Vale Saturday Night Rove

Well, that was quick:

Saturday Night Rove has been axed on 10 after just 2 episodes.

It follows the show falling to just 138,000 viewers on Saturday after debuting to 244,000 the previous week. The lower numbers this week come despite no AFL or Cricket in the same slot.

Yet another addition to the proud tradition of live Australian comedy getting the chop after two (sometimes three!) episodes. As they used to say on Underbelly, it’s a jungle out there.

Rove McManus hosting Saturday Night Rove

Obviously the quality of the show played a big part (the short version: it wasn’t good), but here’s a question: why Saturday night? Live television is expensive and risky, so why would you try it on the least-watched television night of the week?

Only kidding: we know exactly why. The tiny world of people who give a shit about what’s on our television screens is still somehow dominated by people who vocally demand a): a return of “variety” and b): Hey Hey it’s Saturday to magically restore their youth. So for some inexplicable reason – to us at least – there’s a constant low level hum out there of people wanting good old fashioned variety back on our television screens like it’s 1999. But only if it’s on a Saturday night.

Unfortunately for them, the reality in 2019 is that variety as they remember it is stone motherless dead; you want that back, it’s Australia’s Got Talent time. Variety is a product of a period when television had to be all things to all people – when an entire family would sit down to watch television and millions of families did that every night, of course a show that did a bunch of wildly different things could work.

Now? Everyone has their own screens with hundreds of viewing options available. What’s the point of a show rushing around trying to do a bunch of things half-arsed when you can watch something that does exactly what you like without the stuff you don’t? Sure, there are still a bunch of reason why people might want to watch television together as a family, but there’s a lot less of those group watching households and they’re watching Masterchef or The Block, not some average stand up and some mediocre pranks.

Obviously, if the show had been better it might have lasted longer. But how was it going to be better? Australia at the moment barely has any big name comedy drawcards; over a decade of dismissing and downgrading any show that could conceivably have generated new on-air talent has seen to that. Australian comedy now is basically shit dramedy stuff made by drama actors and writers aimed at Netflix, not showcases for local comedians who appeal to local audiences – and it doesn’t get more local than this kind of variety.

Perhaps a more traditional tonight show might have worked (but not on a Saturday night); perhaps a show hosted by someone who’s not Rove could have drawn in the crowds (good luck getting Hamish & Andy to host variety). Realistically, the only way “variety” could work on 2019 television is if it were to somehow become “event television” – the kind of show that people would have to watch because they know that everyone’s going to be talking about it the next day. And if that next day is a Sunday, that’s never going to happen.

Let’s not forget, the original point of variety was that it was cheap; networks already had the studios and the crew, acts were touring the country anyway and needed a way to promote themselves – all you needed to do was pay the host and away you went (this depiction of the television industry may not be 100% accurate). Now variety is competing with reality shows that are so packed with sponsorships they literally pay for themselves; they’re now the most expensive shows around, they appeal to the smallest audience, and what fans they do have keep demanding they be screened on the worst night of the week.

Kevin Rudd playing handball didn’t exactly help either.

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