Having just watched Question Everything, we have a question: what the hell did we just watch?
Half the show was pretty much what we’d been dreading from the team of Wil Anderson and CJZ – Gruen News, the show nobody was asking for. The Gruen approach is fine* (*not fine) for advertising, but is it us or has just about every ABC news comedy program this year (and last year, and so on) had the exact same smug smartarse tone that tries to convey “comedy” without actually providing anything audiences will find funny?
We can’t quite blame it on Sydney either, as the Melbourne-produced The Weekly has it going on as well. You know, “ha ha, breakfast television has sharp tonal shifts! Alan Jones says crazy things!” These aren’t jokes: they’re barely observations. It’s just sneering at other people’s choice of viewing, like we’re somehow better because we’ve foolishly chosen to watch a show that features archive footage of Margaret Thatcher talking about… the environment?!? Next you’ll be shocking us with the news that Hitler was a vegetarian and liked dogs! Mind blown! (“Mindblowers – coming to your ABC 2022″)
With The Weekly and Win the Week and now Question Everything it’s increasingly difficult to figure out why the ABC doesn’t just create one year-long show where some smug, self-satisfied guy with big hair and a slightly nasally voice introduces a bunch of news clips taken from other networks, lets them play out, then makes a couple of obvious observations and dad jokes before moving on to the next identical segment.
Obviously they shouldn’t do that because it would be shit. You know what else was shit? Question Everything. And not just in the previously stated “the ABC needs to give up on trying to make comedy news happen because they suck at it” fashion, because as a whole this show was a train wreck. If it had just been Gruen News it would have been pointless but competent – instead, they decided to add in a panel of fresh comedy faces and let them sink before our very eyes.
The good news is, they were funny. The bad news is, they would have been even funnier on just about any other show up to and including a revival of Blankety Blanks. Half the time it felt like they weren’t even trying to fit into the format: they had a couple of decent lines they’d been getting laughs with down the open mic nights and they were going to get them in no matter what. Which was totally the right approach, because at least when they were funny for a brief moment this show had a reason to exist.
Here’s a question: instead of yet another “news comedy” show, why not just make a new comedy showcase for up-and-coming talent to do five minutes of their best gear? The ABC has done it dozens of times over the years and sure, they never rate well, but neither does anything else these days. The new talent here wasn’t amazingly talented – while the comedy highlight was the Bob Franklin / Hughsey mash-up guy, all three had their moments – but at least they weren’t Jan Fran trying to eat two burgers at once then “forgetting” to keep score.
Usually we’d be asking what exactly this show wants to be. It was sold on the promise of fact-checking the news – Gruen News, like we said – but what we actually got was just a bunch of segments about old news stories (seriously, the “this guy isn’t really a flight attendant” piece was weeks old) and a lengthy bit on the mice plague earlier this year which – we think? – was supposed to be pointing out that the predictions of it reaching Sydney by August never happened but then it turned out even people in the past were saying it was never going to happen, which is what the producer should have said to whoever pitched this idea.
Maybe this was a pilot they made a while ago, but even the segment where they traced the origins of the story about the cornavirus outbreak in Melbourne back to a rooting security guard – only not! – was old news, which by definition is not news. And the panel were just there, saying things; funny or not, you could replace them with viewers letters and get pretty much the same result.
Question Everything sounds like a LNP instruction to whoever audits the ABC’s budget. If you’re going to be informative about how our news is created, do that! If you’re going to be funny about the news, do that! If you’re going to try and do both and also be a new talent showcase and also spend 10% of each episode showing the panel laughing at their own jokes just to make sure we know this shit is funny, retire now.
As for who exactly should be doing the retiring, we know absolutely nothing about the inner workings of the ABC but if we had to guess, we’d say there’s at least one person high up in the commissioning side of things who thinks the ABC’s duty is to make “funny but informative” news programs so that the young people have somewhere to get their information that isn’t (ugh) social media. They’re wrong.
Nobody wants this show. It never works, is barely entertaining, and mostly serves as a reminder that the ABC doesn’t give a fuck about their audience and is governed entirely on the whims of know-nothing chumps who demand comedy be “educational”.
To be fair, with Question Everything they got the educational part right; we learnt we really need to find something better to do with our Wednesday nights.