Look, we really appreciate Ten doing their level best to bring light entertainment (without sport) back to the commercial networks. And who can blame them: with Have You Been Paying Attention? now a ratings hit and a cross-promotional gold mine, no wonder they’re going back to the well over and over again. Personally we would have bricked over that well once we fished Cram! out of it, but here we are again with Hughesy, We Have a Problem, and… yeah.
We’re old enough to remember exactly why Dave Hughes is famous, which already puts him well ahead of most of the other television “personalities” dragged into the spotlight thanks to the massive gravity of the black hole that is Rove McManus. Specifically, where Carrie Bickmore was an everywoman and Peter Helliar was an everywoman but a man, Dave Hughes was angry. He was angry on Rove, he was angry on The Glasshouse, he was angry when he was on the Triple R Breakfasters in Melbourne, he was angry when he and the rest of the Breakfasters were bought across to Nova and he was angry when… actually, somewhere along the way he discovered mindfulness, gave up the booze, started doing a lot of material about his wacky family and became the richest man in Australian comedy.
Which is kind of a problem here, because this show – which, as others have pointed out, is basically just a do-over of the old Beauty and the Beast format of a panel solving various problems by throwing jokes at them – really needs a host with a bit of an edge. Somebody’s got to be the one who takes things too far on this kind of show, and it’s got to be a regular so we know them well enough to know they don’t really mean it. But 2018 Hughesy isn’t that guy any more: he’s too busy making jokes about how his dog likes to bite strangers.
That’s one big problem; having this show run for a full hour is another. In comedy you definitely can have too much of a good thing, especially when your format is just “four people answer questions”, and bringing out a couple of audience members and a celebrity guest doesn’t really qualify as mixing it up. Especially when around 40% of the questions seem to involve parenthood. With it being scheduled after I’m a Celebrity So We Can Run Well Over Time If We Feel Like It, there’s no good reason this has to be a firm hour long; a tight thirty minutes plus ads would be ample.
Otherwise though, and much as it pains us to admit it… this didn’t totally stink. Part of the reason why the Beauty and the Beast format has endured is because it allows the guests to ramble on a little while having an aim – answering the question – in mind, and so this (largely) landed in the sweet spot where the panel (which importantly was a good mix of types who generally played well with each other) got to chat without burbling on for ages. Yes, Julia Morris was one of the panelists and so we got to hear more about herself and her career than we would have liked, but even then a reasonable amount of her self-promotion was actually on topic, which as far as she’s concerned is extremely refreshing.
It wasn’t rapid-fire funny like a good episode of HYBPA? – in fact, decent jokes were fairly thin on the ground – but most of the conversations eventually arrived somewhere funny and the interjections (which seemed surprisingly natural for Australian television circa 2018 – no ABC-style constant cutaways to the audience here) almost always served to raise the humour level. Basically, the basics were strong: this is a show that needs a few tweaks rather than being burnt to the ground.
Strange as it is to say because this actually showcases him pretty well, Hughesy is probably the weak link here. The host needs to be a counterpoint to the panel, not someone competing with them for laughs, and while Hughesy himself did well out of things the show itself would have been better if the host had been more distinct from the panelists.
Basically, his current “top family bloke” persona is just too nice to be the host of a show built around people being bitchy about strangers’ personal problems. He seems like the kind of guy, dead doll eyes aside, who really wants to help people, whereas all we want is to get the maximum possible laughs out of each problem.
And those laughs aren’t going to come from useful advice.