TV: Bring On The Variety!

There is renewed talk that the Australian television networks are looking at reviving the variety format, which since the end of Rove in 2009 has been largely absent from local television.

Since In Melbourne Tonight and Don Lane to Hey! Hey! It’s Saturday and Rove, variety has been a constant on Australian television. It’s hosts are some of televisions most renowned and loved figures, however since Micallef Tonight in 2003, I would be hard pressed to remember any new shows of this type that have come up from the commercial networks.

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Don Lane and Graham Kennedy (photo: channel nine)

In fact the networks have been reluctant to do comedy at all in the last decade, many of their attempts (mostly sketch) have failed. Let Loose Live! was a two episode dud and Ben Elton’s Live from Planet Earth was a total embarrassment for Channel Nine.

However the ABC in particular has seen great success with comedy panel shows, sketch shows and sitcoms. In fact Seven even convinced the producers to move Kath & Kim over to the network for their last season. It seems the commercial channels are unwilling to breed new talent, and are ever too reliant on recycling the same few ‘network personalities’. 

The latest reports of a variety revival are no different. Larry Emdur, Andrew O’Keefe, Karl Stefanovic and Charlie Pickering are all well known television personalities. Only Pickering is an active comedian, and in my own personal opinion the best talent for a comedy/variety show in the vein of Rove Live.

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Charlie Pickering (photo: smh)

Pickering is fast, smart and agile. He has shown for five years on The Project he can handle interviews with celebrities, politicians and everyday people. He is also cheeky and smart – he can handle himself. Being a stand-up comic he has the ability to do a good monologue, and contribute to the writing process. 

Variety shows are important, I’d argue one of the most important shows a smaller market like Australia can make, they promote local actors and music, employ large amounts of staff from a diverse range of departments and can be broadcast live, which means it is more likely to be watched live – as well as engage a social media audience.

Australia has been calling out for variety show for a while now, but it remains to be seen whether a network will actually follow through with one, and not just balk like so many times before. 

Comedy Channel passes on legend, picks up dud

leno-704243The Comedy Channel is Australia’s equivalent of Comedy Central. It airs shows such as ‘The Daily Show’, ‘The Colbert Report’, repeats of repeats of repeats of ‘The Man Show’ from 1999 and the like.

It also airs ‘The Tonight Show’ and ‘Late Night’ franchises, current hosted by Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon respectively. Jay Leno left Tonight, after 17 years back in May and since then has been preparing for ‘The Jay Leno Show’ which launches next month on NBC in the states.

The Comedy Channel aired Leno’s Tonight for at least 10 years, it was popular and was one of the few topical shows on the network. With Leno preparing his new show, the hope was that Comedy would air Leno’s new program – his Australian fans obviously would like to continue watching one of America’s most popular personalities.

However Comedy has reportedly said it will not be airing the program and Foxtel guides for next month clearly indicate that. However – it is adding another Late Night program preceding Conan… The Man Show’s own Jimmy Kimmel, who hosts ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ one of Late Night’s lowest rated programs….
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Why would a network choose a low rated Late Night program (and air it before even Conan) which struggles to get A List guests over a proven formula with Leno, who undoubtedly will get A List guests as it will air in Primetime in the states.

It is puzzling and bizarre why they would pass on airing Leno’s new show – and even more bizarre why they would add Kimmel’s show. Unless something happened elsewhere (like Seven grabbing the rights to the show for their second Standard Definition multichannel), this is a big mistake by Comedy, not that they are unknown for making mistakes (Stand Up Australia anyone? Nope? Thought not).

Update: Great news, Comedy has confirmed it will now air it. Read about it here.