Two returning shows in the same week? We’re having an attack of the vapors over here.
Over in the “if it ain’t broke” corner, The Cheap Seats managed to do pretty much what it was doing for most of last year’s run: decent news-adjacent comedy based on silly visual gags and banter. Yes, the banter was a little rusty and not all the clip jokes were classics, but if you want weekly comedy that’s actually made fresh each week, then it’s going to take a little while to get back up to speed after a long break.
The secret part of the secret of this shows success is that – unlike pretty much every other news comedy on the air – it can and does select its clips based entirely on whether they can get a decent joke out of it. The result? Decent jokes!
Also, unlike both Mad as Hell and The Weekly, those decent jokes are largely apolitical. Continuing the Working Dog / D-Generation tradition of almost forty years now, what’s funny about politicians here is a): when they stuff up or act daggy and b): that’s pretty much it. Acting that way about politics is a political stance in itself, obviously; still, there are worse attitudes to take.
We’ve said plenty of nice things about this show in the past and they all remain true. Good jokes, good hosts, a decent selection of guest presenters, all wrapped up in a format that’s fast paced and just shaky enough to keep a show that’s 70% about laughing at people’s mistakes from ever feeling like they’re, as it’s now termed, “punching down”.
It’s good to have it back.
Also, The Weekly is back. Or is it? There’s definitely a show called The Weekly With Charlie Pickering in the schedules, but if you were to compare this week’s return with an episode from last year, or the year before, or the year before that, or… you get the idea.
Just as a guide to the whiplash-level changes this show has gone through over the years, remember when Hard Chat was a thing? Remember when the season opener would be some chummy group sketch featuring all the regulars? Remember when Judith Lucy was a regular? Remember when Briggs… nah, nobody remembers when Briggs was on The Weekly.
So anyway, to summarise: Pickering is still wearing a suit (so the same as 2021, but not 2020), the studio audience is back (first time since 2019) – and boy, are they are pumped to be there – the set is now a chilly docking bay for robots rather than the “warm & cosy” one of a few years ago, there’s still intrusive background music, the opening checklist is gone but the show is now “weekly” in that every now and again Pickering will say something like “Friday” and we’ll get a segment supposedly related to something that happened on Friday-
-Luke McGregor is still around covering finance (is it just us or does he now have a weird American accent occasionally going on?), Jan Fran is now part of the show because the ABC are already paying her so why not (seriously, her segment on kids in politics was piss-poor), and most importantly of all, Pickering and company are providing the centre-right take on the election we’ve all been missing… if we somehow have been missing literally all the election coverage across Australia’s mainstream media.
Remember “Albo’s gaff” from 10 or 11 days ago? The Weekly actually showed the footage yet again – and followed it with Morrison’s smug reply, which was odd because whenever they showed any footage of Morrison they didn’t feel the need to show a Labor reply to it, let alone also drop in Stan Grant telling us Albo had made a fatal mistake. But don’t worry, it was just to… establish that… jobless figures are… a thing? Did we miss something?
The big difference between Mad as Hell and The Weekly is that Mad as Hell is a comedy that responds to what’s actually going on: if the LNP have been grabbing all the attention, then the show will be making fun of them. The Weekly, as both the promos and Pickering himself make very clear, is a “we watched the news so you don’t have to” show: the point is to cover the week… in news.
Unfortunately, as anyone who actually watches Australian news knows, Australian news is not exactly free of bias. So if our news is largely trying to keep Scott Morrison afloat by downplaying his blunders and talking up Labor’s, then The Weekly is happy to provide more of the same. Only less amusing.
“But what about the explainers,” you ask, “you know, where Pickering takes a deeper look at a topical issue and gives us the real story behind the news?” Hey, has anyone told you you’re really funny? You should write for The Weekly oh wait.
This week we were treated to the shock news that scare campaigns are a thing because politicians need to raise money for ad campaigns because… hang on, the timeline got a bit muddled there. The point seemed to be that we need restrictions on campaign financing because otherwise we get into an advertising arms race that leaves our politicians beholden to their donors.
This was interesting when it was the subject matter of documentary The Big Deal, which aired last year on the ABC. It’s still available on iView, and it did a much better job of covering the topic. During an actual election campaign, running a segment that is basically “there’s too much electioneering going on during this election campaign” seems a touch on the pissweak side.
Or to put it another way, business as usual for The Weekly.