If the return of Hard Quiz tells us anything it’s that the ABC doesn’t learn from it mistakes, it just doubles down on them. How else to explain a show which in its third season still suffers from the same basic problems that we pointed out ages ago:
And at a time when hot topics of public debate include bullying and safe spaces, this seems like a show out of time. All of which makes the fact that the studio audience greets every lame gag and pre-scripted insult with raucous guffaws and cheers rather interesting. Is there a large and receptive audience out there who like general knowledge but also like to see smart people ridiculed? Or do the producers just find a bunch of people willing to spend an hour or so in a TV studio and get them roaring drunk beforehand?
Not that some of the show didn’t deserve a warm reaction. Interviewing Evelyn from Melbourne, who became interested in her expert subject, Audrey Hepburn, after watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s with her Mum, Gleeson asked “What do you like most about it? The casual racism?” (referring to Mickey Rooney’s yellowface work as Mr Yunioshi).
“Ah, no.” Evelyn laughs. “The costumes”.
“Mickey Rooney’s costume?” enquires Gleeson. “The buck teeth, the squinty eyes…”
“It’s a bit awful…” says Evelyn.
“It is a bit awkward” Gleeson agrees “I mean Chris Lilley could get away with it, but not comedians who aren’t racist.”
Ouch. (And if you needed evidence that Lilley’s career is fucked, take the fact that other comedians are willing to go on TV and slag him off as it.)
Anyway, back to those audience reactions… When it’s time for Gleeson to interview Leon from Brisbane, whose expert subject is Vintage Australian Washing Machines, the audience really lose their minds. Shocked gasps and titters are heard when Gleeson reveals the subject, then an even stronger reaction when Leon reveals he owns 67 of the devices. Now, 67 is a lot of vintage washing machines to own, but who’s Leon harming by doing so. Seriously?
Overall, we’re a bit baffled about who Hard Quiz is actually for. People who like quizzes would surely prefer the Paul McDermott-hosted quiz Think Tank, which, while tedious, contains questions on a wide range of topics uninterrupted by the comedy of punching down and an audience who probably needs medical assistance. As for people who like comedy, the ABC alone is currently airing a range of comedy programs – Tonightly, Mad As Hell, Squinters, Sammy J’s Thursday night satire sketch – many of which are funny. So why bother with Hard Quiz?