Spicks and Specks is back! Again. And it’s like it never went away. Again. There was nothing particularly broke about the format when it was first retired – the original cast needed a break, the new cast were unloved – and there’s already been a couple of revivals with the old (now current) crew, so it’s no surprise it’s returned pretty much unchanged aside from the social distancing between panelists. Here’s hoping the audience aren’t social distancing from the show! Ha.
Like an old boot, it was pretty comfy to slip back into even if it is starting to smell a bit. Spicks and Specks‘ big strength has always been the subject matter: people generally know enough about music to have a chance of getting the questions right and be interested in the answers when they get them wrong. It’s more a sign of shallowness of the talent pool here (plus ABC management bungling) than anything else that the “all new” reboot tanked; with a format this strong, any even slightly competent hand-over to a new team should have been a no-brainer.
So with it all being business as usual for Australia’s favourite musical quiz, and presumably will continue to be for the next nine episodes to come, the question is: what’s the point? Obviously ratings, but by bringing everyone back to do the exact same thing one more time the series has been firmly shunted into the “nostalgia” section. The songs may be different – listen, isn’t that Billie Eilish? – but the tune remains the same.
It’s generally (if quietly) acknowledged these days that broadcast television is dying and nostalgia is one of the few things that can lure an audience back. If that’s the case – and that when the current audience dies out they’ll take television as we once knew it with them – then this kind of thing makes perfect sense. Why bother trying to make new television when there’s nobody new around to watch it?
But there’s another scenario. It’s perfectly possible that broadcast television will go the way of literally every other mass medium out there and find a lower, but still viable, level to operate on. Much like cinema used to be all things to everyone but is now aimed entirely at teenage boys and the over-55s, and novels used to cover all facets of the human experience but are now just romance and crime, and radio is… whatever it is now, broadcast television might go from being the one thing that united our society to, uh, the home of sports and live variety? Who knows.
The thing is, if that second scenario is the case, then the ABC really should – once again – be thinking about succession plans. Nostalgia will only go so far if they still have to run a TV network in a few years, and Spicks and Specks – solid format, strong nostalgia hook but a format that by its very (musical) nature has to move with the times – is exactly the kind of show they should be looking to upgrade.
No offense to the team captains, but the show needs at least one person in those chairs who seems like they grew up listening to music this century and if you’re looking for a comedian-slash-actor-slash-music buff they most definitely aren’t short on the ground.
Of course, the ABC could even come up with some new formats, hire some new talent, take a few risks with panel shows as they’re about as cheap as television gets and just generally give off the vibe that they wouldn’t mind pulling in a few new viewers every now and again. But that might involve comedy, and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
After all, if ABC viewers really wanted to laugh they wouldn’t be watching Spicks and Specks.