The last episode of the first Australian series of Would I Lie To You aired on Monday night. As usual, it was…okay. At this point, we should probably say why we think it was just okay and not spectacularly hilarious like we hoped it would be, but we’ve already done that in our review of episode one, and as the show continued exactly the way it started eight weeks ago, there’s absolutely no need to repeat ourselves.
Apart from to note one of the reasons why.
No, we don’t mean the regular cast, although only Frank Woodley brings the big laughs.
Remember how Randling was famously all filmed months before it aired, meaning the makers had no way of re-working the show mid-series when it became clear what the problems were? Well, here we go again as Would I Lie To You was shot in December last year. And yes, it should have been obvious to TV professionals that the show was over-long and dull in the edit – it certainly was to us in episode one – but sometimes you need the external view of the mass audience before you can see that kind of thing. An external view that came at least a month after all the editing was done, presumably. Too late!
One other thing we will note about Would I Lie To You was how incredibly distracting that graphic in the bottom corner of the final episode, reminding us that The Cheap Seats is coming back, was. It’s not that we’ve dropped in from 30 years ago and never seen those kinds of graphics on TV. It’s more that having a constant onscreen reminder that the network making this okay program is capable of much better, is pretty distracting.
The Cheap Seats represents many of the things you hope for in a new comedy: it’s a fresh take, there’s interesting new talent on the show and it’s consistently funny. Would I Lie To You, on the other hand, is in a different arena altogether. It’s a 15-year-old concept that’s been done and done and done on British TV (albeit fairly successfully), then aired here, and now it’s been re-done by us except it’s been stretched and warped to fit a commercial TV hour and whoever books the guests forget to hire enough female comedians.
The result was the kind of show that hasn’t been fresh on Australian television for more than a decade. Seriously, it’s 2022, and there are now enough female comedians that you don’t need to hire female actors, musicians, and personalities to make up the female numbers. When you’re hiring Gina Liano, a woman who stretches the definition of entertainment, let alone of comedy, as a panellist, maybe it’s time to reflect a bit on your booking policy.
We’re used to Australian commercial television comedy playing it safe, but making a middling local version of a declining overseas show doesn’t feel like a way forward. It feels like the kind of show you make when you’re out of ideas or not brave enough to take a punt on something, or somebody, new.