Okay, yes, the ABC are going to be showing a Wil Anderson comedy special next Wednesday night, but it’s hardly like that invalidates the premise of this blog post. Zing?
At least with an Anderson stand-up special there’ll be a lot less of Anderson actually laughing. Which to be fair, was often understandable during Question Everything because they had some pretty decent panelists doing some pretty funny material. So why was it one of the bigger piles of steaming garbage the ABC put to air in 2022? Let’s explain:
If you want to show comedians doing their stand up act, give them a stand up special. If you want them to talk about the news of the week, let them do that. If you want to… look, we could go on all day like this. Question Everything was a mess, and being a mess got in the way of being funny.
For its second season, pretty much everything about the original premise went in the bin. Remember how it used to be a quiz show complete with points being awarded and a “final round”? Not any more. Remember how all the promotion suggested it was going to be a kind of “here’s how the sausage is made” look at the news, like the seemingly obvious but never fully realised concept of Gruen News? Forget that malarkey.
This year Question Everything was just a collection of news-ish clips – often from breakfast television, that well-known comedy goldmine since the days of The Hamster Wheel – which may or may not have provided host Wil Anderson with a segue to ask one of the panel a question, it didn’t really matter because he was going to ask anyway. Cue them struggling to tortuously link that question to some pre-scripted bit or another.
(unless it was Charlie Pickering, who seems increasingly a bit deranged whenever he turns up outside The Weekly. Which might also explain why there is nobody else appearing on The Weekly)
And yet the pre-scripted bits were often good! In between some line-ups that were so painfully “ABC” we could feel ourselves involuntarily turning Incredible Hulk-style into Gerard Henderson, there were also some surprising guests. Carl Barron on an ABC panel show? And he was great?
But the show itself was an absolute dog’s breakfast. Jan Fran was fine while also being completely pointless. Her increasingly brief segments “explaining” the news never failed to bring the show to a screeching halt. For every episode where there was a decent panelist or two, there was one that looked like they’d been rifling through the back cupboard where the ABC stashed the old portraits from their 1990s celebrity wall.
A month or two back Wil Anderson was talking about how he’d love to help the ABC get new comedians on the air – but to do that the ABC would require the involvement of established faces. Question Everything did feature some new comedians; it also featured Wendy Harmer and Paul McDermott. There comes a point where trying to attract one audience actively repels the other. Question Everything managed that more often than not.
Still, individual elements were often good. Sometimes every single part of an episode, taken purely as a stand-alone element and viewed in isolation, was a decent piece of television. But nothing worked together. Building up the kind of comedy rhythm and momentum throughout an episode where the laughs build on each other so even the weak gags work? Not happening here.
The panelists rarely even interacted with each other; Anderson just kept dropping zingers seemingly left over from Gruen; Fran was a visitor from a parallel dimension version of the show that contained actual information (in the final episode she was reduced to introducing a series of clips featuring Karl Stefanovic); the whole thing felt like it was put together by a team who didn’t actually know how to put a television show together.
Worst of all, at a time where Australian comedy is an endangered species on our screens, this refused to do anything new. If we want to watch a show where two hosts make us laugh by going over the news events of the week, we’ve already got The Cheap Seats; if we want Wil Anderson getting the last word, Gruen will never die. If we want James O’Loghlin, we’ll build a time machine. Even Dave O’Neill’s been on our screens this year on Spicks and Specks. Tom Gleeson? He was literally hosting the show that was on before this!
We were going to talk here about Fisk, which also ended tonight. But trying to shoehorn that into this would just be making the same mistake Question Everything did. Not everything works well together. And some things* just don’t work at all.