviews. But ultimately, too much ground was covered in a short space of time and this show felt a bit rushed.
Like we said before, Stop Laughing… This is serious would have been better off if it had spent more time looking at key shows and genres in a bit more detail. You could easily get a very interesting multi-part series out of the history of Australian TV variety, let alone any other aspect of homegrown comedy. And as more contemporary styles of documentary-making show – from the podcast Serial to Netflix’s Amanda Knox and Making A Murderer – pace and structure are as important in telling the story as the getting the facts right.
Where were pace and structure when they were needed in this program? Stop Laughing… This is serious is a show we want to see, but it should have been an awful lot better.