The Weekly isn’t a show that asks for much. Which, all things considered, is probably for the best. But every now and again it drops its guard for a minute to remind us that it’s not that it doesn’t know how to be a better show – it actively works hard to be as bad as it is.
If your comedy show has flaws in it that we can spot, then you’re in real trouble. And while The Weekly‘s news jokes are always consistently… adequate… the sketches slotted in between chunks of Charlie Pickering blathering on are just no damn good. Case in point: this week’s wacky “we’re sponsored by a Casino!” bit, which seemed to be based on the idea that saying things twice is twice as funny. Only if they were funny the first time!
But then, a ray of sunshine cut through the clouds of… well, it wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine considering it was coming from Luke Heggie, AKA that guy from Question Everything who was like a slightly more upright Dave Hughes. But it was a segment that looked like effort had been put in, and sometimes (on this particular episode of The Weekly), that’s enough.
And then Pickering interviewed comedian Laura Davis. And by “interviewed” we mean “sat there while she talked about being in lockdown which just possibly might be the basis for part of her act”. Which was also fine! Sometimes a talking tin can is just what a TV show needs.
Here’s a suggestion. Over the last month Melbourne has been packed with comedians in town to catch Covid at the Comedy Festival. Would it have been so hard to set aside a couple of days for Pickering to interview (by which we mean, get them to do a few minutes from their act in interview form) a dozen or so of them to create segments that could run throughout the series so there’d be at least one bit that was reliably funny?
We know we’re totally wasting our time here, because what we want is for The Weekly to be a show that features segments that make us laugh, while the producers want The Weekly to be a show that makes us think (mostly “why isn’t this funny?”). The whole point of the show isn’t to “be funny”, but to “make news jokes”, which we can all agree by now is most definitely not the same thing.
Also, for some reason The Weekly is also about taking stories from twitter – this week: what’s the deal with scientific journals raking in heaps of cash while blocking easy access to actual science? – and somehow dumbing them down even further. Isn’t The Weekly aimed at people under the age of 65? Don’t people under the age of 65 already have access to social media and so already know all this?
The Weekly will always be a frustrating viewing experience because it’s not very good at what it’s trying to do and it’s constantly ignoring something it could be good at. Cut the topical stuff back to just desk-based news jokes, come up with a list of issues that they can run segments on at any time-
(you know the kind of thing we mean – “what are our defense forces really for?” “why does the federal government raise all the money but the states spend it?” “did the NBN have to be shit?” – just watch old episodes of Utopia basically)
-then put out a call for comedians who want to do a segment or two and let them know that you’ll be accepting pitches for the issues on the list. That way the show’s still news-related, and we get to watch a bunch of different comedians who have time to work* on their segments and make them funny or interesting or maybe even both.
The Weekly already does a half-baked version of this with various comedians (Luke McGregor mostly) turning up every now and again. All they need to do is do more of it in a way that makes “different comedians being topical in an amusing way each week” a reason to tune in. After all, isn’t that the point of the show?
Of course, this would also mean we’d get less Charlie Pickering. Considering he’s currently on our screens for a full hour Wednesday nights with two shows back-to-back (has anyone else noticed that Pickering is treating Tomorrow Tonight as a venue to tell us all about his personal life?), we’ll cope.
*also, we’re guessing The Weekly doesn’t pay an awful lot. Getting comedians to do one or two segments as a way to boost their profile and promote their paying gigs seems a bit more reasonable than locking them into a poorly-paid job for months at a time