That Was The Week Nobody Won

When the ABC’s new news quiz Win the Week was revving up, we were asked by some smartarse how long it would take us to make a comparison with the ABC’s last attempt at a celebrity-led quiz, the notoriously shithouse Randling. Hey, just because we bought The Best of Randling on DVD doesn’t mean we’re obsessed.

Turns out the ABC saved us the bother of coming up with an excuse: hey look, there’s former Randling host Andrew Denton as one of the contestants! Wow, guess nobody thought reminding audiences of a quiz show so awful it actually destroyed Denton’s hosting career was a bad move.

Win the Week

So is Win the Week as bad as Randling? Well, it’s a weekly news quiz, so by definition they’re going to record it on a week by week basis, which means they’ll (hopefully) be able to address the show’s flaws – something the pre-recorded Randling could never do. Does that mean Win the Week has flaws? Hell yes. But the real question is, are these flaws going to be seen as flaws that need fixing?

Hosted by Alex Lee (she’s fine) with Craig Reucassel (also fine) as a regular contestant (the other two celebrity slots will presumably be filled by the usual ABC types – week one was Denton and Nina Oyama, who were both also fine), Win the Week has two angles. One is the news quiz side of things, which as it currently stands is most definitely not fine for a show appearing in the same week as Have You Been Paying Attention?

It’s slow, many of the questions are over-complicated (shades of Randling there), and while a lot of the segments are of the “buzz in” variety, going from team to team – and having the team banter amongst themselves (each team is made up of a celebrity and a regular person) – is always going to slow things down.

The basic rule of comedy quizzes is that ideally you should be fast and funny; if you can’t do both you need to do a good job of one. Win the Week‘s second angle – at the end of each round the regular person in the last-placed team can swap their celebrity for one from another team – slows things down. A lot.

It’s only week one so maybe it’ll work better in future, but all we got out of this side of things this week was the same loser cycling his way through each celebrity, none of whom made much of a difference to the score because – and seriously guys, this is how Randling fucked up – this is a quiz that wants to be two things at once.

It wants to be funny all-star banter time (ie, HYBPA?), and it also wants to be an actual people-from-home-answering-questions quiz (ie Hard Quiz). Being paired with a non-funny regular person didn’t massively hurt the celebrity banter, but it definitely didn’t help it; meanwhile, with the regular folk doing the quiz answering, it’s up to the celebs to be entertaining. That means they’re not that important to the quiz, which means it doesn’t make much difference who they’re paired with, which means the whole “changing partners” side of things doesn’t really work.

It wasn’t a good sign that a large part of the reason why this episode worked as well as it did was because there was a contestant who knew her shit and answered questions correctly and promptly. A comedy quiz show should be fun; if the best part of the show is just someone delivering correct answers (always the least amusing part of a comedy quiz), it suggests the “fun” side of things isn’t there.

So we have a slow, not all that funny news quiz. Surely those are flaws they’ll address in coming weeks? Eh, let’s not get our hopes up, because there was one thing this show did get right: it was a non-stop celebration of a very specific kind of Sydney-centric smugness the ABC really likes to serve up every chance it gets.

If you’ve been foolish enough to watch any ABC arts-related panel program over the last decade or two you know exactly the smug tone we mean. It’s television disconnected from any obligation to an audience; it’s a show that exists so a range of entitled media professionals don’t have a blank space on their LinkedIn profile. It’s jokes like the ones Wil Anderson drops with a leaden thud on Gruen; it’s people who seem to be on television because they’ve always been on television or the general manager’s kids follow them on twitter.

It’s Andrew Denton, basically. And look what happened last time he was on an ABC quiz show.

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