This year all the blame fell on Charlie Pickering’s shoulders. Who else was left? Even the regular guests only turned up for a handful of episodes across the season; otherwise it was, as the title had always said from the start, the Charlie Pickering show. And what a show it was.
Wait, we mean what, that was the show? Pickering spent at least half of every episode recapping the previous week by basically reading out the actual news reports – only you could tell it was comedy because he was smirking while he did it. “You give us thirty minutes, we’ll give you the shits”.
Then he moved into “the lounge” to slip into an earnest expression while he spent a good chunk of the show explaining that things were, you know, complicated and you couldn’t believe everything you read on the internet… unless you read the same things he did, in which case you already knew everything he had to say. Let’s make a joke about how the Tour de France is so boring it put Pickering to sleep… then spend five more minutes talking about it! You can’t fail with that.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the basic idea of a satirical news recap. You could even argue that Pickering’s material was slightly – slightly – stronger now that the focus was firmly on “here’s what only just happened”. But Pickering isn’t the person to host it. Pickering isn’t even the person to watch it.
Considering Pickering pretty much picked up the ABC Satirical Torch from The Chaser, it’s more than possible that the higher-ups at the ABC see “smug well-off private schoolboy” as a useful worldview for satire. We beg to differ, mostly because having failed to get into the housing market we need all the begging practice we can get. Remember when The Weekly used to make jokes about house prices? Hilarious stuff.
Speaking of total fucking embarrassments, we didn’t think it was possible to sink lower than Corona Cops but of course The Weekly‘s comedy bathyscaphe was all fueled up and ready to plumb new depths. “Ha ha, let’s get a snooty film reviewer to cover trash television” is the kind of thing a chump might say once and expect to get away with it, but The Weekly kept bringing Margaret (“stop picking on my son’s movie“) Pomeranz back to do a joke that wasn’t all that funny when she teamed up with sparring partner David Stratton to review “2020” for The Shovel last year.
But hey, clearly the team at The Weekly thought it was good enough to rip off again and again, right? Unless they’d been sitting on it for a while but didn’t want to step on the toes of now-departed ABC Comedy Chief Rick Kalowski – after all, he’d used Pomeranz (well, impersonations of her) to make basically the same joke on both Double Take and Wednesday Night Fever. At least he didn’t come up with the “all new” idea of getting some smooth dude to deliver bad news.
This kind of news recap needs a spark Pickering’s never shown. In the battle between smug and couldn’t give a fuck, Pickering’s face waved the white flag years ago. Now more than ever, the news is little more than a string of things to get angry and outraged about (as the entire internet has known since 2011) and yet the ABC’s big satirical gun just sits back with an eyebrow raised and says “it’s a funny old world” after yet another story about outrageous levels of entrenched corruption at the highest levels of government.
Sure, the people benefiting from the shitty way things are deserve a chance to tell their side of the story. That’s what News Corp, Nine / Fairfax, Channel Seven and literally every other media organisation in the country do all day every day. It’s too late for the ABC to join the big boy club; the big boys want them shut down. So what if they – and it’s a crazy thought but hear us out – put on a news recap that actually challenged the status quo instead of begged to join it?
But then you’d have to sack Pickering, and who’d front the ABC’s ads for their new “totally secure” login requirements for iView then?