Vale Thank God You’re Here 2023

We can’t blame Working Dog for taking an “if it ain’t broke” approach to their revival of Thank God You’re Here. The original run was much loved and fondly remembered… though not by us, which is why fans of the show might want to skip what comes next. Glad you enjoyed it, it’ll probably be back next year, kthxbyeee.

Okay, now that nobody’s reading this, what was the point of all that? The central gimmick of the show has always been to throw comedians into tricky situations and watch them flail. This year, even with a limited number of returning guests, the novelty factor dropped off fast. Maybe the idea was the the situations themselves would do the heavy lifting. With a lot of variations on “you are an important person put into a situation where you have to explain things you don’t understand”, that wasn’t happening either.

And while there were a lot of one-off appearances – some of whom did pretty well (always nice to see Hamish Blake having to be funny) – it didn’t feel like a show with a whole lot of variety on offer. Partly that’s the fault of Australian comedy. These days there’s only a few lanes where you can really make a go of it, so while the names changed each week the performances often didn’t.

It’s not that people were funnier back when the show first debuted in 2006. It’s that Australian television had more room for people to be different kinds of funny. Hamish Blake, Julia Zemiro and Fifi Box appeared in the 2006 and 2023 seasons. The 2006 version also had Angus Sampson, Shaun Micallef, Frank Woodley, Akmal Saleh, Bob Franklin, Robyn Butler and Alan Brough.

Not only could those performers give big performances, but they were the kind of comedy performer who would take charge of a scene. Too often this year the guard rails were obvious, the performers hemmed in. Give a hopefully funny answer, wait for the next set-up. No wonder one of the series’ big highlights was Aaron Chen being asked what his “new wave” ventriloquist act was.

“More racist”.

A joke that made the follow up – “Can you give an example?” – a rare example of a TGYH line that actually built on a laugh instead of cutting it off dead.

Thank God You’re Here was a product of a time when Working Dog seemed to be more about coming up with new formats (that could be sold overseas) than focusing on being funny. Which is why it was a little strange to see it return. The 2023 version of Working Dog are all about taking fairly generic formats and making them work by making them as funny as possible.

TGYH isn’t designed to be funny. It’s designed to make theatresports more attractive to established comedy performers. People who have a career to lose if they flail around unsupported and unfunny for five minutes doing traditional improv theatre. Yes, there were laughs each week; with the level of talent involved, it’d be astonishing if there wasn’t. But considering how funny pretty much everyone involved is – sometimes on Have You Been Paying Attention? just a few nights earlier – this should have been hilarious. Reader, it was not.

Clearly we’ve had to search hard to find a downside to Ten airing new Australian comedy three nights a week in prime time. Its not like TGYH was the worst format Working Dog could have revived. The only reason people still think fondly of The Panel is because it’s almost impossible now to watch complete episodes.

All we’re saying to Working Dog is, next time Ten calls up saying they’ve got a timeslot to fill, maybe consider reviving Audrey’s Kitchen instead.

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