And once again we say goodbye to a series nobody asked for. Usually when the ABC serves up yet another head-scratcher there’s some kind of demented logic behind it – and by “demented logic” we mean “external funding body”. But every now and again there’s a show like Question Everything, some utterly pointless slab of “topical” yammering that seems to exist solely to confirm all the cliches about the national broadcaster disappearing up its own arse.
“It’s like Gruen, only with the news” might sound like a reasonable idea – good work series creator Wil Anderson – until you realise that while the point of advertising (Gruen‘s natural home) is to flat out lie to people, the news is meant to tell the truth.
Everyone knows advertising is a house of lies, so getting experts on to expose their rivals’ lies is no big deal. Unfortunately, journalists will defend to the death the idea that they and their co-workers are objective even when they work for Rupert Murdoch. They’re a lot less likely to come on a show and say “yeah, that guy’s full of shit” even if that would be a really good series.
So instead Question Everything featured comedians talking about the news, which meant it was yet another “news comedy” panel show. These don’t have to suck; you just need Working Dog to produce them. You also need to have at least some idea of what “the news” actually is. That way you don’t end up with a show staggering from covering deep fakes to blood supermoons to psychics making predictions back in 2019. These weren’t even things that were on the news; why not ask “what is the deal with mobile phones?” while you’re at it.
Pretty much all news comedies involve a percentage of pre-written gags. Comedians are funny, but they’re not off-the-cuff funny about the news a dozen times in half an hour. But with a show like Question Everything, where the point is supposedly that we’re exploring the manufactured world behind the news, having clearly manufactured comments makes the whole exercise seem bogus.
It’s not quite as simple as either get in real experts to have a real discussion about fake and biased news (which would be Media Watch), or make a scripted comedy show about the news, but… yeah, actually it is. Either be honestly and interestingly informative (which Gruen occasionally is), or commit to being funny (which the Working Dog news comedies are). Choosing to be neither is just wasting everyone’s time.
Question Everything wasn’t a total car crash on a micro level, thanks to a quirky selection of guests (Aaron Chen!) entirely forced on it by Covid and complained about by Anderson.
Wil Anderson was talking to Tim Blackwell and Kate Ritchie on Nova this morning. He mentioned how difficult it has been to even get the show to air. He said they had a lot of high profile comedians lined up to as guests on the show but due to Sydney lockdowns they were unable to appear. So that’s why the replacement ones that have appeared are quite obscure.
Anderson should have been thanking the current deadly pandemic for injecting what little life there was into his show. Imagine the utterly bog-standard ABC approved “high profile comedians” they had lined up to smirk and gurn at every one of Anderson’s dad jokes. Imagine Anderson’s increasingly off-putting death wheeze laugh deflating for minutes at a time as the usual suspects rocked back and forth in their chairs at yet another shithouse ineffectual zinger about a politician. The guests may not have been the best, but they were the best thing about Question Everything.
Otherwise this was nothing more than yet another doomed attempt by the ABC to combine news coverage with comedy, only without actually covering any real news and with no real comedy. Here’s a question Question Everything left unanswered: why do they keep making shows like this, and why are they all the same?
After all, this was basically a replacement for the Covid-stifled return of Tomorrow Tonight, another news panel show with a two word title hosted by a mid-forties white male comedy host (Charlie Pickering) and a bubbly ABC news presenter (Annabel Crabb) where topical issues are given a “comedy” spin as requested by absolutely nobody.
What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh right: tuning in to watch an ABC panel show. Gruen‘s back next week!