And welcome back to the incredible shrinking ABC satire. Where’s Briggs? More like where’s everyone else these days on The Weekly. Remember when the show wasn’t 40% archival footage? On second thoughts, don’t bother – the whole show’ll just be showing old clips from Hard Chat as soon as they come up with a hilarious comedy angle that justifies it.
The ABC hasn’t always run satirical programming – there was that decade or so of The Chaser doing pranks for starters. Haha, just joking. Somebody has to: it’s not like there’s many laughs to be found with The Weekly.
Back to our point: there have been stretches in the past where the ABC hasn’t bothered with scripted satire. During those periods, the slack was taken up by shows like Good News Week and The Glasshouse. Whatever the format or quality, there was always a vague sense that the show we were watching was willing to gesture towards telling some harsh truths amongst the comedy.
Not The Weekly. As it currently stands – and it’s been through a lot of changes over the years – The Weekly is a show purpose-built to defuse the very idea of satire. It’s shithouse at it, and it makes sure that nobody watching it is ever made to feel in the slightest way uncomfortable or perturbed. Not that Mad as Hell had them rioting in the streets or anything, but that show usually went harder than “oh look, the PM ate an ice cream in a weird way, he’s cancelled JOKE OVER”.
(fun fact: politicans are specifically told to eat awkward food items in those weird ways. That’s because the alternative for someone constantly being photographed and recorded is much, much worse. Does anyone really want to see any one of our nation’s politicians sucking on something even slightly phallic? Well yes, obviously, which is why they don’t do it)
What do we get for our half an hour a week? Some lazy observations about days-old news stories, a bunch of archival footage with a voice over pointing out exactly what it is we’re seeing, and a surprisingly large amount of coverage of reality and breakfast television – if we wanted to watch that shit, we’d watch that shit. If we’re lucky, there’s also a guest comedian a thousand times more qualified to be on television than the host.
Let’s not forget, this is the only “satire” the ABC is showing, now and for the forseeable future. It’s not like the commercial networks are going to pick up the baton, even if both Have You Been Paying Attention? and The Cheap Seats do a better job of political comedy by accident. This is as good as it gets, and it’s nowhere near good enough.
It’s not this shit by accident. This exact format – fake newsreader-style host behind a desk makes fun of recent events via clips from news services – has been the basis for numerous classic satirical series, and dozens more pretty good ones. And then there’s The Weekly, a program that couldn’t lob more softballs if it was one of those robotic pitching machines, one of which coincidentally would also be a much more charming and charismatic host.
Good news for the rich and powerful, a group whose arse The Weekly is never far from at the best of times. Bad news for the taxpayers who fund the ABC, many of whom like their comedy to be funny.
Still, at least host Charlie Pickering – who at 45 remains the fresh young face of ABC comedy – has the big desk all to himself so he can really express what truly matters to him: acting shocked when Rhys Nicholson suggests black deaths in custody are a bad thing. Roll the Zapruder footage!
And now you know why politicans are very careful when eating ice creams.