A comedy game show pitched as “A show where we attempt to find out why we do the weird things that we do” is doomed to fail. Digging down into people’s weird behaviour is a great way to find comedy. A game show is, nine times out of ten, not.
And so it proves to be with Behave Yourself, Seven’s latest attempt to remind people that they used to be the home of Australian comedy back before they aired shows like The White Room and Double Take. The concept is simple: three teams of two people each – usually a comedian and a celebrity, though Shane Warne and Kate Langbroek are also teamed up – play the kind of generic “comedy” game show games we all hoped we’d seen the last of around the turn of the century.
The show isn’t all “Here, put on this helmet for the chance to maybe smell a bottled fart!” though. There’s also “guess which one of our contestants has a thing for feet!” It’s the kind of comedy gold that leaves a green ring on your finger. And when it does get down to more traditional and possibly entertaining questions there’s usually just enough stilted banter to kill the humour stone dead.
A big problem is that there’s zero chemistry between contestants – some awkward quasi-flirting in the opening minutes sets the tone there – and while the idea of having “teams” on comedy game shows is loved by producers because it means they can get celebrities on to bring in viewers then pair them with comedians to keep the viewers laughing, in practice it means two strangers stuck together failing to be funny or charming. Remember Randling? God, we hope not.
The pacing is also way, way off. Have You Been Paying Attention? has taught us that the two things a comedy game show needs in Australia – because we lack the kind of raconteurs who can tell the funny stories that often keep UK comedy game shows afloat – is speed. Power through those jokes, people! Behave Yourself, on the other hand, lingers at the crime time and time again.
Big comedy set pieces (again, fart helmet) are comedy death the second they stop being funny, because there’s no quick way to get out of them if they don’t work. And these don’t work, in large part because there’s no chemistry between the guests and so no sense that we’re watching friends muck about. If you’re going to call your show Behave Yourself you need some actual wacky behaviour in there somewhere, but by putting celebrities with images to protect on you guarantee nothing of the sort.
Talkin’ ’bout Your Generation (the other local gold standard for this kind of show) took its time building up to big wacky stunts, and then made sure that each of the team captains was distinct enough as a comedy character for there to be laughs simply from seeing them deal with what they were up against. Aside from him telling us he’s on alllll the dating apps, what’s Shane Warne’s comedy character? For that matter, what’s Kate Langbroek’s?
Of course, almost all comedy game shows get off to a bumpy start, but these days good luck finding a network willing to ride it out. And the damn thing has to look like there’s potential there in the first place: HYBPA? may have started out rough but Working Dog had a solid track record of panel comedy so sticking with it seemed like a reasonable move.
(that said, this bog-standard article from News Corp going on about how viewers viciously turned on Behave Yourself on social media is a wank. Viewers viciously turn on everything on social media)
Behave Yourself? With a cast of generic chancers, a host who’s a smiling Chesty Bond manikin dipped in bum fluff, and a set-up that requires ten words to explain – which for a comedy is five too many (“what happened in the news” and “which generation is best” are good: “A show where we attempt to find out why we do the weird things that we do” is bad) – this show arrived with a tag on its toe.
I’m not sorry that I missed it