For some reason or another the ABC is currently running ads featuring Dr Karl. You know, the guy who answers all your science questions? Only if you actually listen to his answers, he often doesn’t answer your questions – he just throws out a bunch of quirky facts that are kind of adjacent to whatever question was put to him. Which often makes him useless if you really do want to know something and hello, did someone mention WTFAQ?
Of course not. Nobody is talking about WTFAQ, because for all the care and effort that’s clearly gone into it – plus they named a presenter’s baby Methamphetamine Rules – it’s barely even a television program. What kind of a hook for a series is “people answer viewer questions”? It’s a nothing idea that has resulted in a nothing show. No wonder the ABC is set to do it all over again with the return of Question Everything in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, here’s a real question: what happened to Stories From Oz? We were promised it’d be turning up – finally – some time in 2023. The year is now 4/5ths over, with zero sign of its musical hilarity. From now on, every time some random garbage ABC format is fished out of the bin to fill a hole in the timeslot, we should be asking “where’s Stories From Oz?”. So here goes:
“Where’s Stories From Oz?”
Anyway. At least with Question Everything, you can see a point to maybe half the show… if you squint really hard and they have some decent panelists on that week. Not a great point, not a funny point, but y’know: its a current affairs panel show featuring comedians. It’s a real format.
WTFAQ doesn’t even have that. You know what else it doesn’t have? Comedy. It’s a show that needs to be really funny to justify its existence because otherwise it’s just answering viewer questions. And we all know “answering viewer questions” is utter bullshit because either they’re getting zero questions (so they just make them up) or they’re getting so many questions about everything they can find one to justify any segment they like (so they might as well just make them up). These aren’t questions anyone is really asking about anything: they’re just an excuse to do stuff.
So why aren’t they doing funny stuff? You could argue that being too funny would get in the way of informing people that (checks notes) fish can remember things, holding a gun sideways ruins your aim and a swinging pole in a playground is for swinging on, but you’ve got a whole half hour to fill and we just summarised half the show in ten seconds.
And it’s not like they can’t be funny if they wanted to. Mitch McTaggart from The Back Side of Television was a guest reporter a couple of weeks ago, answering a question we’re not entirely convinced anyone who watches the ABC asked, “Where is Summer Bay supposed to be?”. McTaggart’s answer – well “answer” – was pretty funny. And his reasoning was packed with the sort of obsessive research, mad leaps of logic, and all-round commitment to being as funny as possible as you’d expect from Mitch McTaggart.
If this was a pitch for a series of The Back Side of Television made for the ABC, BRING. IT. ON. Or if this was seeing if the audience likes the odd non-serious questions/non-serious answer segment on WTFAQ then good. But even that poses the question: why make a show that continually treats questions like “what is this weird pole in my local playground for?” seriously? Who is in the production office thinking comedy isn’t the way to go with this material?
It wouldn’t even be hard to do. Giving the hosts actual comedy characters beyond “sulky idiot” or “world-weary adult” would be a start. Coming up with weird tangents or funny angles so the answers went somewhere surprising* wouldn’t hurt. Take things too far!
Sure, at this stage we’re just describing a slightly more realistic Review with Myles Barlow. But that’s still a pretty good pitch for a show in 2023.
*they kind of did that with the “why can only middle eastern people smell lingering odors on washed plates?” story, which is why that was the most interesting (but not funny) segment this week