The Abyss Gazes Also

Aww, wasn’t that opening bit of this week’s Weekly nice? The gang was all there – even Briggs, which was actually kind of puzzling because it’s hardly like he’s a series regular or anything so for all we know they pre-recorded this back when he actually was a series regular – looking up at the stars, saying lines like they were on a show that had built up their comedic personas over the years so that cracks about how pale Tom is or how alone Kitty is would get laughs rather than blank stares.

But hey, for once it didn’t feel like everyone else physically loathed Charlie Pickering, and isn’t that the best result for Australia? Imagine that: a segment on The Weekly where the host doesn’t come across as the kind of guy who goes around sticking his mobile phone in your face trying to show you clips from Bumfights? The sun really will come out tomorrow.

To be fair to Pickering and his difficult public persona, he does have to say things like “Tom hard chat’s Sophie Monk!”, which really should have been followed by him solemnly letting us know that if we’ve been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts there was a helpline we could call. And what else is there to this show, really? A bit on how Big Business has ruined April Fools Day? A bit on how Mark Latham was fired from Sky News that was really just about the way The Weekly had a long running segment about Mark Latham on Sky News? Yet another fucking bit on fucking politicians and their fucking love hate relationship with fucking opinion polls what the actual fuck?

And blah blah blah whatever: this show’s at least 50% interview these days so even two paragraphs is really stretching our conversational limit. Shit, there wasn’t even any Kitty Flanagan this week, and she’s the funny one. Which, as we say every week, makes this show even harder to watch: clearly if they had people on board who wanted to be funny then funny this show would be – even just occasionally, around the edges – but instead… nope.

Let’s go back to that opening again. The idea of getting a few character-based laughs out of a riff on the ABC’s stargazing night is the idea that could only have come from a team of writers who have no idea about the kind of show they’ve actually been putting out over the last few years. As a generic comedy idea, sure: doing a little “behind-the-scenes” bit is a comedy staple. But there’s only two ways it can work – either you do it for the very first time with a bunch of gags that play against the way the show’s hosts come across on the regular show (“holy shit, once the cameras are turned off Pickering’s a foul-mouthed yobbo in a Jack Daniels singlet!”), or you’ve built up various behind-the-scenes comedy personas for the characters that work like an occasionally-glimpsed sitcom – Pickering has money troubles, Flanagan has a crush on Gleeson, Gleeson is a pompous windbag, whatever. You’ve seen Cheers, you know how sitcoms work.

What doesn’t work is dumping your four regulars into a bit where they make jokes based on comedy personalities they just don’t have. Well, Flanagan has a bit of one thanks to her knowing how comedy works and dropping in jokes about her boozing, etc in her segment, but even then they’re clearly “jokes” rather than supposed personality traits that the jokes are coming from (it’s the difference between saying “I’m a drunk!” and doing a comedy bit where you’re actually meant to be drunk). But everyone else? Nothing. Briggs talking about how he keeps a telescope in his car in case he’s car-jacked so he can belt the car-jackers with it? What’s funny about that beyond “ha ha, he hit a guy with a telescope”?

So what we have is a crack team of comedy professionals putting together a prime time show but who, based on just about the only bit of scripted interaction in the episode, don’t seem to understand how humour works. This isn’t us being all esoteric and wanky: if you’re going to make jokes about your news hosts being off-duty, either the laughs are going to come from the difference between their work and play personalities or from them being funny characters when they’re not working. What else is there? Wordplay? Pranks? Decent stand-alone jokes? Laughing at the fact this show is running for twenty fucking weeks and they don’t yet seem to have figured out how to be funny?

The hosts of The Weekly aren’t lovable comedy characters we’ve warmed to over the years. In one case and possibly two, we’re fairly sure a golden retriever in a suit would be better at every aspect of their job. You want them to seem funny? Have them say funny things.

You know, like “this is the final ever episode of The Weekly“.


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