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.


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.


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.