A Question of Timing

Question Everything made its triumphant return to the ABC for a third season this week. A third season? Of a show that still can’t figure out how to make its core concept – fake news but comedy! – work? Good thing it’s not our tax dollars paying for this crap oh wait.

Having it back for more than the ABC’s traditional “bare minimum” two seasons suggests that either a): the ABC has decided to make it a regular Wednesday night feature – yes folks, this is the Mad as Hell replacement you’ve been waiting for, or b): the ABC needed a last minute replacement for the supposedly debuting this year Stories From Oz. Where is Stories From Oz anyway?

Sadly, Question Everything is not about that kind of news. Instead, it’s a news-ish panel show where ABC “personalities” and actual funny people get to occasionally make jokes – racists like monster trucks! – in between endless cutaways to the audience or to wide shots or to Jan Fran and Wil Anderson or to anything else that could drag things out.

To be fair, when the second joke of the show is pretty much “democracy… yeah, it’s not working is it?”, you can understand why they might want a bit less comedy and a bit more anything else. Why can’t we just have a strong leader who’ll make all the right decisions for the nation? Can’t see how that could possibly go wrong.

So the format is basically they show a clip, then Anderson picks a panelist to do a scripted bit based on the first half of the clip, then they show the rest of the clip and Jan Fran says something boring. It’s the platonic ideal of a pointless ABC “comedy” series, right down to the part where the panel… answers random questions? Didn’t we just have a show that did that? Is this now going to be a part of every ABC series going forward? Because we’ve got a bunch of questions we’d like the Gruen team to answer on-air.

Like all panel shows, a decent line-up can make the world of difference. Nath Valvo is always good value, so having him on? Good move. And yet, it’s still pointless shit, the kind of nothing timewasting trash that everyone alive today has better things to do than watch.

You’d think that maybe thirty years ago – back when Australia had five TV channels and no functional internet – this kind of show had a place. But you’d be wrong. Even back then this kind of crap didn’t cut it; if you wanted to be funny on TV, you did sketches, wrote a sitcom, or tried to keep variety alive. Panel chat? Leave that to the sports shows.

So what does the ABC have against comedy? Seriously, just look at the “comedy” output from them over the last few months. Mother and Son was a dramedy about a thirtysomething loser who happened to have a wacky mum somewhere in the background. WTFAQ was an answer to the question “what if you wanted to do a sketch show but didn’t want to write any sketches?”. And now Question Everything, which is pretty much Gruen Panel Show with bonus pointless asides about the news.

On the one hand, technically these are all considered comedies in 2023. On the other, they all have big Get Out Of Jail Free cards handy if you were to suggest they weren’t actually funny. Dramedy doesn’t have to be funny! Answering viewer questions is meant to be informative! Question Everything is promoting media literacy! Only not too much, otherwise the viewers might realise it’s shithouse.

None of these shows are cheap to make. Which means the ABC made a conscious decision to spend serious money, not on making actual funny shows, but on this half-baked garbage (the worst kind of garbage – ed). Remember Mad as Hell? Remember how it was funny? People like funny: just look at the way the ABC press department makes sure to call pretty much everything a comedy. And yet the ABC has shown no desire whatsoever to provide audiences with even a half-hearted attempt at following up on Mad as Hell.

Instead we get Question Everything, a show so bad it has Dickie Knee on – but doesn’t let him speak:

“Not now Dickie, I’m about to say fuck”.

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