“Let’s do this baby one more time” said host Charlie Pickering at the start of the final episode of The Weekly for 2020. Here’s a suggestion: let’s not? Oh wait, Pickering already said he’ll be back for The Yearly as part of his sappy moralising end speech that said we’ll all get through this just so long as we’re more like the generation that went through the Great Depression and World War II. What, you mean massively racist?
To be fair, there has been something of a lingering sense of doom hanging over The Weekly this year, what with everything up to and including the set jumping ship, leaving us in a strange limbo where the only thing we could rely on was that Briggs wouldn’t be appearing. Apart from that one time he did. He’s now the second longest running cast member!
Unfortunately for those of us who just want The Weekly to dry up and blow away, changing things up – even if forced upon them by the coronavirus – was exactly what the show needed. It didn’t stop it being shit, obviously, but it did stop it being stale. Yes, the new, more homely look was almost as much of a cliche as the fake news set and by the end of the series a new, just as boring rut had been dug, but for a brief shining moment there Pickering was appearing on screen without a jacket and they can never take that away from us.
Otherwise the show continued to set the bar low and then trip over it. Luke McGregor’s economics segments were pretty basic but still a thousand-fold improvement over Hard Chat, Judith Lucy did whatever she liked and was funny as usual, Corona Cops was frankly puzzling in just how amazingly unfunny it was determined to be each week and those segments focusing on Andrew Bolt’s love of scotch made him look like a harmless eccentric instead of a huge racist so thanks for that.
This was also the series that saw Tom Gleeson finally figure out he didn’t need to bother with this shit and could just go off and be a game show host for the next decade or so. Why he bothered coming back at all was a bit of a mystery: initially he was in lockdown on some property in rural Victoria, which… seemed a real thing? And then he just never bothered coming back. Presumably he wanted to take a victory lap at some stage because he’s Tom Gleeson and that’s what he does (which is probably why he didn’t just quit between series) but his few half-hearted appearances just made it even more obvious that the show didn’t really need him hanging around any longer. Kitty Flanagan went out on a high note; Gleeson went out on the brown note.
But the one thing that remained consistent throughout this year – and the show as a whole – is this weird idea that The Weekly is somehow something more than just a random collection of shit news jokes. Pickering giving a final “we’ll get through this” speech like some overly earnest glad handing politician trying to sell a new housing development in a bushfire zone that is also a flood plain was bad enough, but why put it at the end of the episode? “We’ll get through this” is exactly what we need to hear at the start of any given episode of The Weekly. Especially if the remote isn’t close by.
The problem is that whatever Pickering is like in real life, on The Weekly he comes off as a smug prick. While that occasionally works in his favour comedy-wise – some of the one-liners during his opening news round-up have almost been not bad this year – it chops off at the knees any attempt (by him) to seem like a trusted authority or audience surrogate. And yet the show still keeps on trying to ram his square peg into that round hole like he’s six months away from being called up to read the national news.
A snarky smart-arse taking pot-shots at current affairs? Yeah, when his writers are firing he can almost manage that. But a serious commentator on important issues? What possible reason could he have for thinking that’s what people want him to be? “If I’m guilty of anything,” you can imagine him saying, “it’s of caring too much… about myself”.
Guess somebody has to.